On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to go the defensive route in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft,, selecting Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick.
Despite big-time talent such as Alabama duo Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen still being on the board, Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman opted to go with Barnett, who broke former Eagles legend Reggie White’s sack record down in Knoxville this past season.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go too far, just a few blocks up the street,” joked Barnett at the beginning of his press conference. “I appreciate the love I’ve been receiving already, it’s crazy.”
“I heard the fans are very passionate, and I know the organization has a lot of great players,” he added. “Like I said, I just can’t wait, I’m ready to get to work. Everybody’s been telling me just enjoy the moment. I love football, I can’t wait to get back to what I love to do.”
During his time with the Vols, Barnett recorded 32 total sacks, including 23 in his final two seasons. According to Pro Football Focus, he was rated as the third best overall player in the draft.
Having broke White’s record and knowing his history with Philadelphia, Barnett knows the spotlight he’s stepping into.
““I was in Knoxville for the past three years, and he’s a really big deal there, he’s a legend,” Barnett said. “(He) has a big picture up on the field, so I know how big he is, and I know how big he is here.”
Fans will look to his comparison versus number one overall pick Myles Garrett as a reason for optimism. In 18 SEC games, Barnett recorded 21 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss. In that same span of games, the now-Cleveland Brown recorded 10 less sacks, and 15.5 less TFL while at Texas A&M.
Just 20 years old, the pass rusher has proven he is capable of getting to the opposing quarterback, something the Eagles defense could not do efficiently last season. Now that Connor Barwin and Bennie Logan are no longer with the team, Barnett could see time right away on the defensive line on the opposite side of Brandon Graham, hopping current lineman Vinny Curry in the pecking order.
Barnett acknowledged the talent Philadelphia possesses on the defensive side, and is looking forward to being tested out on the field.
“I know there’s a lot of great defensive linemen up front, and like I said I think I’m a good defensive lineman as well and I wanna come in and get better,” he said. “I know I’m gonna be going up against two great tackles, and I’m looking forward to that. They’re gonna push me, and they’re gonna help me craft my game.”
When asked for a player comparison to someone currently in the NFL, Barnett equated himself to Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett.
“I like watching film on Michael Bennett, I think I resemble him, the way he plays the game,” Barnett said. “He has great hands, he has a nasty demeanor and he knows how to get to the quarterback. I think I resemble him a little bit.”
Philly fans will be hesitant on whether or not Roseman and Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas made the right selection. With two Crimson Tide members there for the taking, it seemed like Barnett was the guy all along.
Supposedly, Douglas went into Roseman’s office back in December prepared to give high praise on Barnett, but Roseman already had a piece of paper with Barnett’s name on it.
So, was this the plan all along, regardless of who was still going to be available for their pick? And if so, only time will tell whether or not there should have been a different name on that piece of paper.