In the 5th round (170th overall pick) of the 2023 NFL draft, the New York Jets selected Western Michigan Linebacker Zaire Barnes. This article is intended to provide some extra context and information about this Jets’ selection by discussing his analytical profile.
Age: 23 (born September 3, 1999, so he will be 24 by opening day)
Relative Athletic Score: With a score of 9.12, Barnes is a fantastic athlete among linebackers. More specifically, while he measured on the shorter and lighter side among linebackers, his explosiveness, speed, and agility scores were all very strong. Given that Saleh’s system seems to place lesser value on the size of linebackers, this seems like a player that is well suited for the system.
Zaire Barnes is a LB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.12 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 235 out of 2648 LB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/qCe9uMljTW pic.twitter.com/pBiO0d9e78— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 18, 2023
Career stats through 43 games over last 4 seasons per sports-reference.com (2022 stats in parentheses):
An important caveat on Barnes is that he missed the 2020 season with an injury. If we counted this season then he would have played 5 seasons.
- 127 tackles (59)
- 78 assists (34)
- 15 tackles for a loss (4.5)
- 3.5 sacks (1.0)
- 1 interception (1)
- 2 fumbles forced (1)
- 6 fumbles recovered (3)
Overall, Barnes was not particularly effective as it pertained to compiling stats on the stat sheet. This is particularly notable given that he is a bit older than the typical prospect and played a MAC school where an athlete of his caliber would likely have dominated had his talent allowed for it. This lack of statistical output is also present in his 2022 statistical profile, where he averaged about 5 tackles a game with a sack or tackle for a loss occurring every other game on average.
2022 Performance per ProFootballFocus:
- Overall grade: 78.6
- Rush defense grade: 88.9
- Pass rush grade: 65.0
- Coverage grade: 69.7
The PFF grades provide a bit more positive of a picture for Barnes. Specifically, this suggests he excelled in rush defense, which may allow him to carve out an early role as an early down linebacker. However, the data also suggests Barnes will need to improve as a pass rusher and/or in pass coverage for Barnes to become an every down linebacker.
While Barnes is a bit older than the typical prospect, he is also a bit more athletic. He also showed the ability to play run defense at a high level according to PFF even if that performance did not necessarily allow him to accumulate a ton of counting stats such as tackles. Overall, the hope for Barnes is that his prowess in run defense carries over to the next level and that Saleh’s staff can tap into Barnes’ athleticism to improve his play on pass plays.