The Detroit Lions knew they needed defensive help, and in the 2021 NFL Draft they addressed that need by grabbing linebacker Derrick Barnes amongst other players.
Barnes enters Detroit’s training camp period as a player who stands a lot to gain, given he could take home a new job during the period. Even though it may not be wise to project Barnes to do that, he’s still a player that bears watching in a big way pushing toward the 2021 season.
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Recently, Pro Football Focus took a look and writer Ben Linsey took a look at projecting every team’s starting lineup for day one of the 2021 season. In Detroit, the linebacker spot is of interest, and Linsey had Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone as starters. Even though that was the case, he projects Barnes as a player to watch who may not start this season thanks to what he can do.
“The rookie Barnes is expected to fall behind Collins and Anzalone on the depth chart, but it’s not difficult to see him having a role defensively. It will likely be an early-down role that allows the former edge defender to play close to the line of scrimmage, taking advantage of his power against the run and as a blitz weapon. Barnes is a surehanded tackler — it was one of his biggest strengths coming out of Purdue. He missed just 22 tackles on 245 career attempts at the college level.”
If Barnes has a strong training camp period, he could win himself a major role within the defense. In terms of his role, pass pursuit is going to be a strength, which could win him a spot considering the struggles the tam has had recently doing just that.
Barnes playing a big role as a rookie would be a huge development for the Lions, and in time, there is no question he could have the goods to start.
Barnes Generated Big-Time NFL Comparisons
After being drafted by the Lions, Barnes began to generate some big-time comparisons. While he still has plenty to prove at linebacker himself in the NFL, it’s clear Barnes already has identified some players whom he wants to emulate in order to achieve success.
Speaking after Detroit’s rookie minicamp this past weekend, Barnes was asked about whom he might model his game after as he transitions to the NFL. The answer was a pretty special one for anybody who knows the league. As Barnes said, he watches tape on Ray Lewis and Junior Seau before he plays.
Both of those players have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and obviously, if the Lions could get just half of what they provided in their career out of Barnes, they would be in good shape. Most young players make it a habit to study linebackers playing the game now, but for Barnes, a couple of his favorites are from the old school.
That could be a very good thing in the end for the Lions.
Barnes’ Stats and Highlights
Safe to say where folks are getting some of the elite comparisons. Barnes has been a productive player in the Big Ten, racking up 226 tackles, 25 tackles for-loss, 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 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. It will depend on how Detroit wants to use Barnes, but the talent is there.
Here’s a look at what the highlights show:
Will Barnes become a guy who turns himself into a player like either Seau, Lewis or another successful NFL linebacker? That remains to be seen, but it’s clear he understands how he wants to play the position when he comes to the league.
That could lead to him playing a big role when the 2021 season kicks off.