It’s draft season, and whether it’s that early-round stud or that late-round gem, everyone is searching for the next star!
Purdue Boilermakers (2017-2020)
- Games Played: 43, Games Started: 32, Tackles: 225, Solos: 158, TFLs: 25, Sacks: 10.5, Interceptions: 1, PBUs: 4, Forced Fumbles: 1, Fumble Recoveries: 1
- 2019 All-Big Ten Conference Honorable Mention, 2020 All-Big Ten Conference Second Team, 2021 Senior Bowl, 2019 team sack leader, and 2020 team tackle leader
Derrick Barnes was born on May 29th, 1999, in Covington, Kentucky. He attended Holy Cross High School, where he was a highly decorated player. As a senior, Barnes won the 2016 Class 2A District Six Player of the Year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, playing both ways at linebacker and running back.
On the season, he led the team in tackles with 126 and 96 solos, while adding four fumble recoveries and three interceptions. On offense, Barnes rushed for 1,567 yards on 150 carries (10½ average) with 22 touchdowns and added three kick-returns for touchdowns. He finished his career at Purdue as a two-star recruit.
As a true freshman, Barnes played in all twelve games, while making two starts. He would register just 16 tackles, with 10 solos and half a TFL, serving mostly as a special teamer. As a sophomore, he played in all 13 games, making 12 starts, while producing a career-best 92 total tackles and 61 solos, with eight TFLs and three sacks.
In his junior season, Barnes would play and start all twelve games, and record 63 tackles, 47 solos, 11 TFLs, and a team-leading 7½ sacks. He would also add two PBUs, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. As a senior in the Covid-19 shortened season, Barnes played and started all six games. For his final season, he would tally 54 tackles, 40 solos, 5½ TFLs, one interception, and two PBUs.
Barnes is a throwback player who has the versatility and experience at playing both linebacker and defensive end. A three-year starter who played one year at defensive end and led the team in sacks, mentally tough, and does well in hand-to-hand combat. Barnes has good power and strength, and the physical toughness to handle all of the duties of an inside linebacker.
As a pass rusher, he has a solid toolbox. When he plays with his hand in the dirt, he uses a quick inside slant to shoot the gap or a surprisingly strong bull rush. Barnes also has a good two-hand slap and a swim-over move that he is effective with and displays good pop in his hands when engaging blockers.
Barnes is an excellent tackler who plays through the ball and finishes with power. He has a good speed/power combination to his game and is a physical blue-collar player with a workmanlike approach.
Barnes needs to improve his technique and needs to play faster, allowing him to flow to the ball more easily. While he has good speed, he is inconsistent when using it. He’s also inconsistent getting off blocks. His processing of run plays needs to be more consistent and not allow blockers to trap him in space. Barnes is not the best in coverage and will need to continue to work on that area of his game.
If he can become more fluid in his movements, such as flipping his hips, then his coverage abilities will be much better. Barnes is undersized for a defensive end, especially in the height department. His initial pass rush moves are legit weapons, but he needs to develop some counters to go with them.
Experience and versatility are Barnes’ biggest assets and his path to playing time. Teams will be able to use him as a chess piece of sorts. Whether it’s cleaning up in the middle of the field or providing heat off the edge, Barnes can be a good fit for any team. He will likely be a backup early-down thumper or a situational pass rusher with a solid role, once he gets acclimated to the pros.
Barnes is best suited to be an off-the-ball linebacker that can kick inside when needed. He is an impact player and is at his best when he can play behind the line of scrimmage. Barnes is a day three selection, possibly a late day two if his stock continues to rise.
Barnes has been a name that has begun to gain some traction and move up NFL draft boards and could be a sneaky good pick for fantasy managers. He’s going to start out as a backup and special teams ace, so fantasy managers will need to be patient early on and stash him away on their taxi squads. He’ll be a box score filler type of player who will provide tackles first, then sacks. He has the potential and upside that I look for when hunting late-round sleepers, and is a player that you can use a late-round pick on or even possibly pick up off waivers.
NFL Draft Projection: fourth to fifth round
Fantasy Draft Projection: seventh round or later
Fantasy Scoring Projection: LB3, DE4
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