As Phase One of offseason workouts begins today for the Eagles, it’s a good time to reflect on just how much importance is put on strength and conditioning by today’s NFL teams. Phase One consists of the first two weeks of a nine-week voluntary offseason program during which team activities are limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only.
By implication it also casts a “strength and conditioning” shadow upon the upcoming NFL Draft. Some guys are going to rise or fall in the draft based upon their physical test results from both the Combine and/or their Pro Day workouts.
Weak test results do not always mean a player cannot become a great playmaker at the next level. Anquan Boldin’s 4.7 time in the ’40 in his draft-class Combine is Exhibit A for that statement. But a bad test result makes most GM’s hesitate before handing in the card on a Top-15 prospect.
Case in point:
As for the Eagles going for a pass rusher early in Round 1, would you hand in the card on this guy?
I’m not sure I like Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee at #14 overall…(Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 259 pounds, Key Stats: 32 sacks in three seasons at Tennessee…13 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and an INT in 2016.)
A lot of folks think he’s the next Reggie White or Von Miller, but I disagree.
Mel Kiper Jr. currently has Barnett falling to the Steelers at 30. Todd McShay has him going eighth to the Carolina Panthers. So there’s a wide array of opinion on Barnett’s talent upside.
According to Pro Football Focus, Barnett pressured the quarterback on 20 percent of his rushes, far above the NCAA average of 10 percent. Strong against the run and the pass, a combination of skilled hands, a well-timed get-off and a good feel for the game helped him become an extremely productive player at the collegiate level. But at the NFL level, I sense his lacking some key tools.
His arms are kind of short for his size, so he has to really rely on his hands to fight off blocks and use body position and pad level to leverage blocks. That is okay for the college game, but is it enough at the next level?
Dane Brugler at CBS Sports noted these other possible deficiencies:
“Can bend off the edge with his flexibility, but lacks explosive twitch to win the corner on athleticism alone. Initial quickness based more on timing than burst, leading to offsides penalties or late movements out of his stance when he misreads the snap. Pass rush repertoire lacks variety and hand usage mid-rush still a work-in-progress. Aggressive play style will lead to missed tackles in the open field. Needs to improve his break down skills. Tight-hipped in space and has limited potential as a stand-up player.”
In other words, Barnett lacks the length and pure explosiveness scouts would prefer, which could lead to his slipping a bit on draft day.
But I do not come here to bury Barnett. As always is the case, you cannot “measure” the heart or the desire to excel of a player just based on physical traits. Barnett is not considered an A-plus athlete and did not test well at the scouting combine. (He ran a 4.88-second 40-yard dash.) Lance Zierlein of NFL.com described him as having average feet and average initial burst upfield.
But What They’re Saying: “I was around Terrell Suggs a little bit with the Ravens, who is another guy that didn’t test all that well. Man, he was plenty fast enough when you got on the football field. I think you see some of those same things with Barnett. I don’t think he’s quite at that Suggs level, but I think he’s got a chance to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level, and I’d be shocked if he’s not off the board by the 20th pick.”
— NFL Network analyst and former Eagles/Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah
To sum up, I won’t be surprised if the Eagles do draft Barnett in the 1st Round— but I am betting it won’t be at #14 overall or lower— it would be a much later pick as part of a trade-back scenario, I reckon, where the risk/reward ratio would be lower, and we’d walk away with an extra pick or two.