The majority of Buccaneers fans have been so focused on Dalvin Cook as the Bucs likely selection at No. 19 in the NFL Draft that a lot of other potential targets have gone unrecognized.
Tight end David Njoku is one whom ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have both mocked to the Bucs and safety Malik Hooker, whom NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock mocked to the Bucs on Wednesday, is another.
Wide receivers John Ross and Corey Davis fall into that category as well, as do safeties Adoree’ Jackson and Jabrill Peppers. Even defensive lineman Taco Charlton has been tied to the Bucs a time or two.
There is one player, however, who no one seems to be connecting to the Bucs but probably should be and that is University of Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett.
There’s no question the Bucs need help on the defensive line, particularly at end, where Robert Ayers will soon turn 32 and Will Gholston comes off the field or moves inside on rush downs.
Yes, the Bucs have two very promising young rush ends in Jacquies Smith and Noah Spence but Smith is coming off a season-ending knee injury and neither he nor Spence is very strong against the run.
Barnett is and he’s also one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft, a player who broke Reggie White’s school record for sacks with 33 and ranks second all-time at UT with 52 tackles for loss.
Now, it’s quite possible that the reason Barnett has seldom if ever been mentioned is because few believe he’ll still be on the board at No. 19. Some mocks do indeed have him going well ahead of that.
But just as many have him falling well into the bottom of the first round and some have even projected him going in the second, which makes him a bit of a wild card, which he is.
Barnett is one of those system-diverse-kind of players who can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 or scheme, end in a 4-3 or maybe even three technique in a 4-3.
No, he’s not quite in the same class as Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas but he’s probably the best end prospect in the draft after those two and if he’s there for the Bucs, don’t be surprised if they grab him.