Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, one of the favorites for the Bengals’ No. 9 overall pick is Derek Barnett.
The Tennessee defensive end was one of the best pass-rushers in college football in each of the past three seasons. That’s an area that Cincinnati desperately needs to upgrade early in this draft, which is why there’s so much buzz for Barnett at No. 9.
This past year, Barnett racked up 13 sacks, giving him 33 for his career and breaking Reggie White’s school career sack record (previous mark was 32). Barnett finished the season with 56 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss and one interception.
As a sophomore in 2015, Barnett recorded 10 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 69 total tackles. As a true freshman in 2014, he had nine sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss and 73 total tackles. That kind of productivity is hard to find in any conference or level of college football, but does that make him worthy of a top-10 pick?
Here is why the Bengals should take Barnett at No. 9:
- When the Bengals first go on the clock in this draft, Barnett is very likely the best pass-rusher on the board, and addressing their biggest weakness right away is a great way to kick off this draft.
- Over a three-year span, no pass-rusher in a Power 5 conference has been more productive than Barnett. He has more tackles, sacks and tackles for loss than projected No. 1 pick Myles Garrett.
- Barnett would likely become Cincinnati’s second best edge pass-rusher as a rookie behind only Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap. Those two coming off the edge would help make this defense elite again, not to mention help free up Geno Atkins more on the interior.
- Barnett’s motor and work ethic are as good, if not better than any pass-rusher in this class, so there’s no reason to think he won’t become at least a ‘good’ player in the NFL.
- Pro Football Focus ranks Barnett No. 6 overall in this draft, making him great value for the No. 9 pick.
- CBS Sports isn’t far behind, as they have Barnett No. 8 overall.
Here is why the Bengals should pass on Barnett at No. 9:
- At 6’3” and 259 pounds, Barnett will need to bulk up a little for 4-3 teams like the Bengals to best utilize him.
- Speaking of, the Bengals very rarely draft an end that’s not at least in the 6’5”, 270-pound range. Most of their ends end up in the 6’6”, 275-pound range, something Barnett will never be.
- Barnett is a great against the pass, but his run defense could use some work. That probably would keep him from taking on a starting role with the Bengals early in his career, even though Michael Johnson needs to be replaced as that second starting end.
- Barnett is also an average athlete that wins mostly on effort and out-working his competition. That combination doesn’t translate well into the pros.
- A lot of Barnett’s pass-rushing skills come from him timing snap counts, something he can’t rely as much on in the NFL.
- NFL.com has Barnett ranked No. 22 overall, which suggests he’d be a big reach at No. 9.
- ESPN is a little more favorable with Barnett ranked No. 13, but even that suggests he’d be a reach in the top 10.
A good case can certainly be made for and against taking Barnett at No. 9, but there’s no question he’s one of the best options in this draft for Cincinnati to upgrade its enigmatic pass rush.