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5 Qs with Gold and Black: Derrick Barnes is a strong, passionate, high-IQ defender

Get to know the Lions new linebackers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 30 Senior Bowl Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If there’s one area where the Detroit Lions need to improve, it’s their linebacking corps. In 2020 the Lions were constantly getting burnt over the middle and severely lacked the athleticism to keep up with receivers in coverage.

That’s why it was a bit of a shock during the draft that the Lions waited until the fourth round to get a linebacker. The Lions picked up Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes with the 113th pick, after trading up to get him. They must have liked what they saw in him and when you see his highlight reel, you will too.

Barnes displays a lot of speed and an ability to finish; something the Lions really wanted out of Jarrad Davis, but could never achieve. Barnes graded out with an 8.42 RAS and ran an impressive 4.58-second 40-yard dash. There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to his athleticism, but there’s some work to do to get better.

In order to learn more about Barnes, we reached out to Purdue expert Tom Dienhart of Gold And Black to get some more information on the former Boilermaker. Here’s what he had to say.

1. What are your overall thoughts on Barnes’ time at Purdue?

“He was a steady contributor who made an impact from the start. He had a start at Wisconsin as a true freshman in 2017 and he saw his role increase over the years. As a junior in 2019, he played ‘Leo’, a hybrid end/linebacker and he excelled at getting pressure despite being undersized. Don’t think Barnes was crazy about the move, but he did it for the team and didn’t complain. He moved back to linebacker in 2020 and was the team’s best defender.”

2. What are his strengths?

“He plays hard and with passion. All business. A guy who is well-liked by teammates. He’s also tough. Has good strength and football IQ. Scouts I talked to were very impressed by his interviews at the Senior Bowl, where his stock shot up. Coming out of high school in Covington, Kentucky, he was mostly a running back and was just a two-star recruit who really blossomed. Had to learn a new scheme with a new coordinator in 2020 and still thrived.”

3. What are his weaknesses?

“He isn’t the fastest guy, which makes his ability to play in space and to cover possible concerns.”

4. Many scouts loved what they saw from Barnes. Do you think he was drafted too low?

“I don’t think Barnes fell at all in the draft. I think he was picked almost exactly where it was expected, based on the two NFL scouts I talked to prior to the draft. He MAY have been a late-third-round pick. But fourth round seemed about right for Barnes.”

5. Can Barnes make an immediate impact in the NFL?

“I am told Barnes probably isn’t starting caliber, but he could be a spot starter and special teams ace. He may be just a two-down linebacker, playing first and second down and coming off on third down. But he could be used as a pass rusher on third downs, as he showed a knack to rush the passer in 2019 when he played ‘Leo’. Bottom line: He can impact as a rookie.”