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2021 NFL Draft: How Derrick Barnes impacts Detroit Lions roster

How does the speedy linebacker fit into the defense?

Purdue v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

That was quick! The Detroit Lions made a move on Day 3, trading up in the fourth round to select Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes.

Player selected: Derrick Barnes

Position: LB

Current players on roster at LB:

  • Alex Anzalone
  • Jamie Collins
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton
  • Anthony Pittman
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin
  • Jahlani Tavai

Offseason losses at LB:

  • Jarrad Davis
  • Christian Jones
  • Reggie Ragland


The Lions linebackers are undergoing a significant culture shift, and Derrick Barnes fits perfectly into it. Under Matt Patricia, the big run-stuffing linebackers of yesteryear were the norm, such as Christian Jones, Reggie Ragland, and Jahlani Tavai. With Aaron Glenn at the helm of the defensive coaching staff, speed looks like a priority. One of the faster linebackers in the draft, Barnes won’t look out of place in the new linebacking room. Alex Anzalone, Jamie Collins, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Anthony Pittman, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all have good-to-great speed.

The impact of the linebacker position has decreased in recent years, but the Lions are doing well to secure a highly-regarded prospect. With few players guaranteed to be on the roster in 2022, Barnes provides depth this year and a promising talent for the years after. Given the injury concerns of Anzalone, he could see action early on. Unless the team wants to give Reeves-Maybin an extended look on defense, Barnes is likely the third linebacker on the team.

The one name I’ve left out of the speed linebacker discussion is Jahlani Tavai. The writing was already on the wall for Tavai, barely being discussed by the coaching staff. Coupled with their actions this offseason, he seems like a poor fit in a speed-orientated scheme. Barnes is a solid run defender, and that was Tavai’s lone strength. Unless he can show some improvement in year three, Tavai could be a cut come September.

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