With NFL Draft week now here, the Cincinnati Bengals are just days away from being on the clock with the No. 9 pick. Who they end up taking there is still anyone’s guess, but the mock drafters continue to mention one name with the most frequency, and that’s Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett.
The latest projection from SB Nation has Barnett being the answer to the Bengals’ pass-rushing woes in Round 1:
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett isn’t flashy like Garrett but you can legitimately argue that his production at Tennessee was more impressive. Barnett consistently generated pressure in college and is a solid player against the run.
Evan Silva of Rotoworld and Yahoo Sports is also picking Barnett for the Bengals at No. 9:
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Understandably not a favorite of the draftnik community for his snap-jumping tendencies and 25th-percentile measurable athleticism, Barnett’s dominant production at an exceptionally young age against SEC competition is nevertheless tough to diminish. A Volunteer at ages 18-20, Barnett broke Reggie White’s school record for career sacks (33) in only three years in Knoxville, and was compared to Vikings DE Everson Griffen by NFL Films’ Greg Cosell based on game tape. I’m not entirely sure why RE Michael Johnson remains on Cincinnati’s offseason roster, let alone in the starting lineup. A team that once sported one of the league’s most fearsome pass rushes, last year’s Bengals finished a lowly 23rd in sacks.
Depending on whose draft big board you’re reading, Barnett is either a solid pick or a big reach at No. 9, so it’s hard to say if this is actually a good pick in terms of value. But when it comes to the draft, getting good value isn’t always as important as getting a guy who will help you right now.
The Bengals are a team that still has enough firepower to make it to the playoffs and possibly make a postseason run, but to do so, they must land an instant-impact pas rusher in this year’s draft. Barnett would fit the bill, even if taking him at No. 9 is a slight reach. After Myles Garrett, Barnett is the guy most ready to make an impact as a rookie for Cincinnati, more so than any other pass rusher the team could hope to land in this draft.
Sure, this draft is deep enough that a solid pass-rusher could be there in Round 2 to help this area, but he won’t be as good as Barnett, at least not as a rookie. This Bengals team has too much talent not to be back in the playoffs this season, and adding a guy like Barnett who addresses the team’s biggest weakness would help the Bengals get over the playoff hump.
Sometimes, taking the biggest impact player is more important than taking the best available player. This may be a draft where that’s the case for Cincinnati, and Barnett may very well be the best player available at pick No. 9.