Colorado State has really gotten itself back on the map this year when it comes to the NFL Draft with a number of players that could end up either selected or picked up as priority free agents. One of these players is their outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Barrett has really had a breakout year with some huge games against big opponents including Alabama. He looks rather ordinary physically, but he simply shines when the pads start popping. Not only does he have plays where he jumps off of the tape with what he can do, but he also shows the ability to create for his teammates.
Barrett has a lot of abilities that will make him attractive to teams in the NFL Draft including what he brings against the run, his ability to set up and beat blocks, and getting after the quarterback. He looks strong and is, but his athleticism is far better than one might think just looking at him and he demonstrates effective quickness, body control and speed with a great motor. Barrett looks like he will be third day pick, but it would not be a surprise if he ends up going higher when he ends up with more of a spotlight in the All-Star circuit or if he ends up dramatically outperforming his draft slotting.
Vitals & Build
Barrett is listed at 6’2” 250lbs is an ordinary looking athlete. His body is blocky and he looks slow and awkward. It does not take long seeing him on tape to see he may look awkward manages to cover a lot of ground, he is deceptively quick, has some pretty good long speed and has impressive functional strength and power with long arms. Barrett also is a pretty fluid athlete and is able to change directions quickly and displays an impressive motor. He may not look great, but the results end up impressive and the question with Barrett is how much better he could look and how much of an impact those results would make.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Barrett has experience as both a standup rusher and from a three point stance. His snap anticipation is pretty good. Barrett reacts quickly and is on the snap with consistency and reacts accordingly.
His first step can be a little clunky when he comes out of a two point stance and he tends to be too high as a pass rusher. Barrett has a short step in part because he is so high. He is unable to push and get much distance on his move and is more reliant on the subsequent steps to gain speed and momentum.
When it comes to plays where he is expecting run, Barrett really does not have a first step. Rather, Barrett just sort of leans and then goes wherever he is going to go. As a result, he tends to come off of the line rather slowly. He covers a decent amount of ground, but it just does seem to be terribly efficient with some wasted motion, particularly in his upper body and could be cleaned up and improved.
On the other hand, he has a nice first step coming out as a down lineman when he is anticipating pass and has his ears pinned back. He has one leg under him with one back similar to a track stance and gets a great push from his back leg to propel him forward with good pad level that covers a lot of ground that allows him to gain speed and momentum but doing it with great leverage. He will occasionally stand up too much out of it, but he has demonstrated the ability to come out with good leverage and if he can do that consistently, he could really be effective coming from a defensive end position as a pass rusher.
The times he is down and in a position on run downs, Barrett seems to have a more squared stance and is looking to read and react more than attack. As a result, he is not quite as aggressive with his stance, but he needs to work on doing this with his butt down more so he does not pop up with potentially bad pad level. He might be better off going with a compromise of the two styles and having his outside leg back but not as far. It would allow him to get more drive but without selling out to rush the passer.
Whatever approach Barrett ultimately decides to go with, he needs to make sure he avoids standing up and giving up his leverage. And when he is reading run, he needs to be able to work to attack the offense while reading the play rather than having to wait, diagnose and then be aggressive.
Barrett does a good job when it comes to negotiating blocks and much of it is impressive purely because of how simply he can operate. He demonstrates quick and heavy hands and a good reach that allow him to create separation for himself and free him up to make plays.
Barrett also appears to be smart in knowing angles and having a sense of being able to set up opponents. There are times when he seems to work an opponent a certain direction and taking them out of the play, while giving himself the space to make a play.
One of ways Barrett is effective at taking on blocks is he is good at keeping opponents guessing and uses a number of techniques to maximize his effectiveness. Barrett can and will use a solid bull rush, but when he is not looking to get under the opponent’s pads, he is making it so he is only playing half the man. Through use of his hands, but more so with subtle quickness and instincts, Barrett demonstrates the ability to make a quick step before he engages with the opponent, whether inside or outside, which makes it difficult for them to get a good grip and use their power. As a result, Barrett can power his way into the pocket or end up sliding off of the block and getting inside to make a play.
One of the areas that makes Barrett intriguing is just how effective he is against the run. The fact that he ends up playing hybrid pass rusher makes it easy for him to want to go up field and try to use speed to get outside and work his way around the play. When it comes to the running game, Barrett does a great job of working his way inside and collapsing in on the play.
He has shown the ability to use his hands and start working outside and use some combination of hands and a quick shift to find his way inside and crash the play. There are also times when opposing tight ends try to block him on their own and he simply overpowers them to get inside. As a result, Barrett has been able to make numerous plays in the C gap as well as crashing down and chasing plays from behind or catching it trying to go to the B gap.
Barrett’s range is another area that could end up underrated because of how he looks when he moves. He is deceptive and does not look quick or fast, but ends up covering ground and ends up being involved in plays down the line or being able to get back and take effective angles to help stop opposing running plays that are going away from him.
The biggest issue Barrett needs to clean up is just how he is able to read the run. Too often, he tends to read and diagnose the play with little or no movement. As a result, opponents can get into him or get in position to potentially push him out of the play. If he can attack his opponent while reading the opponent and then take the appropriate action, he would be more effective.
Barrett seems to take a great deal of pride in his ability to impact the running game, not only for plays he can make himself but also in his ability to clog up blockers that allow his teammates to come in and make plays. He is not afraid to set the edge and has shown to be really effective in that role at times. Barrett also seems to play with a lot of energy and works to the whistle when it comes to being a run stopper.
Especially in obvious passing situations, the combination of a strong first step when coming from a three point stance followed by impressive quickness and speed that catches some by surprise, Barrett is able to get opponents at a disadvantage early in the play. Good use hand and an array of pass rush moves that make it difficult for opponents to predict what he is doing to do really make it so he can make impact plays.
Barrett is so comfortable in how he rushes the passer that he is just a natural pass rusher. When he is rushing the passer, he has such an array of moves that opponents are not sure what to expect. Barrett is happy to attack up field at the tackle and either go into his body with a bull rush or use one of a couple moves with quickness.
He tends to be able to isolate half the man, so when he is able to do that while rushing up the field, Barrett will use his quickness to cut across the opponent and get to the other half of their body, plant his foot in the ground and extend even further out and force the opponent to try to reach for him or Barrett will dip underneath the block and try to get under and flatten out to the quarterback.
In addition to a dip move and bull rush, Barrett will demonstrate a solid push pull move and can rip effectively. He seems to have strong hands and upper body in general which enables these moves to be effective.
Barrett has shown to make the most of his opportunities when he gets into the backfield and is not someone who is going to fail to break down and make a tackle. He has a low center of gravity, so when he is playing low, he can adjust and secure the sack, often able to hit with a good amount of power and looks to try to knock the ball out to cause a fumble. Barrett also accelerates quickly and has some surprising closing speed, so while he is not someone who is going to run down a quarterback working away from him terribly often, he will close in on them in the pocket in a hurry.
The issues that hurt Barrett as a pass rusher start with pad level. When he plays too high, it is easier for opponents to neutralize him. Barrett also seems to function when he is able to generate momentum and has far more difficulty when an opponent can stop him. He has trouble getting started again and often times will stop and look to try to knock the ball down, which is good, but stops working to try to continue getting after the quarterback and making a second or third attempt to make the play.
Barrett has shown the ability to use a counter move and change up his approach during the play if he does not feel it is effective, but he can work to get cleaner in this respect. Because of the fact that he does tend to be controlled when he does not succeed on the initial rush, he needs to figure out ways to be more effective at slipping out of blocks and not getting stalled. He is more effective in this respect when in the running game in how he maneuvers to get around blocks and get in position to make a tackle. Barrett just needs to get better when this happens as a pass rusher to continue taking his game to the next level.
Barrett does have experience in coverage but he is extremely raw and mostly working on instinct and athletic ability. He is a natural looking player in space with the quickness, hips and raw speed to do the job, but just needs to get more comfortable. Barrett has shown the ability to cover a solid amount of ground and the ability to drop quickly.
He is far more comfortable when his responsibility is in front of him. For example, he can read and do a nice job covering a running back out in the flat. Meanwhile, he is far less comfortable and can look like a fish out of water when he is in space and he cannot see receivers in front of him. Barrett tends to try to read the quarterback’s eyes and slide, but he ends up being too slow and out of position and would be better off keeping his head on a swivel and working to take away a receiving threat more actively.
Barrett’s ability to play the run makes him interesting because his experience might suggest he is best suited to play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or perhaps a leo backer, there are some 4-3 teams that might like him as a defensive end because of how well he fires off of the ball and how stout he can be. In a 4-3 scheme, he might project as more of a rotational option early but because he is able to hold up and will play the run, it would not be a surprise if he was able to get in more often including on run downs.
There are teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who have an affinity for outside linebackers with the type of ability that Barrett possesses but can do it while being short and make the most of his leverage in stretches. For Barrett, he needs to make sure he does it with more consistency, but his power and quickness along with his ability to get underneath the blocks of opposing tackles make him an intriguing fit there.
The fact that he can play the run well from the 3-4 outside linebacker spot as a leo backer makes him intriguing in that respect as well as well as his potential in coverage. Barrett needs to improve his stance from a standup position and get more explosion going forward, but there is a lot to like for development in the NFL.
Barrett’s game could end up looking like Shea McClellin of the Chicago Bears. McClellin had a surprising late push up draft boards and ended up going in the first round coming out of Boise State. He is similarly built as Barrett and has many of the same type of ability. While Barrett is unlikely to go as high as McClellin, his game is one that could see a pretty good climb during the draft process for many of the same reasons.
The light really came on for Shaquil Barrett this season and he went from a solid player to being a big time player and breakout star. The question is if he will be able to continue from here and just get better and better from here or if he will have a similar path when he gets to the NFL. Barrett has a lot of ability, some impressive technique and has shown he will get involved when it comes to stopping the run and enough athleticism to make it work in the NFL and those qualities could make an extremely attractive prospect.
Barrett seems like a player who could float under the radar during the season by virtue of playing football in the Mountain West and without a ton of national attention. The game against Alabama certainly helped get his name out there, but he may end up as a guy who makes a lot of noise when it comes to the postseason process and in the All-Star games. Nevertheless, Barrett is an intriguing prospect with all he can do and while he looks like a day three prospect, he could be a player that could end up outplaying his draft slotting significantly.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com