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Scouts: Derek Barnett won't produce in NFL like he did in college

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MOBILE, Ala. -- Editor's note: NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein is constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Zierlein will share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles. This week, he shares what he's hearing from his sources at the site of the Senior Bowl about Tennessee pass rusher Derek Barnett, this year's safety class and a rising LB prospect.

2017 NFL DRAFT

The scoop: "(Derek) Barnett generates a lot of discussion out on the road. He's physical and he's got great production, but some scouts just don't think he'll be able to translate those numbers to the pros because he's not very explosive off the ball. He won't overpower NFL tackles like he did in college." -- AFC North area scout on the Tennessee DE

The skinny: I had my own reservations about Barnett this past summer when I studied his 2015 tape, for the reason mentioned above. However, in the process of watching his 2016 tape and creating my draft profile for him, I began to buy into what I was seeing. He will definitely win on the next level.

Barnett, who broke Reggie White's UT career sacks record last season, is powerful, but also has deft hand work that can gain him a quick win. Pass rushing on the pro level isn't only about speed and edge-bending -- it's also about strength and hand skills. Barnett takes efficient routes to the quarterback and his ability to stand up as a run defender should not be underestimated. The production he posted over three years in the SEC wasn't an accident. He'll be a good pro starter.

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The scoop: "I've been doing this for a while now and I don't remember a draft with this many quality safeties in it. You will look back and find a lot of starters that came from (this draft) and you might see four (safeties) in the first round." -- AFC director of scouting

The skinny: It's certainly possible that four safeties will go in Round 1, but three are more likely with LSU's Jamal Adams, Ohio State's Malik Hooker and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers as the top candidates.

Many teams are intrigued by Utah's Marcus Williams because he has a history of taking the ball away and teams covet ballhawks. With college safeties forced into so many coverage responsibilities nowadays and NFL teams using more three- and four-wide receiver sets, it makes sense that safeties with cover skills would become a greater priority on draft day.

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The scoop: "Heard about him late from the scout who does that area. Man, he was a dude at the (Senior Bowl) weigh-in. Impressive looking. I've been watching him out here (at Senior Bowl practices) and he is really athletic and really quick off the snap in these one-on-ones. If I had to guess a round without watching tape, I would say third based on what I've seen out here." -- NFC general manager on Houston OLB Tyus Bowser

The skinny: My home base is Houston and it wasn't until recently that I became aware of just how much improvement Bowser had shown in 2016. Bowser spent a couple of seasons playing basketball, which should give an indication of his quickness and athleticism. He's made a full-time commitment to football over the past couple seasons and he continues to show improvement with each month. His tape is full of "wow" flashes, but lacks complete "wow" games. With his explosive traits as a pass rusher and his ability to move in space, look for teams to target Bowser on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) of the draft as an ascending prospect.

Follow Lance Zierlein on Twitter @LanceZierlein.

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