Eagles Go Pass Rusher at No. 14 with Derek Barnett
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Just don't expect Reggie White.
The Eagles selected Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 draft, the player who broke White's all-time sack record with the Volunteers.
You are going to hear that ad nauseum over the next few days and Rich Eisen managed to blurt it out twice before the NFL Network telecast went to commercial after Roger Goodell made the announcement in front of 100,000 or so on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
"It's just very ironic. It's crazy how everything all plays out. I couldn't even get that I was going to come here and that Reggie White played here," Barnett said after being selected. "You know what I'm saying? He's probably is the greatest person to ever play the game. It's just very ironic, and I’m just very excited."
Barnett, though, is not an explosive physical specimen and is more of a savvy pass-rushing type that the Joe Douglas-led scouting department has compared to Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, a former Defensive Player of the Year who some criticized for his foot speed when he came out of Arizona State in 2010.
What Suggs was with the Sun Devils, however, was a great pass rusher and it translated to six Pro-Bowl berths as a pro.
"I actually did make a comparison to him and Terrell," Douglas said. "Just from the perspective that both guys didn't test outrageously at the combine setting or pro day setting. But both are highly productive players, high toughness, great people. Again, his production is unmatched, breaking a Hall of Fame player's record at Tennessee."
"I feel like that's a great compliment for me, because Terrell Suggs is going to be a Hall of Famer," Barnett countered. "He's a great ballplayer, and he has great hands. I like the way he plays with his demeanor. I think we are very similar with that."
If the Eagles get that kind of production out of Barnett consider it mission accomplished for Douglas in his first draft with Philadelphia.
"We're really excited to get Derek," Eagles executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman said. "Highest rated guy on our board. A player throughout the process that we had done a lot of work on with Joe (Douglas) and his staff. We're always going to build along the lines, but at the same time, we wanted to stick to our board and take the highest rated guys that Joe and our staff have put together. He fits our scheme, he fits the culture we're trying to build. We think we've got a tremendous player and a tremendous person."
The Eagled did sign veteran Chris Long in free agency but with the three main components of their defensive line rotation (Brandon Graham, Long and Vinny Curry) either 30 or nearing it, Philadelphia felt it needed to add a body at the position.
Best used in either a seven- or nine-technique, Barnett has the requisite motor and excellent hands as he enters the NFL. He, however, lacks a dominant burst around the edge with 4.88 speed and is probably best suited for the left side, not a natural fit for the Eagles with Graham playing at a high level.
"I didn't test as well as I wanted to," Barnett claimed. "But I think when I step on the field I play a lot faster than I ran, and I have three years in college to back it up. And I think I was pretty consistent those past three years and I got better each year."
In 2016, Barnett was named a first- team All-American by the Associated Press after registering a career-high 13 sacks, while adding 56 total tackles, 19 TFL, 16 hurries and two forced fumbles. Along with breaking White's career sack record at UT with 33 he's second in school history to Leonard Little in TFLs with 53.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen