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2021 NFL Draft grades: Detroit Lions get intriguing prospect in LB Derrick Barnes

The Lions got speed at the linebacker level, but he may take time to round out his game.

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Syndication: The Enquirer Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Detroit Lions completed back-to-back crowd-pleasing picks by taking Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes with the 113th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Barnes fills an enormous long-term need at linebacker and brings something the Lions have been severely lacking at the position: speed.

But playing the linebacker position takes a lot more than some athletic traits. So let’s take a closer look at what the Lions are getting in their second fourth-round pick.

Trade grade

As a reminder, here were the terms of the trade the Lions made with the Browns to go up and get Barnes.

Lions receive:

  • Pick 113
  • Pick 257

Browns receive:

  • Pick 153
  • Lions’ 2022 fourth-round pick

If you’re the kind of person who likes consulting the chart here, this is the point breakdown via the Jimmy Johnson chart:

Lions: Pick 113 (68) + Pick 257 (2) = 70 points
Browns; Pick 153 (30.2) + 2022 fourth-round pick (between 33.5 and 80) = 63.5 to 110.2

Obviously, the Lions are likely on the losing end of this trade, given they’re expected to be picking at the top half of the draft next year, but because there’s a lower value given to next year’s draft, this is about the going price of a trade-up using future picks.

Trade grade: C


Barnes is an interesting projection to the NFL simply because Purdue basically played him at two different positions. For his first three years, he served as an edge defender and really grew as a pass rusher. In 2019, he tallied 11.0 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks. But in his senior year, he was moved to an off-ball linebacker role and became a tackling machine. In just six games, he managed 54 tackles and didn’t miss often.

At the NFL level, he projects to stay off the ball due to his relatively small stature (6-foot, 238 pounds), but it’s tough to see how he’ll project as a coverage player because he was seldomly asked to do that in college.

But one thing is for certain, Barnes is going to bring a ton of speed to the Lions’ linebacking corps.

Talent grade: C+


The Lions took Barnes 113th overall. Here’s where he fell on some popular big boards:

Daniel Jeremiah: 98
Dane Brugler: 4th-round grade
The Athletic’s consensus big board: 148

It’s about average value for Barnes here in the draft (according to the media), but throw in the fact that the Lions traded up to get him, the Lions will take a little hit here.

Value grade: C-


The Lions don’t have a long-term linebacker on their roster expected to be in the mold of what they want. Jahlani Tavai is the player signed to the longest deal, but his athletic profile doesn’t fit what they want.

Jamie Collins will be around for a couple years, but everyone else is signed to a deal that expires at the end of the 2021 season. The Lions need speed at the second level, and they certainly have it now in Barnes. Given that it may take time for Barnes to develop into a well-rounded off-ball linebacker, this is a good situation for him. In the meantime, the Lions will use that athleticism on special teams.

Need grade: A+


I love the athletic traits, and Barnes seems like a very high-character guy (received sportsmanship award ) with an intensity required to play defense at the NFL level. Given that he’s fairly new to the position at off-ball linebacker, though, expect him to take time to grow into the guy the Lions are hoping they got. It does feel like Detroit got a little overly aggressive here, but the trade value was mostly fair.

Overall grade: C+


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