The Detroit Lions drafted Derrick Barnes with the hopes of him becoming one of the NFL’s next great young linebackers and it’s clear he could be heading toward that already.
Barnes endured an up and down rookie season on the field, but in spite of all that, his talent always managed to shine through in the end to the point that many see him as a major weapon moving forward for the team.
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Perhaps the biggest accolade Barnes has received to this point for his play was recently levied upon him by ESPN by way of Football Outsiders. Recently, the site put together a look at every team’s most underrated player in a comprehensive piece.
Unexpectedly, Barnes was the pick for Detroit, even though he hasn’t seen much time on the field early in his career nor made much of a fast statistical impact while on it. Clearly, though, the site loves what he brings to the mix from a football standpoint when he is on the field.
“His ability to take on blocks, find the ball carrier and tackle with consistency was impressive to watch out of a young player, much less one who was a mid-rounder,” the site wrote of Barnes in the analysis.
In terms of what Barnes has to do in order to take a step forward, the piece seems to think that he should improve coverage first, but could be able to do that given his skills.
“Barnes will need to find his footing in coverage (the Lions preferred to take him off the field in nickel packages last season), but he has the physical skills and length to get there in time,” the piece said.
It’s clear that Barnes has a bright future for the Lions, and the hope is he can get to stardom sooner rather than later. For now, though, he is a player who is flying significantly under the radar for the team in the mind of some.
Barnes’ Development Critical for Lions
If there was ever a player the Lions needed to step up for their future and transform from under-the-radar to above it, Barnes would be the one. Whether real or imagined, at this point, the team still has a weak link at linebacker according to many folks.
Detroit has not added top veterans to the position, and has instead focused on young band-aid players like Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. Adding Chris Board to the position was a free agency depth play for the Lions as well, but Barnes could still have the overall lead at the spot in terms of his upside for the team given his experience within the defense.
The Lions need Barnes to fill a major gap at the position into the future and become a solid contributor if not play a starring role for a needy defense. If he does, the team could be set for the future at a key position on defense. For this reason, a lot hinges on his development.
Barnes’ Stats & Highlights
What has been shown thus far on the field in 2021 was just what the Lions seemed to think they were getting in Barnes. Based on his track record from college, a pretty productive player. Barnes has been a productive player in the Big Ten, racking up 226 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in his college career.
The numbers paint the picture of a tackling machine and a guy who can get after it in between the lines and make big plays for a defense sideline to sideline. The talent is clearly there. That only showed up more at times for the Lions when he did see the field. He put up 67 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 passes defended and 4 tackles for loss last year.
Here’s a look at what Barnes was able to do as a rookie:
Will Barnes become a guy who turns himself into a player that can stick as a successful NFL linebacker and make a major difference at the spot? That remains to be seen, but it’s clear he understands how to play the position as he comes to the league and hasn’t looked overwhelmed.
As some think, that could lead to future stardom when all is said and done, especially as underrated as Barnes could be.