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The 2017 NFL Draft Outlook: Dante Barnett

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Longtime safety ready for the next level.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Dante Barnett has been at K-State a long time. He was in the same class out of high school, high school teammates and best friends no less, as Tyler Lockett. But the Tulsa native and standout safety has taken a far different path to a potential NFL Draft pick than his friend and teammate.

Barnett was an over-looked 2-star prospect out of Booker T. Washington HS in Tulsa, OK way back in 2011. He redshirtted 2011, but rumors out of practice boasted of his speed and skill. In 2012 he saw spot action in every game, before being thrust into the starting role late in the season against Baylor, thanks to an injured Ty Zimmerman, in the midst of the Wildcats run towards a Big 12 title and possible national championship game appearance. And things didn’t work out so well for Barnett or the Wildcats in that game. Luckily, both he and the Cats turned it around for the next game and defeated Texas for the Big 12 title.

Barnett became the full-time starter at free safety for the 2013 season, and led the team with four interceptions and finished third with 75 tackles. But the real explosion came against Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where Barnett earned defensive MVP honors for his eight tackle, one interception (returned for 51 yards to set up K-State’s final touchdown) effort against the Wolverines.

If 2013 was a breakout season, then 2014 was just setting Barnett up for more glory. Now a junior, Barnett again started all 13 games for the Wildcats as they marched to a 9-4 final record with a big win over Oklahoma in Norman, and a near loss to defending FBS national runner-up Auburn in Manhattan. Barnett moved up to second on the season in tackles with 77, but only finished second in interceptions with three on the season. For his efforts, Barnett was named Second Team All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches and was named an All-Big 12 performer by ESPN.com and Phil Steele.

At the end of the 2014 season, there was some speculation that Barnett might have done enough to earn himself an NFL draft pick in the 2015 draft, but there seemed to be consensus that he needed one more year to fully prove himself to NFL scouts.

Enter 2015. It’s a season many Wildcat fans would like to forget. 2015 stripped many talented players from their spots thanks to season-ending injuries, and Barnett was one of the very early casualties. Going for a tackle late in the first half, what would be his fifth of the game, he suffered an injury to his shoulder/collarbone that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Barnett had been selected for his second season as a Team Captain, had been named to the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, Wuerffel Trophy, Jim Thorpe Award, and Walter Camp Award watch lists, and was likely looking to earn a top-half round draft selection with a strong senior season. But, alas, it was just not meant to be.

But the NCAA granted his medical hardship waiver, earning him a sixth season of eligibility and one more chance. He made the best of it, helping the Wildcats back to a 9-win season, this time capped with an impressive Texas Bowl victory over Texas A&M. For the third time in his career Barnett was named Team Captain and started all 13 games. He also finished fourth in tackles on the season with 67, including 3.5 for loss and his first career sack, as well as an interception during a season-turning game against Baylor in Waco. For the 2016 season, Barnett earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors for the coaches and Third Team All-Big 12 honors from Phil Steele, and appeared on Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, Lott IMPACT Trophy and Wuerffel Trophy watch lists. He was also a First Team Academic All-Big 12 honoree and a AFCA Good Works Team Nominee.

Overall for his career at Kansas State Barnett finished seventh in school history in career unassisted tackles (182) and ninth in career interception-return yards (160). He also helped the Wildcats post a 43-22 record during his five playing years and was a member of five bowl teams – including two victories – and the 2012 Big 12 Championship. Barnett was selected by his teammates three times as a team captain, one of six three-time team captains in school history. He won academic awards, community awards, and athletic awards.

Dante should get drafted, he’s got the measurables and skills for the NFL. And he’s a good person, a smart person, and those things combined should have NFL teams gushing over him. He’s got the talent for a 3rd round selection, but if he goes this weekend it will likely be in the 5th-7th round range thanks to missing the 2015 season. If he’s not drafted, expected Barnett to have some suitors for an UDFA deal.