Barnett’s most valuable talent to Cleveland would be his ability to get to the quarterback by way of getting around the offensive line. The Browns have struggled in recent years finding an edge rusher, a player with speed who can move the pocket single-handedly.
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Cleveland tried Barkevious Mingo for this purpose, Paul Kruger, and even OLBs like Christian Kirksey. But the more these pass rushers went after the quarterback, the more they were completely removed from the play. Instead, the Browns tried more of a bull rush, which failed miserably in 2016, as the defense only recorded 26 sacks, tied for the second-fewest in football.
Drafting Barnett changes the dynamic of the pass rush, as it adds a more compatible piece who can both bull rush and find the edge.
So no matter what Cleveland does schematically on defense, Barnett has the ability to adapt. This is what makes this draft pick a safe one, and thus a very smart one due to the clear need present.
The Browns have whiffed far too many times in the first round on the defensive side of the ball in recent memory. It is about time they come through with a low risk, high reward selection which could immediately change the composure of the defense, making it faster, stronger, and more aggressive-minded.
Barnett isn’t going to make all the difference himself, and in all likelihood will not make the kind of difference J.J. Watt makes, as nice as that would be. But adding the Tennessee native would be a step in the right direction towards changing the culture of the roster, and it would fill a need the team has on defense.