Teams must nail their top picks in order to be successful, but what turns hopeful squads into contenders is the development of later-round picks into full-on starters. The Detroit Lions have way more holes across the roster than the first two days of the draft — or big-ticket free agents — can fill, so some dart throws need to turn into real NFL pieces.
Derrick Barnes is more than just a lottery ticket, but the fourth-rounder is also far from a sure thing. The Lions were excited to grab him on Day 3 in last year’s draft, but entering his sophomore season, now is the time for potential to turn into actual on-field production, at least enough to validate some of the hope around him.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
What is Derrick Barnes’ long-term role in Detroit?
My answer: Detroit is not exactly stacked at linebacker, but that does not mean Barnes is a lock for playing time. Alex Anzalone will absolutely open the year as a starter, and it seems like Chris Board will join him after coming over from Baltimore this offseason. After that, though, the depth chart is open.
If Barnes can make the most of this rotational role, then he would be on a good path for even more playing time in Year 3. However, the hype around Malcolm Rodriguez adds to the competition, as does Anthony Pittman’s versatility. Barnes’ spot in the pecking order could just as easily go down as he could jump into a starting spot.
Long term, I do wonder if Barnes is more of a rotational piece. The Lions can always go grab a strong free agent when it is time to contend, meaning only one other pure linebacking spot needs to be filled by someone like Barnes, Rodriguez, or Pittman. The potential is still there for Barnes to be the one to emerge, but he will have to really earn that, starting with a good showing this season.