So here we are with the Dallas Cowboys already in 2017 NFL Draft season, their magical 13-3 campaign of 2016 and playoff run ended by Aaron Rodgers once again. While the fight the Cowboys displayed gives Cowboys Nation optimism for the future, it is clear that the near-future for this team must involve upgrading a pass rush that was ultimately a big reason for their Divisional Round loss.
Enter Tennessee's Derek Barnett – just one of many 2017 EDGE prospects with outstanding collegiate production and NFL skill.
How would Barnett be able to help the Cowboys get after opposing quarterbacks? Let's find out.
While he may not excel in any one area as a pass rusher, Barnett is productive because of his all-around skill and strength. Particularly, his lower body is incredibly strong, allowing him to set up offensive tackles up the field before displaying his fast and often strong hands.
This quote and film clip comes from my full scouting report on Barnett at Slant Sports, and sums up the edge rusher's strengths nicely. By now you know that Rod Marinelli prefers a rotation of pass rushers to get after the quarterback, and while hopefully Barnett would rarely come off the field given his talent, he does profile extremely well as a rotational DE capable of playing both RDE and LDE.
Given a first round grade on my 2017 NFL Draft board as the true RDE rusher Dallas is severely lacking, Barnett has a real chance to be a difference maker in the NFL given his length, speed, and strength. The all time leader in sacks at Tennessee, Derek Barnett thrives on putting tackles in poor blocking position up the field off the line before finding ways to finish plays with above-average bend and elite lower body force.
As I also wrote in his scouting report, if it wasn't for his inconsistent ability to bend around the edge, Barnett would easily be in the discussion to be a top three EDGE in this class – already locked in around the top five to seven range.
If Derek Barnett had the true bend displayed by prototypical right defensive end rushers in the NFL currently, there is no doubt his already high grade would skyrocket. While he still finds ways to win consistently, getting pushed around the pocket is still an issue more than it should be for him.
What also makes Derek Barnett a good fit with the Cowboys is his ability to abuse guards and get into the backfield with ease, offering the position flex that this team covets. Some fans, myself included at times, may roll their eyes and claim that the Dallas Cowboys need to focus on getting true, prototypical pass-rushing defensive ends, but Barnett has all the traits to be this type of edge defender and more.
With the 28th pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys could be fortunate to still see plenty of EDGE talent on the board with this deep class when they go on the clock. If Derek Barnett is available, his name should be in serious consideration to come immediately upgrade the Cowboys' defensive line.