As fantasy football players we are always looking for the next breakout stars in the game. The transition to the NFL game can take time and young players sometimes have to wait their time behind veterans. Having said that, let’s take a look at two young defensive ends that are ready to take their game to the next level.
Derek Barnett – DE – Philadelphia Eagles
Looking to bolster their pass rush, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with the 14th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Barnett was extremely productive during his three years at the University of Tennessee. He left the school with a record 33 sacks, breaking legendary Hall of Famer Reggie White’s previous school record of 32. Along with his great production, scouts praised Barnett for his play strength and hand usage to fight off opposing offensive lineman.
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The Eagles defensive scheme uses a heavy rotation with their defensive lineman, so as a rookie Barnett saw limited playing time. Although his snaps were limited, Barnett was still able to record five sacks during the regular season and even recorded a strip-sack against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game. Those big plays helped Barnett earn a spot on the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2017 All-Rookie Team after the season.
In his second season, Barnett started off the year strong recording 16 total tackles (5 for loss) and two and a half sacks in his first six games. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder in week four of the regular season and ended up on injured reserve with a torn rotator cuff after week six. Although his season was cut short, Barnett showed off his impressive bend and strength off the edge in year two.
Having lost veterans Michael Bennett (trade to New England) and Chris Long (retirement), the Eagles are going to be greatly counting on Barnett this upcoming season. Now that Bennett and Long are out of the defensive rotation, Barnett is the clear starter opposite veteran Brandon Graham. With the potential added snaps, Barnett’s first career double-digit sack season is in reach. As his shoulder recovery continues to trend in the right direction, Barnett has the potential to be a solid DE2 this year and be an every week starter.
Marcus Davenport – DE – New Orleans Saints
Coming out of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Marcus Davenport had the look of pass rusher to be reckoned with. Standing 6’6’’ and weighing 264 pounds while running a 4.58 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, he caught the attention of NFL teams. In 2017, Davenport was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after recording 55 total tackles (17.5 for loss) and eight and half sacks as a senior. The New Orleans Saints felt so strongly about his potential, that they made a blockbuster trade giving up two first rounds picks (27th overall 2018 and future 2019 first) to move up 13 spots to select Davenport at 14th overall in the 2018 draft.
In his rookie season, Davenport got off to slow start while trying to adjust to the NFL game. In week seven of the regular season, Davenport’s breakout seemed to be on its way as he recorded two sacks against the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, the breakout never came and his play seemed to slip the second half of season. This caused people to wonder what happened to the talented rookie who seemed to be on the up. After the season, news came out that during that week seven game he suffered a toe injury that could have potentially ended his season.
Now entering his second season as a pro, Davenport is fully healthy and ready to make some noise. He’s penciled in as the starter opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan and looking to take his game to the next level. A double-digit sack season is well in the grasp for big number 92 going into year two, as a healthy and more confident player has him vaulting into the DE2 conversation.