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April 28, 2017

What they’re saying about Derek Barnett, Eagles first-round draft pick

Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t address cornerback (their biggest need) during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but hey, maybe they helped out their corners by selecting a guy who can get to the quarterback in Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett.

Here are all of the draft grades, takes, analysis, etc. on the Eagles 2017 first-round draft pick.

Local Takes

In Barnett, Eagles say they did their homework: Les Bowen, Philadelphia Daily News

De facto general manager Howie Roseman told a story about player personnel vice president Joe Douglas rushing into Roseman's office last December to rave about Derek Barnett, the defensive end from Tennessee who broke Reggie White's sack record (32, Barnett finished with 33). Roseman said he'd showed Douglas a slip of paper on which he'd written "Derek Barnett," presumably as the Eagles' draft target.

New Eagle Derek Barnett has the pedigree and is 'tough as nails’: Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer

That's high praise, but it's not exactly out of left field to compare Barnett to the Reggie Whites, Clyde Simmons or Seth Joyners who played on those Buddy Ryan-Bud Carson defenses. This past year he broke White's Volunteers record for sacks and finished with a total of 33 during his career. Douglas wasn't about to compare Barnett to White, nor should he. That would be too daunting for the rookie. But there's another Hall of Fame-caliber edge rusher that Douglas wasn't afraid to place in the company of Barnett. A young scout, Douglas was with the Ravens when they selected Terrell Suggs in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Grade Philadelphia’s pick of Derek Barnett: Brandon Gowton, Bleeding Green Nation

If I had to grade the pick, I’d give it a solid B+. It wasn’t awesome, but it’s an above average pick. Pass rusher is a premiuim position in the league and hopefully Barnett can be an impact guy for years to come. Hopefully his impact can translate into more pressure on the quarterback which makes life easier on Philadelphia’s cornerbacks.

Random Draft Thoughts: Tommy Lawlor, Iggles Blitz

If you want to build a title team, you need a QB and guys who can get to the QB. The Eagles added Carson Wentz last year and wanted to add a pass rusher this year. Yes, the Eagles do have Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long, but none of them are young. Barnett won’t turn 21 until June so the Eagles just got better and much younger up front. The team did pass on some big names. Jonathan Allen is a Top 5 talent. He has arthritic shoulders and that has caused teams to pass on him to this point. The Eagles obviously felt it wasn’t smart to take a chance on him. That was purely a medical decision.

Philadelphia Eagles' 2017 draft picks: Analysis for every selection: Tim McManus, ESPN

With 32 career sacks, Barnett broke former Eagles great Reggie White's Tennessee record; he also posted 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss this past season. That's some eye-popping output. There is some question, though, about whether he has the type of elite athleticism that is often associated with many of the league's best pass-rushers. His less-than-stellar combine numbers did little to alleviate those concerns. Barnett was apparently ill during the testing, Eagles brass said, which helps to add context to the evaluation.

In case you missed it at PhillyVoice

1.    Derek Barnett: That is who the Eagles drafted, but you already knew that. He sounds pretty excited about playing for the Eagles and Jim Schwartz specifically.

2.    Twitter Reaction: It’s safe to say that Eagles fans on social media were pretty lukewarm on the pick, especially when compared to the pretty favorable reaction in the media. And that was exactly how it seemed in person, with many fans on the Parkway expressing confusion at the pick.

3.    Welcome to Philly, Rog: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

4.    Day Two: Here are some players that could be drafted by the Eagles in the second round, including the name that will never go away, Joe Mixon.

National Draft Grades

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports, A: Love this pick. They might be getting the best pass rusher in this draft.

Chad Reuter,, A: Even though the Eagles gave up their 2017 first-rounder for quarterback Carson Wentz, they were a beneficiary of Minnesota's need for a quarterback, as they got back into the first round by trading Sam Bradford last year. The way Wentz played this year showed they didn't really miss Bradford. They got the second-best pure edge rusher in the draft in Barnett at No. 14.

Eric Edholm, Yahoo, B+: The Joe Douglas effect has already hit the Eagles’ draft. The team’s first-year college scouting director cut his teeth with the Ravens and learned from them: historically, sack production translates from college (especially in the SEC) to the NFL. Barnett might not be an elite athlete, but he has a terrific motor and wills his way to quarterbacks. Opposite Brandon Graham, there should be no dropoff with Barnett essentially replacing Connor Barwin.

Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report, A-Barnett is a better all-around defender and safer choice than many other big-name edge-rushers on the draft board, like Taco Charlton and Takkarist McKinley. Somewhere between overrating him because of a record and underrating him because he lacks fizzy "upside," the Eagles got this selection just right.

Dan Kadar, SB Nation, B-: If the Eagles were after production, they got it with Barnett. Philadelphia is stacking defensive linemen who can get after the quarterback with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Timmy Jernigan. The four-man rush in Philadelphia will improve the team’s pass coverage. The only knock is that Barnett isn’t the cornerback the Eagles desperately need, and there are a bunch available.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer, B+: Barnett isn’t a phenomenal athlete, but he makes up for it with physicality and toughness. He’s not going to run past many offensive tackles, but he beats them around the edge with powerful hands and the ability to dip his shoulder and bend around the corner. Per Pro Football Focus, he racked up 75 total pressures last year, fourth-most in the country among edge rushers. It’s unclear, though, how well he’ll fit into Philly’s wide-9 rush alignment, which typically employs explosive quick-twitch rushers.

Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated, B: This is a good pick. It’s a relatively safe pick. It does not address the Eagles’ biggest need, which is at cornerback, and it also ignores a couple players who slipped down the board. The real positive is in pairing Barnett’s skill off the edge with Jim Schwartz’s scheme. Barnett can line up wide and worry about little else beyond penetrating into the backfield, which is exactly the type of role that should play to his strengths as a pass rusher. Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Barnett make for a talented DE trio from which Schwartz should be able to find a lot of sacks.

Pro Football Focus didn’t have draft grades, but analysts Josh Liskiewitz and Jordan Plocher rated the Barnett selection among their five favorite picks from the first round:

Derek Barnett was arguably the best pure pass-rusher in the draft class. In 2016, Barnett recorded 13 sacks, 24 QB hits, 41 hurries, and two batted passes on his 390 pass-rushing snaps, but he is no one-year wonder. Barnett had 10 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 42 hurries in 2015 and 11 sacks, nine QB hits, and 27 hurries in 2014. The three-year pass-rushing production of a combined 34 sacks on an SEC team is rare. The Eagles landing a pass-rusher the caliber of Barnett at pick No. 14 represents one of the better values and selections of the first round.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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