Detroit Lions: Don’t sleep on rookie Derrick Barnes at linebacker

The Detroit Lions had a really fun 2021 NFL Draft class, and one player both Detroit and NFL fans, in general, shouldn’t sleep on is LB Derrick Barnes.

The Detroit Lions had a fun 2021 NFL Draft class which started with former Oregon Ducks left tackle Penei Sewell. The Lions’ front office and draft room could not have been more pumped for Sewell to still be on the board when they were on the clock with the seventh overall pick in round one, especially knowing they had multiple first-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 NFL Draft classes as well.

As the Detroit Lions’ 2021 NFL Draft class progressed, it was clear this team was emphasizing the trenches and specifically, toughness and nastiness.

The pick of Sewell was complemented on the other side of the line in rounds two and three with defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill before the Lions finally expanded from the trenches and selected Syracuse defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes.

Barnes is a rookie that fans of the Detroit Lions should not be sleeping on as an immediate contributor to the defense.

Detroit Lions: Don’t sleep on Derrick Barnes

A long, explosive, quick-twitch athlete like Barnes won’t be stricken to the sideline for very long. Of course, any day three pick (for the most part) is going to be expected to contribute on special teams, and Barnes can definitely do that.

Still, this is a guy who played all over the defensive formation at Purdue and found success. It didn’t matter if he was playing as a defensive end, rush linebacker, off-ball linebacker, or whatever else he was tasked with. He was productive.

With a new coaching staff and front office regime, there will be snaps available to Barnes. The Lions have some holdovers from last year’s crew but the holdovers are veteran Jamie Collins and former second-round pick Jahlani Tavai.

It would be borderline criminal for the Lions to not get Barnes and his unique athletic profile and background at Purdue onto the field as a rookie, even if he’s being utilized only in sub packages.

This year’s linebacker class was a really strong one overall. A player like Barnes slipping through the cracks is perfect for the Detriot Lions, who are in the midst of a roster and culture overhaul that will span multiple offseasons.

Someone like Barnes, a fourth-round pick, could come in right away and have more of an impact than anyone really expects him to right away.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn doesn’t exactly have an embarrassment of riches to work with on that side of the ball.

While the Detroit Lions will undoubtedly try to catch lightning in a bottle and win as many games as they possibly can before going into “evaluation” mode, there is little reason for Barnes not to be on the field early and often in his rookie season.