PHILADELPHIA — The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with elite defensive linemen.
Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen and Stanford’s Solomon Thomas are projected as top-five picks in most mock drafts.
However, a fourth defensive lineman — former Tennessee DE Derek Barnett — could sneak into the top 10.
Originally projected to go in the middle of the first round, if not later, Barnett has steadily climbed draft boards as Thursday’s opening round quickly approaches.
Barnett said he doesn’t pay attention to mock drafts, but added that whatever team selects him Thursday night will be getting a hard worker and great teammate.
“I think I’m very relentless and have a great get-off,” he said. “I’m also a great leader. I think I would bring a lot to a team.”
Though soft-spoken off the field, Barnett’s stats at Tennessee speak for themselves. He set a school record with 33 sacks in only three years, breaking the mark of 32 set by the legendary Reggie White.
Due to a less-than-stellar performance at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, during which he ran a subpar 4.88 40-yard dash, Barnett fell behind his position-mates, some of whom have more raw athleticism.
But, he said, teams shouldn’t judge him based on a couple of disappointing times.
“I’m not a great Combine tester,” he smiled. “If it was up to me, I probably wouldn’t even go. It is what it is. At the end of the day, we’re playing football and that’s all that matters. We’re not running track.”
As for what teams can expect from him, Barnett compared himself to a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who also ran a slow 40-yard dash during the 2009 Combine.
“I like watching Michael Bennett play,” he said. “I think we’re pretty similar in our playing styles. He’s got a little chip on his shoulder and he plays with a nasty demeanor. He has great hands and knows how to get to the quarterback, so I’d say (I’m) probably like him.”
Bennett, a former Texas A&M Aggie and current Seattle Seahawks standout, went undrafted, something Barnett won’t have to worry about.
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah isn’t sure if Barnett will go in the top 10 or not, but thinks the ex-Volunteer could be an impact player for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the No. 14 pick.
“I would be a little bit surprised (if Barnett was a top-10 pick),” he said. “I think you can look at 9 potentially with Cincinnati, but I think more than likely you’ll see him end up in that 10-20 range. I have him going to Philadelphia. He’d fit in with what coach (Jim) Schwartz does because he’s a really, really good pass rusher.”
Wherever Barnett ends up playing on Sundays, he said he wouldn’t mind having a former teammate or two join him.
“I’m cool with all my teammates,” he said. “They’re my boys. In this draft class, we’ve got about six or seven of them and they’re all great players. If I end up playing with any of them, it’ll be very fun.”
The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft kicks off at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday night and can be seen on ESPN.
Source: Saturday Down South