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Derek Barnett Has Battled Through Injury To Make An Impression


Although Derek Barnett's workouts in front of scouts have been riddled with setbacks, but the Tennessee defensive end has a body of work he will rely on in this year's draft.

It hasn't been the easiest couple of months for projected first-round draft pick Derek Barnett.

The defensive end battled through sickness during the NFL Scouting Combine in February for professional scouts, eager to make an impression, and then fought through some more pain – this time a hamstring injury -- a month later at the University of Tennessee's Pro Day.

"I wanted to come out and perform because I knew this was an important job interview," Barnett said at the Combine. "A lot of people would die to be here, and I was like, make the most of my opportunity  I got, so I just grinded it out."

By the time he worked out in Knoxville, he was in a much better place physically. According to Tennessee officials, Barnett ran a 4.90 40-yard dash, committed 20 reps on the bench press and offered a 31-inch vertical leap.

He decided not to run the 40-yard dash a second time after tweaking his hamstring slightly, a cautionary decision that he hopes won't make too much of an impact based on the speed he's already exhibited on the field.

As a junior last season, Barnett was a first-team All-SEC pick and first-team All-American by multiple outlets. He had 18 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, which gave him 33 career sacks, leading the country over the past three years.

His final sack in the Music City Bowl notched him a place in history, beating out Reggie White's 1983 record as Tennessee's all-time sack king.

"When I broke his record I broke it in the last game in my hometown," Barnett said. "But the best part about the record was after I had that sack, all my teammates around the field [were] more excited than I was."

Most people viewed Barnett as a more polished defender than Myles Garrett, the draft's projected first overall pick, and he has been productive even without the length that most teams look for in a defensive end – 6-foot-3, 269 pounds. But it's Barnett's athleticism that might push him father back in the draft.

Still, he's been a strong force against both the pass and run in his career, and he has told teams that he could play an outside linebacker type if needed in a 3-4 defense.

"They think I'm one of the top guys on the edges, but there's a lot of great edge [rushers] this year," Barnett told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "It's all been positive. Everything has been positive."

He told NFL Network: "Getting ready for the season, I need to open up my pass rush moves even more. I think a lot of people know my bread and butter, but every great pass rusher has that one go-to move and they keep doing it."

Even while he lacks the pop-out numbers at his pro day, Barnett is confident that the footage he provided on the field over the course of his impressive career is more than enough for teams to take a chance on him.

"I think I have three great years of film playing here," Barnett said. "I think I went through this training pretty good and now it's up to the teams to make a decision."

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