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NFL Mock Draft 2017: Latest mock draft has Colts taking Derek Barnett in first round

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mock draft season is well underway, and the attention on the draft will increase significantly next week with the start of the NFL Scouting Combine.

So far, we’ve seen the majority of mock drafts have the Colts taking an outside linebacker in the first round, and that’s exactly what NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein had them doing in his latest mock draft as well. Zierlein’s pick for the Colts was Tennessee edge rusher Derek Barnett, and here’s what he wrote about it:

“New general manager Chris Ballard says he wants to build the fronts along the offense and defense. Barnett has posted elite production in the SEC as a pass rusher and would add a level of physicality on the edge for the Colts.”

There are so many mock drafts that it can be hard to keep up with all of them, but Zierlein is a guy who I’d pay closer attention to this offseason: in an interview earlier this month on 1070 the Fan, new Colts general manager Chris Ballard mentioned that he listens to Zierlein’s show occasionally and that Zierlein is a “good friend” of his, saying “we’re close” and that “we’ve been close for about 15 years.” Does that mean Zierlein has any special inside information on what the Colts will do? Probably not. But it does mean that Zierlein probably has a better understanding of Chris Ballard’s mindset and approach than most do, so it will be interesting to pay attention to what he says about the Colts in mock drafts.

Anyway, as for Barnett, he’s a well-regarded pass rush prospect who had a very productive career at Tennessee. He played in 39 games and recorded 197 tackles, 52 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, 31 quarterback hits three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and six passes broken up. He had double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons at Tennessee, including 13 in 2016.

The Colts have to be looking for pass rush help in the first round, and Derek Barnett would certainly provide that. There are a number of candidates who would help the Colts at their pick (either 14 or 15), and it will be Ballard’s job to determine who’s the best available fit. Early in the draft process, however, Barnett seems like he’d be a solid one, for sure.

What are your thoughts on the pick, Colts fans?