Scouts on Lions 4th-rounder Derrick Barnes: A 3-down, ‘sideline to sideline’ LB

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The Detroit Lions traded up in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft to land Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes. It was an aggressive move to land a player head coach Dan Campbell believes can play as the middle LB right away.

Based on some of the quotes from unnamed scouts compiled by Bob McGinn in The Athletic, Campbell knows what he’s talking about. McGinn annually gathers opinions on draft prospects prior to the draft and publishes them with strict anonymity for the sources.

Barnes was ranked the No. 12 linebacker overall in McGinn’s polling. But the praise flowed in the commentary.

“He can play three downs,” said one scout. “He’s going to be more of a zone coverage guy than a man coverage guy. He can go sideline to sideline. Considering he’s a one-year starter (inside), he did exceptionally well. He has added value because he can rush the passer from the outside.”

Another scout touched on Barnes’ mentality and physicality, and it sure sounds like a kneecap-biting fit in Detroit,

“He plays like a pro, just his assertiveness,” the unnamed scout said. “Some (blockers) will knock him down because he’s not very tall. He’s a little limited, a little tight in space. I think he’s a plug-and-play linebacker because he’s so physical and mean.”

Barnes rose up in the rankings with a stellar senior season where he moved from EDGE to MIKE, and he built upon the strong 2020 with impressive turns at the Senior Bowl and Purdue’s pro day. That was the focus for another scout McGinn quoted,

“His pro day was pretty damn good,” said a third scout. “I really liked the blitzing and pass rushing. He was good with the speed-to-power stuff. He just lacks the size there. I thought he lacked quickness in coverage. He’s a great person. He’ll be a (beast) on special teams wherever he goes.”

Barnes projects to play one of the two off-ball LB roles in Detroit’s base defense, along with free agent signee Alex Anzalone and veteran Jamie Collins. But both Collins and Barnes can also play as pass-rushing OLBs, too.

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