Already people are calling the Eagles’ pick of Derek Barnett boring. In an NFL Draft first round that has been totally insane — predictably insane with so many trades, but insane with who got picked as part of those trades — the Eagles went with perhaps the safest possible pick on the draft board. There are still needs at cornerback and linebacker, but defensive end is also a place where the Eagles went into this draft wanting to bolster their depth and increase their quarterback-pressure.
“I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t want to get no boos.” Barnett said in his post-draft press conference. “I got a warm welcome from the fans.”
While the pick wasn’t as flashy as some others on Thursday, Barnett should excite fans once they see him on the football field. He can certainly get to the quarterback, amassing 32 sacks at Tennessee in just 39 games, including 13 sacks in 13 games in 2016, breaking Reggie White’s school record in the process.
“I was in Knoxville for the last three years, and he’s a really big deal there,” Barnett said about the former Eagles star. “He’s a legend. I know how big he is. I know how big he is here.”
Barnett can do more than just sack the quarterback. Rushing from the end, he also had 19 tackles for loss in 2016, the most in the South Eastern Conference and finished his career with 52 stops behind the line, the second most in the last decade in the SEC. And for those who know college football, that’s saying something.
The Eagles seem excited to get Barnett, calling him their top player on the board. Whether or not that’s true no longer matters (now that they’ve taken him, of course they’ll say that) but it’s clear they had more interest in taking Barnett than other players pundits projected to go to the Eagles.
So, is Barnett the next Reggie White?
Probably not, no. But the Eagles brass did compare him to Terrell Suggs, which is pretty darn high praise for a defensive end coming out of college. “They called me a young T-Sizzle, and he’s going to be a Hall of Famer,” Barnett proudly stated Thursday night.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network talked about how the Eagles had other options with the 14th pick, but said, “I think his tape is too good, and the city of Philadelphia is going to love him.” Stanford head coach David Shaw said on NFL Network, “he’s physical, he’s nasty, I think he’s going to be a good pro.”
Just after being selected and getting his hug with Roger Goodell, Barnett didn’t seem all that excited. Again, he said it was nerves, but he told Deion Sanders, “it’s crazy. I’m just getting started. I haven’t even scratched my surface yet, of my talent level. I’m ready to get to work. I can’t wait. I’m going to come in and play my role and get after the quarterback.”
“I appreciate the love I’ve been getting already,” Barnett said of the fan reaction in his draft press conference. “It’s crazy. I just can’t wait. I’m ready to get to work. People keep telling me to enjoy this moment, but I love football, I can’t get back to what I love to do.”
Yes, he’s a man of few words. Or, at least, the same words. He did call himself “a workman” and repeated several times that he’s excited to get to work. Again. Oh, and he doesn’t care much for personal accolades, either.
“When I’m doing playing I want to have some rings on my hand. That’s why I play football.” He may be boring, but Philly will probably love his style of boring.