With only 17 days until the start of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Red Raiders have several talents to look out for. Here is a rundown of one of Texas Tech’s defensive assets and where he could possibly land in the draft.
As the NFL Draft creeps closer and closer, former Red Raiders will be at center stage to find out where their potential stands at the next level.
There are several Red Raider hopefuls at many positions, but we can not forget how valuable a defensive asset can be for a less than stellar NFL franchise that needs to reboot. That’s where former Tech defensive end Zach Barnes will come into play.
Coming in at 6’3 and 250 pounds, Barnes dominated during his senior season as a Red Raider, appearing in all 13 games. Barnes also is versatile and fast for his size—he ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at Texas Tech’s Pro Day.
At Texas Tech’s Pro Day, Barnes recorded a 37.5-inch vertical, 4.63 on the short shuttle and 26 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. Barnes showed NFL scouts not only does he have speed, but also the strength to maneuver around the offensive line and force the quarterback to make a wrong move.
Barnes definitely stood out among Tech’s defenders last season by rushing the quarterback, forcing fumbles and even recovering the ball. Playing three seasons under Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs didn’t hurt his draft stock either. Gibbs showed his ability to turn what was once the worst defensive units in college football to a team that was No. 6 nationally in forced turnovers.
Thinking of a defensive comparison for Barnes, the first name that came to my mind was Charles Johnson. Much like Barnes, Johnson concentrates more on stopping the run than focusing on the passing game. And with Johnson standing just a inch shorter than Barnes, the two defensive ends mimic each other with similar builds.
Johnson was obviously more set for the NFL than Barnes is as he dominated college football for the Georgia Bulldogs. In the 2007 NFL Draft, Johnson was the 83rd pick in the third round to the Carolina Panthers.
However, Barnes outshone Johnson in his Pro Day results. Johnson ran a 4.75 in the 40, which was significantly slower than Barnes’ 4.63 result. Barnes also surpassed Johnson in the vertical jump, with the former Panther only recording a 34 vertical, which also shows how athletic Barnes is.
Now that we have established Barnes having a better showing at Pro Day than Johnson did, we need to compare the two further on how they played at the collegiate level:
- Johnson’s 2005 season stats: 15 solo tackles, eight assists, four sacks and one forced fumble.
- Barnes’ senior season stats: Nine total tackles, six solo tackles, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Obviously, Johnson showed out in his final season as a Bulldog. However, Barnes definitely showed that he can bring more to the table at Tech’s Pro Day.
Possible Landing Spots
Now, before I get ahead of myself I want to point out that Barnes is extremely underrated despite what he’s done on the field. However, after his Pro Day debut, NFL scouts may be taking a closer look at the defensive end.
After a rough season, the Texans have put themselves in a bad position. Currently ranked last in defense, Houston could use a defensive lineman who can force a fumble here and there to generate offense.
Barnes could fit into the 3-4 defense established by the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Christian Covington, Brandon Dunn and others. With eight picks in the 2018 Draft, it’s likely we will see Barnes be taken later in the sixth or seventh round.
And now that the Texans have solved their quarterback problem by drafting Deshaun Watson, its time to focus on defense. Who better to help Houston out of this slump than a hard worker like Barnes?
Miami is one franchise that needs plenty of help on the defensive end. Again, let’s insert Barnes into the equation. The Dolphins were ranked fourth to last in total defense last year, which ruined any hopes of a solid playoff run.
However, that doesn't mean Miami has absolutely no help defensively. Defensive end Cameron Wake took the Dolphins by storm in the 2017 season by recording 10.5 sacks. However, Wake didn't have a whole lot of help to get the ball back to the offensive unit.
You put an eager kid like Barnes alongside Wake and then Houston, we DON’T have a problem. Barnes can benefit from raising his football IQ next to Wake. With mentoring and hard work, these two can take the Dolphins to an entirely new level.
Also, who doesn't want to see Jakeem Grant having a former Texas Tech teammate by his side?
I hate to say this, it really kills me as a Tech fan, but there is a slight chance that scouts have overlooked Barnes and his potential to be in the NFL.
One has to admit, he didn't quite execute on the field during his senior season. Yes, he attacks the run game and can force the quarterback to scramble, but scouts are looking for defensive assets that are ready to go at any moment. Barnes just isn't there yet. If he were to be drafted, there’s no doubt he would need a year or two on the bench.
Now this doesn't mean its a definite conclusion that he wont go to the NFL. He could be asked to come to rookie camps after what he displayed at Pro Day.
For me, Barnes going undrafted is a scary thought, but one thing is for sure—he gave the Red Raiders some solid years and any NFL franchise would benefit from having a talented backup defensive end.