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June 18, 2017

Eagles rookie NFL player comparisons: Derek Barnett

During the dead period of the NFL calendar, as we did in 2015 and in 2016, we'll be comparing each of the Eagles' rookies to current or retired NFL players. We'll lead it off, of course, with the Eagles' first-round pick, Derek Barnett.

We'll also try not to recycle names that have been commonly comped to each player, like Brandon Graham or Terrell Suggs in the case of Barnett.

Last year, we compared Carson Wentz to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, noting that Wentz's physical and mental measurables bested Bortles' across the board. In other words, I saw Bortles as something of a "floor" comparison for Wentz, even with Bortles having something of a breakout season in 2015. (Bortles regressed in 2016).

Similarly, I see the Chiefs' Dee Ford as something of a "floor" comparison to Barnett. First, let's look at their measurables:

 MeasurableDerek Barnett Dee Ford 
 Height 6'36'2 
 Weight 259252 
 Arm length 32 1/832 7/8 
 Hand size 1010 1/4 
 10 yard dash 1.751.67 
 40 yard dash 4.884.59 
 Vertical jump 3135 1/2 
 Broad jump 117124 
 3 cone drill 6.967.07 
 20 yard shuttle 4.444.73 

As you can see, their heights, weights, arm lengths, and hand sizes are all very similar. From an athleticism standpoint, Ford certainly had better "explosion numbers," as his 40 time, 10-yard split, vertical jump, and broad jump measurables were all better than Barnett's. On the other hand, Barnett's "change of direction" measurables, such as the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle, were better than Ford's.

If you've taken any time to watch Barnett's play in college, you've already clearly identified that he mostly won with his outside pass rush. You've also probably noticed that Barnett did a good job keying on snap counts to get a jump on opposing offensive tackles, his motor never stopped during the play, and he always seemed to make big plays during crucial moments of games. In those respects, he was very similar to Ford. 

The way they won around the edge was different, however, as Barnett won around the edge with his dip and bend, coupled with outstanding hand-fighting, while Ford simply won with speed.

Both Barnett and Ford had similar limitations as well. Neither player had a great inside move to counter their effectiveness of getting around the edge. They also both could not convert speed to power, as both players lacked a bull rush.

A breakdown of Ford's game coming out of college: 

After two seasons playing behind Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, Ford had just 6 career sacks. With Houston injured for most of the 2016 season (Ford's third in the league), he had 10 sacks, mostly coming from around the corner, as he has not yet developed a go-to inside move that has worked consistently. The Chiefs opted to pick up Ford's fifth-year option this offseason.

I believe Barnett was a significantly superior prospect to Ford coming out of college for the following reasons:

• Barnett was a far more productive player in college.

Player Games Tackles Sacks TFL 
 Derek Barnett 39 197 33 52 
Dee Ford 52 93 20.5 27.5 

As you can see, Barnett's career production dwarfs Ford's, despite playing in 13 fewer games.

• A significant concern of Ford's coming out of college was his ability to hold the edge against the run. There are no such run game concerns with Barnett.

• Barnett was 27 months younger than Ford when he was drafted.

• Ford had a history of injuries in college, while Barnett stayed healthy.

Barring injury or some other odd unforeseen circumstances, I can't see a scenario where Barnett isn't at least as good as Dee Ford, at a minimum. If he can develop a devastating inside counter move to go along with his excellent dip and bend around the edge, he could be great.

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