Summary: Even though the past decade hasn't been that great, Tennessee has been one of the storied programs in college football history, producing a ton of good NFL talent. Thus, it says something that Barnett is the Volunteers' all-time leader in sacks, and he did that in only three seasons.
As a freshman, Barnett set records with a tremendous debut season. He totaled 10 sacks, with 20.5 tackles for a loss and 72 tackles. His sophomore play was consistent throughout the season. He totaled 69 tackles with 12.5 for a loss and 10 sacks. In 2016, Barnett notched 56 tackles with 19 for a loss, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes broken up and one interception. He came up with huge performances to help Tennessee earn comeback wins over Georgia and Florida. Barnett also beat Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson for a strip-sack. Barnett consistently put a lot of pressure on the quarterback in 2016.
Sources view Barnett as a smooth player who has some natural pass-rushing skills for the pros. He can fight his way through blocks and close on the quarterback. The best traits that Barnett illustrates are an ability to sink his hips and dip under tackles to get leverage in chasing down the quarterback. Barnett bends extremely well and has enough lower body strength to stay up with tackles pressing down on him. Barnett's hands are very good for a player entering the NFL. He shows a nice ability to use his hands and feet at the same time. Tackles try to get a hold of him, but Barnett has strong hands to slap them away and get free of blocks. Once Barnett is free, he has a real burst to close and is adept at getting the quarterback on the ground.
In the ground game, Barnett is a solid defender. He has room for improvement but isn't a complete liability. He could wear down in the NFL and should continue to work on his strength be a run stopper as a professional. At 259 pounds, Barnett was lighter for the combine than his playing weight and should get back into the 260s for the NFL.
This is how one top scout broke down Barnett, "Some who have had Barnett's skill set haven't always been able to translate it. However, I would bank on Barnett's production and think he has a solid career. The Shaq Lawson comparison is a good one overall, minus some differences. I like Barnett as a dip/bend guy, not a power guy. Shaq Lawson played much more violent than Barnett and was stout versus the run. Barnett plays more finesse than people realize and isn't a great run defender. He's like a slower twitch version of Jerome McDougle coming out, though more productive. People look at Barnett's stature and assume he is a solid run guy. Barnett is going to need that explosive guy opposite him to get one-on-ones. I can't see him taking it to Trent Williams, Duane Brown, Terron Armstead or Nate Solder, considering they are much bigger and better athletes. He will need a guy on the other side from him."
For the NFL, Barnett could fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker or be a right end in a 4-3 defense. Given his pass-rushing skills, Barnett should go as a top-25 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Elvis Dumervil. Barnett kind of reminds me of a taller, stronger version of Dumervil. Since being drafted by Denver, Dumervil had a number of good years as a consistent and steady pass-rusher for the Ravens and Broncos. Barnett might not be as fast as Dumervil off the edge, but Barnett is bigger. Both of them are smooth pass-rushers who display natural skills for getting after the quarterback. In the NFL, I think Barnett will be a similar player to Dumervil.
NFL Matches: New York Jets, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Washington, Detroit and Miami
There are a lot of potential fits for Barnett in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In the top 10, there are two possible landing spots for Barnett, with the Jets being the first at No. 6 overall. New York could use an edge rusher, but that seems a little too high. At No. 9, Cincinnati might be a fit. The Bengals have Margus Hunt in free agency and Michael Johnson, who is a limited player. Barnett could be the pass-rushing end to go on the other side of Carlos Dunlap with Geno Atkins disrupting from the inside.
The Saints have to upgrade their defense and improve their pass defense. They need an edge rusher across from Cam Jordan, and it sounds like their preference is to add a pass-rusher first with secondary help to follow. Barnett could be in play for New Orleans with the 11th-overall pick.
Indianapolis needs help all over its defense, and Barnett would be an instant upgrade for the unit. John Simon and Jabaal Sheard are more complementary pass-rushers, so Barnett would give the Colts a lead dog.
The Ravens need more pass rush after cutting Elvis Dumervil. Barnett would make sense for Baltimore.
The Redskins want to get younger and more athletic up front. Wormley would be able to play five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 or 4-3 end or tackle for Washington.
Among the playoff teams, Barnett shouldn't fall past two of the teams in the early 20s. The Lions could use defensive line help. Barnett could upgrade their edge rush across from Ziggy Ansah. Miami could use a young defensive end after cutting Mario Williams and due to the fact that Cameron Wake is aging.