CFB Player Bracket: Derek Barnett vs Jourdan Lewis
After defeating two fellow SEC pass-rushers in the first two rounds, Tennessee DE Derek Barnett faces Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis –the best CB in the country — in the quarterfinals. With both players at the very top of the country in terms of production at their respective positions, this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the third round.
Who will advance to the coveted semi-finals?
To see the entire bracket and every matchup breakdown, click here.
The Case for Derek Barnett
Barnett doesn’t have the elite explosion of either linemen he defeated in the first two rounds, but his otherwise complete package has him in the elite eight. His ability to win the edge consistently despite not having a top-end first step is impressive, and indicative of the type of fluid athlete he is. What makes him an elite player is his ability to translate his quickness and change of direction into a wide variety of moves, set up by heavy hands at the point of attack.
Much has been made of his pass rushing acumen, and rightfully so; but his play against the run last year was also outstanding. Among returning 4-3 defensive ends in FBS, he posted the fifth-highest run defense grade last year, as well as a top-15 grade in run-stop percentage. Also, despite tying for the third-most solo tackles among returnees, he only missed six tackles last season.
Tennessee has high hopes for the 2016 season, as they have a roster capable of competing for a SEC title and playoff berth. Barnett is the best player on the team, and even if he only duplicates his production from last year he is likely to be one of the country’s very best players regardless of position.
The Case for Jourdan Lewis
Similar to Barnett, Jourdan Lewis won his first two matchups against players of the same position, CBs Marlon Humphrey of Alabama and Desmond King of Iowa. While Humphrey and King are clearly outstanding CBs themselves, Lewis was our highest-graded CB last year and opposing QBs had an NFL rating of just 46.3 when targeting him.
Among the many parts to his game that have allowed him to advance this far is his ridiculous 36.7 percent completion percentage against when targeted. How ridiculous is it? Consider this: No FBS CB targeted at least 60 times in 2014 or 2015 (Lewis was thrown at 90 times last year) has a posted a lower number. At the NFL level, Darrelle Revis is the only CB since 2007 (PFF’s first season of grading) to have a season of at least 60 targets and a completion percentage against of less than 40 percent (in 2009 he yielded 41 catches on 111 targets; 36.9 percent).
The verdict: Barnett advances
Ultimately, Barnett’s production last year was better over the course of the entire season. While giving up just 15 catches on 40 targets over the last six games of 2015 was impressive for Lewis, he had no interceptions and just three passes defended in that span, and did not have an overall game grade above average during the final three games.
Barnett, on the other hand, had only one game the entire season with an “average” overall grade (excluding Tennessee’s Week 3 game against Western Carolina, in which Barnett played just nine snaps). Over the final six games of his season he was at his very best, posting six sacks, five hits and 20 hurries to go with 23 total defensive stops.
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