TJ Barnes was one of the two Georgia Tech players who received an invite to this years NFL Combine. By all accounts, he helped himself with his faster than expected 40 time and the rest of his performances. It certainly helps that he measured in at 6′ 6″ and almost 35″ arms. He has some upside, but let’s see exactly where he stands heading into Georgia Tech’s Pro Day on March 14th.
Here are the two videos I will be referencing during this scouting report. The first video is TJ Barnes’ performance against Florida State, who had a pretty good run-blocking offensive line this year. The second video is a compilation of his highlights from 2012. This video should be taken with a grain of salt, but it does show some nice traits of his that he can continue to improve on. Here they are.
Let’s take a look at what TJ has done well in his time at Tech and what should get him drafted. His massive size(6′ 6″ and 370 lbs) allows him to be a successful space eater and take on double teams. NFL teams love adding players on their D line who require a double team because they free up space and blockers for the other defenders in the front 7.
After seeing TJ run the 40 at the NFL Combine, it is clear that he is an athlete and has quick feet. In the first video at 1:07, he uses his quick feet to fend off a cut block by the offensive lineman and get into the backfield. Another example of his quickness is at :40 in the same video, where he splits the gap between the C and LG to knock the RB off his path and stop the play.
One of his best attributes is his ability to keep his eyes on the QB and knock passes down at the line of scrimmage. When successful defensive linemen can’t get to the passer, they keep their eyes up and try to swat passes away. The player who does this best in the NFL happens to be the reigning Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt. If you go to :23 and 2:07 in the second video, Barnes shows he is able to time the passes and knock them down.
Successful DT’s in the NFL are able to move the pocket by providing push up the middle. Therefore, lower body strength is extremely important and they should know how to use it. TJ Barnes shows the tendency to get stood up at the line and frequently get pushed back. He doesn’t get low enough on the C and is unable to push the pocket. This is something that can be improved on with better coaching, but it can’t entirely be fixed. His height will make it hard for him to gain leverage, so he will need to improve on his lower body strength.
The other big issue I saw on tape was how easily he can be blocked out of plays. At 2:06 in the first video, Barnes gets absolutely manhandled by the LG, who moves him 10 yards out of the play. This again goes back to leverage at the line and improved lower body strength. He will have a very short career in the NFL if he doesn’t correct these issues in his game, even with the strengths mentioned above.
Barnes shows some very nice tendencies that are excellent compliments to a DT’s game, but he will need to improve his lower body strength and explosion to ever see an NFL field on Sundays. With that said, he is an above average athlete for his frame and has good quickness. Right now I see TJ as a late round pick in the NFL Draft. I can see a team like the Ravens, Patriots, or 49ers spending a 6th or 7th round pick on him to stash him on their practice squad for a season or two. He will need quite a bit of coaching, but those teams have Pro Bowl DT’s on their roster already and can afford to give him time to develop. He has good upside and that will eventually get him drafted.