PHILADELPHIA — Derek Barnett, Tennessee’s all-time sack king and a 2016 Consensus All-American, was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at Eakins Oval.
“I’m excited,” Barnett said at the press conference following his selection. “I don’t have to go far just a few blocks up the street. I appreciate the love I’ve been receiving already.”
Philadelphia have a long history of selecting Vols. Barnett is the 18th Vol to be selected by the Eagles in the NFL Draft or Supplemental Draft. That group includes VFL legends such as Frank Emanuel, Reggie White, Antone Davis and Charlie Garner. The Eagles selected White with the fourth overall pick of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players.
“I’ve heard the fans are very passionate and I know I’m going to an organization with a lot of great players,” he said. “I just can’t wait, I’m ready to get to work and everybody’s been telling me to enjoy the moment but I love football and I’m ready to get back to what I love to do.”
Barnett is Tennessee’s first NFL first-round draft pick since the Miami Dolphins took Ja’Wuan James with the No. 19 overall selection in 2014. The last time the Eagles took a UT player in the first round of the NFL Draft, they selected Antone Davis with the eighth overall pick of 2008.
The Eagles acquired the No. 14 pick from the Minnesota Vikings as part of a September trade for former Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford.
Barnett is the first UT defensive lineman drafted since the Pittsburgh Steelers picked Daniel McCullers in the sixth round (No. 215 overall) in 2014. He is also Tennessee’s first defensive player to be picked in the first round since 2010 when the Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Berry with the fifth pick and the Arizona Cardinals selected Dan Williams with the 26th pick. The last UT defensive end to be selected in the first round was Robert Ayers, who went to the Denver Broncos with the 18th pick in 2009.
From 2014-16, Barnett played in 39 games, totaling 197 tackles (131 solo) and a Tennessee program-record 33.0 sacks. He tallied a career-best 13.0 sacks, including the 33rd of his career against Nebraska in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl to break the previous record of 32.0 held by the late great Reggie White since 1983. Barnett’s 52.0 career tackles for loss rank second in Tennessee history only to Leonard Little’s program-record 53.0.Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson
“Being a former quarterback in this league, anytime you can acquire a pass rusher to get after a quarterback to go with the guys we have, to mix him in there now, makes us better.”Philadelphia Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman
“He stands for what we want to be and I think everyone in this city will see what kind of person he is, what kind of player is. Unbelievable high character, unbelievable worker and tremendously talented and productive.”Philadelphia Eagles VP of Player Development Joe Douglas
“We couldn’t be more excited about Derek and how he hit the nail on the head, he is a guy that is tough as nails. When I think about some of the teams I used to grow up watching here in Philadelphia, he’s going to fit in with some of those guys from the late 80s early 90s. He is Philly tough.”
“When you see a guy that shows up in big moments… see a guy that plays in the best conference in all of college football show up week in week out and be as consistent as he is, it’s a big factor.”ESPN Analyst Jon Gruden
“When you surpass the all-time sack king in Knoxville… great pick by the Philadelphia Eagles.”ESPN Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
“You think about production in the SEC, unmatched. Unbelievable week to week what Derek Barnett was able to do. He has great hand usage and he can close despite having 4.88 speed, doesn’t have the length, the long arms you would want. The savvy he has as a defensive end, the way he works the offensive tackles, he schooled these tackles in college.”