There’s not an Eagles fans who doesn’t worship Reggie White.
Guess what: the Eagles first-round selection, Derek Barnett, broke White’s school-record at Tennessee for most career sacks with 32.
That’s how good he was in college, and it’s one of the reasons he was such an attractive option for the pass-rush needy Eagles at No. 14 during the NFL Draft on Thursday evening.
“They’re getting a player who can stop the run and a player who can make a lot of plays on the backside," Barnett said. “They’re getting someone who knows how to get to the quarterback.”
Thanks to a flurry of trades at the start of the draft, resulting in three quarterbacks going off the board in the first 12 picks, the Eagles watched as an array of defensive prospects fall to their lap. Still on the board at the time were Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and Marlon Humphrey, as well as Florida State running back Dalvin Cook and Ohio State safety Malik Hooker.
Yet the Eagles opted to go with Barnett, showing just how much they value the pass-rushing skill set as opposed a linebacker like Foster. A 6-3, 265-pound edge rusher, Barnett racked a career-best 13 sacks last season as a junior.
He plans on bringing that success to Philadelphia.
“I’m very coachable,” Barnett said. “I think I can be very efficient anywhere on the field. Whatever the job description is, I think I can get it done.
Barnett, who said he compares himself to Seattle’s Michael Bennett, will team up with the likes of Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and the rest of the defensive ensemble like Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks among the front seven.
This was a necessary move for the Eagles heading into draft night as they totaled just 34 sacks in 2016, which was the fewest in the NFC East.
Making the night even sweeter for Barnett was the fact that he got to experience it all in the city he hopes to call his home for the next 10-plus years.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go too far so I can get straight to work,” Barnett said. “I heard the fans are very passionate. I know I’m going to an organization with a lot of great players. I just can’t wait. I’m ready to to get to work. Everybody’s been telling me to just enjoy the moment but I love football and I’m ready to get back.”
As for the Reggie White storyline, Barnett is well-educated on the man whose sack record he broke in college, “He’s a legend there. He has a big picture up on the field so I know how big he is and I know how big he is here.”