Welcome to Sacksonville
In the 2016 draft, Lance Zierlein was a skeptic when it came to Yannick Ngakoue. The Maryland edge rusher had 13.5 sacks his final season in college, but LZ wasn't convinced that it would translate to the pros, saying that Ngakoue didn't beat pass blocks quickly enough. LZ compared Ngakoue to Jackson Jeffcoat, an UDFA from Texas in 2014. LZ projected Ngakoue to be a backup player in the NFL.
Ngakoue was an early 3rd round pick by the Jaguars. He immediately found success, and had 29.5 sacks in his first 3 NFL seasons, becoming part of the "Sacksonville" defense that led the Jags to the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season. The Jags franchise tagged Ngakoue in 2020, then traded him to the Vikings. In the middle of the 2020 season he was traded to the Ravens. In 2021 he signed a 2 year $26 million contract to join the Raiders and he had 10 sacks last season. Recently, he was traded to the Colts for Rock Ya-Sin.
Could history repeat itself in 2020, with Virginia Tech edge rusher, Amare Barno, playing the part of Ngakoue? Tony Pauline has Barno ranked as a 2nd round prospect. ESPN, plus 3 other major draft boards all have Barno as a 3rd round prospect. Meanwhile, ESPN has Jesse Luketa, an edge player I profiled previously, ranked as a late 6th to 7th round pick. Lance Zierlein has Barno and Luketa essentially flipped compared to ESPN. LZ gave Barno a lower draft grade than he gave to Ngakoue in 2016. LZ did lower Luketa's grade from 6.23 to 6.16 after Lukea only ran 4.89 sec in the 40 at the Combine, but this is still well clear of Barno's 5.87 grade, even though Barno had a record breaking 40 time at the Combine. LZ's pro comp for Barno is a player who was a 6th round pick in 2015, didn't start a single game in a brief NFL career and had a grand total of 2.5 NFL sacks.
Barno burst on the scene at Va.Tech in 2020 and had 16 TFL, which was the 3rd most TFLs in FBS. Why is Barno such a polarizing prospect? Why is LZ so low on him? Will Barno be a 2nd round pick and long gone by the time the Rams are on the clock or could he be a diamond in the rough for the Rams to grab in a later round?
After watching his games, I'm going to side with Lance Zierlein on this one. Amare Barno is not a very good football player. I think Barno's best shot at making it in the NFL is to change positions and try to become a stand up, off the ball LB instead of being an EDGE defender.
Senior Bowl measurements: 6'4 1/4'' tall, 239 pounds, 33 3/4'' arms, 9'' hands, 81 1/8'' wingspan
Combine measurements" 6'4 5/8'' tall, 246 pounds, 34'' arms, 80 5/8'' wingspan
4.36 sec (40 time), 1.54 sec (10 yard split), 37'' vert jump, 10'11'' broad jump, 4.45 sec (shuttle)
Barno had exactly the same 10 yard split time as Brandin Cooks and barely was behind Cooks's 4.33 sec 40 time. It set a Combine record for his position.
23 years old. One of 11 children in his family. Was a safety in high school. Didn't qualify academically and played 2 years as a LB at Butler Community College. Redshirted in 2019. Had strained hip in 2020 and was moved from LB to DE. In 11 games he had 16 TFLs and 6.5 sacks.
In 2021, he started 12 games and had 35 tackles, 5.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. Opted out of bowl game.
ESPN 86th overall, 7th best OLB
PFF 172nd (late 5th round). Barno had the 5th worst PFF grade in 2021 among the edge defenders ranked in the top 250 prospects on PFF's board.
Tony Pauline 57th overall (2nd rd)
Ian Cummings 152nd (5th rd)
Oliver Hodgkinson 120th (4th)
Shane Hallam 84th (3rd)
Brian Bosarge 78th (3rd)
Drafttek 85th (3rd)
Lance Zierlein 5.87 draft grade. Compared to Obum Gwacham (6th round 2015). Prospects with similar grades in 2021 and 2020 were 7th round picks. Compare also to Jachai Polite 5.90 (3rd rd 2019), Porter Gustin 5.90 (UDFA 2019), Maxx Crosby 5.90 (4th rd 2019), Ben Banogu 5.90 (2nd rd 2019) and Justin Hollis 5.80 (5th rd 2019).
LZ says he's a high ceiling and low floor prospect. Passive field demeanor. Had outstanding 2020 season, but showed little growth in 2021. A project player.
Barno was at the Senior Bowl and his performance there was widely panned. Sports Illustrated said he needed to work on timing the snap and add to his pass rush arsenal. They said he had an explosive first 2 steps and complimented him for a practice rep where he converts speed to power and puts Braxton Jones playing RT (a player I wrote about before) on ice skates, driving him backwards.
Tony Pauline said he flashed at times, but his lack of strength was a severely limiting factor. Consistently struggled to disengage from blocks, even by TEs. Lost his balance several times. Underwhelming, not creative, overly reliant on speed. Did little to improve his draft stock. Once OL got their hands on him, it was over.
You could just copy and paste what Pauline said about his Senior Bowl week and use it for my own evaluation, because everything he said was what I saw in Barno's 2021 games. He was such a disappointment to watch that I went back and looked at a couple 2020 games, thinking that maybe he had some type of injury that would explain why he played so poorly, but 2020 was generally just the same.
Very comfortable and athletic in space. Can drop into shallow zone coverage. Sometimes used as a spy behind the LOS to contain mobile QBs. Had some nice plays against Sam Howell. Able to mirror Howell's juke move in space.
Good closing burst of speed to prevent RBs and QBs from getting to the corner and turning upfield.
Plays out of both 2 point and 3 point stances.
Able to beat less talented OT's with spin move, which he can execute in both directions.
Shed a TE and got a TFL on the RB.
Good arm length relative to his size.
Due to elite speed and size, might be candidate to try as a 4-3 scheme WILL linebacker.
So slight of build, almost looks like a WR on the field instead of a defensive player. Bullied by OTs and even some TEs. Chewed up and spit out by double teams. Maybe his jersey is covered in glue, because he's so firmly stuck onto blocks. Got driven off of the LOS by a TE solo block. Manhandled by another TE.
Unable to set a hard edge. Not enough play strength and size.
Elementary approach to pass rushing. Very easy to block by a competent OT. He'll try a basic move and as long as the OT stays patient they just smother it and he gets stuck on the block. Spin move is not effective, easily stopped by better OTs. Got sacks against inexperience and lesser talented OTs, got some cheap sacks when QB runs to him, not by beating the pass block. Not able to convert speed to power. When he tries to run into middle of blocker they anchor and stop him. OTs repeatedly gain control of his inside shoulder and lock him up. Has no countermoves as a pass rusher.
Frequently gets knocked off balance at apex and either stumbles or falls to the ground. Not able to effective bend the edge. Doesn't use hands well to prevent OTs from recovering. Gets pushed past the back of the pocket. Not able to consistently orient his hips towards the QB. Lost balance and faceplants on run play. OT pulls his arms down and throws him to the ground on pass rush.
Motor not hot. Takes plays off. Doesn't pursue hard. Gives poor effort on some runs coming into his area. Passive against pulling blockers, waits for them.
Poor awareness and anticipation on field. Terrible at reading the mesh point. Against tunnel screen on long 3rd down, way overruns the play instead of just waiting at the entrance to the "tunnel", missing the tackle.
Lazy with technique. Doesn't always wrap up on tackles. Not disciplined with details.
Even though his arms look long, his effective length when playing only seems average. His arms measure longer than Dominique Robinson's, but his wingspan is at least 2 inches shorter.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Chris Rumph (4th round 2021 Chargers, Duke), Late round grade.
Rumph was another polarizing prospect. Lance Zierlein really liked him, comparing him to Leonard Floyd and had a high, 6.31, draft grade on him. Other boards were considerably lower on Rumph. I like Rumph better than Barno, but some of their pros and cons are similar.
Amare Barno isn't a very dangerous pass rusher right now. LZ is correct in saying that Barno has a low floor, but I'm not convinced that Barno is even a high ceiling prospect. If Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (5th round 2018) and Barno were in the same draft, with zero hesitation I would select Obo ahead of Barno.
Could Barno become the next Yannick Ngakoue? Maybe, but I think it is more likely that he'll be the next Shaquem Griffin (5th round 2018 Seahawks, UCF) At his Pro Day, Griffin ran the 40 in 4.38 sec with a 1.54 sec split time, virtually identical to Barno's run.
Griffin only had one hand, but as an edge defender had 11.5 sacks his final season in college. We debated on TST whether he was going to be a good NFL player. I thought he was a ST and backup player, but he played with a better level of effort and competitiveness compared to Barno. If Griffin and Barno were in the same draft, which one would you pick? In my opinion, Amare Barno is a Day 3 prospect, not a 2nd or 3rd round player.