Derek Barnett, Myles Garrett meet in semi-finals of CFB Player Bracket
After several weeks of outstanding matchups, we’ve reached the semi-finals of our 2016 CFB Player Bracket. It came down to two running backs — Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey advancing over LSU’s Leonard Fournette — and two defensive ends — Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett.
In this matchup, we’ll find out which of the two top pass-rushers in the nation PFF views as the better player heading into 2016:
To see the entire bracket and every matchup breakdown, click here.
The case for Derek Barnett
No edge defender returning to college this year had a higher PFF grade, both overall and as a pass-rusher, than Tennessee’s Derek Barnett. Taking a big leap forward from his freshman season where he had a +12.6 pass-rushing grade, and racked up 11 sacks, nine hits and 27 hurries, he upped his game to +42.7 as a pass-rusher and produced 10 sacks, 10 hits and 42 hurries in 2015. While his sack total dropped by one, his overall productivity increased significantly, adding 15 additional pressures on just 56 additional pass-rushing snaps. That saw his pass-rush productivity rating, which measures pressure on a per-snap basis with weighting towards sacks and hits, increase from 11.5 in 2014 to 13.1 in 2015.
He’s not just a pass-rusher though, with his work as a run defender impressive in his first two seasons in college football. Our run-stop percentage signature stat records on what percentage of a defender’s snaps against the run he records a tackle, resulting in a defensive stop. Barnett wasn’t quite at the top of this category, but with 27 tackles resulting in a defensive stop on 326 snaps in run defense, his run-stop percentage of 8.3 percent was tied for 21st among the 146 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 226 snaps against the run.
The case for Myles Garrett
Garrett graded slightly below Barnett in 2015, losing out +54.0 to +52.8 overall, and +42.7 to +42.4 as a pass-rusher. He did, however, do that on 93 fewer snaps than Barnett, and his pass rushing productivity rating of 12.8 was just behind him, and tied with Missouri’s Charles Harris for the 12th-best mark among 4-3 defensive ends. Barnett also had him in terms of run-stop percentage, too, with Garrett coming in at a respectable 7.2 percent, tied for 35th at the position.
So why does Garrett have a chance in this fight? Well, while Barnett was slightly better in 2015, Garrett was significantly better in 2014. What he did as a freshman was truly incredible to watch, with only former Ohio State superstar Joey Bosa grading higher as a pass-rusher during Garrett’s freshman season. Almost unblockable that year, he racked up 11 sacks, nine hits and 45 hurries, seeing him lead all 4-3 defensive ends with a pass-rush productivity rating of 15.9. The battle between these two comes down to whether or not you want the player who was better over a single season in 2015, or the player who has been dominant as a pass-rusher over two seasons.
The Verdict: Myles Garrett advances
The truth is that these are two incredibly gifted pass-rushers, and neither of their respective defensive coordinators would be likely to swap their player for the other. With that said, Barnett has still to prove that his impressive season wasn’t an outlier, while Garrett backed up an impressive freshman season with another big year last year, improving as a run defender while maintaining a high level of play as a pass-rusher. For that reason he advances to the final to square off against Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey.
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