Derrick Barnes - Linebacker, Purdue
By the numbers:
6'0", 238 pounds. 4.57 40-yard dash per pro day measurements.
2020: 54 tackles (5.5 for loss), one pass broken up and one interception in six games played.
Derrick Barnes's intelligence is the first thing that stands out about him. His football IQ is very high and he always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He processes things quickly both presnap and during the action. He possesses solid awareness in zone coverage, as well as in run support. Barnes handled the transition from defensive end to MIKE linebacker as well as the Boilermakers could have asked him to.
Physicality is another element of the game that Barnes brings to the table. His stack-and-shed ability is strong and he isn't afraid of contact. He's a willing tackler and is capable of setting a quality edge against the run. Barnes's experience as a defensive end shows up in how he plays as a linebacker. He revels in getting his hands dirty and making plays in between the numbers.
A lack of hip fluidity will hold Barnes back at the next level. He tested well at Purdue's pro day but on film, he looks stiff and doesn't seem to have great top-end speed nor range. This is evident in his man coverage reps, and that issue may only become more glaring as Barnes heads to the NFL. He isn't a total liability, but he can't be fully trusted in one-on-one situations against faster running backs or tight ends.
Barnes doesn't have a very high ceiling as a player. He isn't athletic enough to play the WILL linebacker position and has a ton of work to do before becoming a full-time MIKE — if that ever happens. He's too small to go back to defensive end, so he's likely a base SAM linebacker and special teams ace for now. In order to advance to a higher role within a defense, Barnes will have to prove that he can hold his own in man coverage.
How Barnes fits with the Chiefs:
As of right now, the Chiefs' starting linebackers in their base set are Willie Gay Jr. (WILL) and Anthony Hitchens (MIKE). Gay's feature will possibly come in the nickel sub-package, so the need for a base SAM linebacker still exists. Barnes is strong enough to play the role, can stack and shed and is a sound zone defender. When factoring in how infrequently modern NFL teams play in their base formation, it makes sense to address the SAM need with a mid-level investment. Barnes is a good fit with the Chiefs, especially considering what they need.
The fundamental building blocks are there for Barnes to have a successful, lengthy career in the NFL. He does have limitations but despite them, he remains a bright player with the smarts of a linebacker and the toughness of a defensive end. At the very least, he projects as a special teams stud and a candidate to be a team's base SAM linebacker early on. Anything other than that is gravy, and there's a good chance he develops into more. Barnes grades out as a fourth-round pick.