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Derek Barnett had private workout with Bengals

Barnett is the kind of pass-rusher Cincinnati badly needs to add in this draft.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve said it before and we’ll continue to keep hammering it until it’s addressed: The Bengals must upgrade their pass rush early in the NFL Draft.

The best way to do this is by taking the best pass-rusher on the board when Cincinnati is on the clock in Round 1. At No. 9, we should expect Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Alabama’s Jonathan Allen to be off the board, but there will still be some quality pass-rushers to be had.

Among them is Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, who has reportedly had a private workout with Cincinnati.

Barnett is the lastest pass-rusher to reportedly meet and/or workout for the Bengals, and he was also worked out by Cincinnati at his pro day, which the Bengals had at least three coaches attend. We’ve also seen Louisville’s Devonte Fields and UCLA’s Tak McKinley meet with Cincinnati, but Barnett is easily the best of this bunch.

This past season with the Vols, Barnett racked up 13 sacks while breaking Reggie White’s school career sack record (33 and previous mark was 32). He finished the year with 19 tackles for loss, one interception, 12 hurries and three pass breakups.

The 6’3”, 259-pound Barnett will need to bulk up a little for 4-3 teams like the Bengals to best utilize him, but he’s more than capable of playing on the end in the NFL. There’s plenty of teams ahead of the Bengals who could use Barnett, but his smaller frame should push him to No. 9, at least based on nearly every mock draft thus far.

I’m an SEC aficionado, and I’ve seen plenty of Barnett over the years. He’s one of my favorite players entering this draft, but I also understand why he’s a prospect expected to go in the mid-first round, and not necessarily top 10. His smaller frame makes him a risky prospect in a 4-3 defense, and he doesn’t fit the mold of what the Bengals like in their ends.

But Barnett showed he could be a dominant player in a top conference in college football for the past three years, and he did so while going up against many NFL-caliber linemen.

His effort level is off the charts and he just brings it game in and game out. I can’t see him letting up in the NFL just because he’s collecting a paycheck. That’s not the kind of player he is, and I expect him to produce early and often with whichever NFL team takes him.

The Bengals need that with their pass rush, and while some might view it as a reach, I’d be happy with the Bengals taking Barnett at No. 9.

Would you?