Well, we’ve officially reached the last installment of the 2014 Rookie Preview Series. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s time to finally discuss the Vikings first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Anthony Barr, LB – UCLA
Taken in 1st Round, 9th overall by Vikings
Age: 22; Height: 6-5; Weight: 255
40 Yard Dash: 4.60; Bench: 15; Vertical Jump: 34 ½; Broad Jump: 9’11”; Short Shuttle: 4.19; 3-Cone Drill: 6.82
*Barr ran a 4.44 40 and had 19 reps on the bench at his Pro Day
2010 Stats (12 games, 4 starts at RB/FB) – 6 carries, 29 yards (4.83 Y/C); 0 touchdowns
2011 Stats (12 games, 7 starts at RB/FB) – 9 carries, 25 yards (2.78 Y/C); 1 touchdown
2012 Stats (14 games, 14 starts at LB) – 83 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
2013 Stats (13 games, 13 starts at LB)– 65 tackles, 20 TFL, 10 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
By now, you’ve probably all heard the story. Barr is a freakishly athletic pass rushing linebacker from UCLA, who converted to defense after his sophomore season when he wasn’t seeing enough playing time.
That makes Barr’s ceiling as a player exciting. It also means his floor could be extremely low.
Right now, as Mike Mayock said during the NFL Draft Broadcast, Barr “has no idea what he’s doing,” when rushing the passer. Barr wins off the edge with sheer athleticism and speed, traits that were good enough to make him a two time All-American in his only years of playing defense.
Barr’s technique is still lacking though, especially when it comes to using his hands while rushing the passer. He needs to develop a counter move when engaging with blockers, as right now his only move seems to be a “dip-and-go,” where he bends at the waist a little and uses his speed to get around the edge.
While Barr’s rawness as a player may be frightening to some, as Andrew Krammer of 1500 ESPN points out it also has certain benefits. Krammer stated on the air that while Barr hasn’t developed a ton of good habits as a defensive player yet, he hasn’t had the time to develop any bad habits yet either.
That makes him an extremely moldable piece of clay for Mike Zimmer and his staff. Zimmer emphasized during his introductory press conference that “teaching” was at the core of his philosophy as a coach, and no top draft pick may need more teaching than Barr.
If Zimmer can put Barr in positions to succeed right away on the field while teaching and developing more skills off the field, then the Vikings potentially invested in a very special player.
NFL Network analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah said Barr is a great blitzer, and that’s likely how he’ll be used in Mike Zimmer’s scheme. While the defensive lineman occupy blockers, Barr will shoot through the gaps in protection to attack the quarterback.
That type of attack would play to Barr’s strengths and limit his weaknesses, as he has the speed to get to the quarterback quickly and doesn’t fight off blocks very well. Barr is at his best when he can get around the edge virtually untouched to the quarterback or chase a play down from behind.
Barr has some coverage ability, but his instincts and awareness are still not fully developed like most of his attributes. He likely won’t be asked to drop back in coverage very often though, which will hide another one of his weaknesses.
For more on Barr’s ability and how he could fit into the Vikings scheme, check out this great piece by Darren Page here.
Spot on the Depth Chart:
While Barr certainly won’t just be handed a starting job out of training camp, it seems fairly certain that he’ll have a role on the Vikings defense right away. In fact, when a reporter commented that he wouldn’t start right away as a rookie at his introductory press conference, Rick Speilman and Mike Zimmer were quick to shoot them down.
Barr will technically man the Sam linebacker spot in Mike Zimmer’s defense, but that terminology likely won’t be adequate in describing Barr’s role. It’s likely that the Vikings will use Barr in a variety of unique roles because of his unique athletic traits, which could mean rushing the passer from a variety of spots.
Don’t be surprised if Barr frequently lines up as an edge rusher near the line of scrimmage on passing downs, to take advantage of his gifts as a blitzer. Since Mike Zimmer’s defensive lineman primarily occupy blockers, Barr will likely be counter on as a “finisher,” shooting the gaps to the quarterback.
Odds of Making Roster: Lock
Rookie Season Predictions:
It’s hard to project how Barr will do as a rookie due to a variety of factors. One is his incredible rawness as a player. The other reason is that as Mike Zimmer himself stated, he’s never had a player like Barr.
That means there’s no good comparison for Barr in Mike Zimmer’s scheme, which should excite Vikings fans but gets to be frustrating when you’re trying to come up with predictions (not like my predictions are going to matter by September anyway).
One of the largest determining factors in how much of an impact Barr will have his rookie season is simply how much he’ll be able to absorb. Zimmer no doubt has thought of multiple different positions and formations to put Barr in, and it will up to Barr to try to learn as many things as possible before taking the field for the first time.
One thing hurting Barr’s learning curve is the fact that he is still not at OTA’s. Class at UCLA is still in session, though linebackers coach Adam Zimmer was going to pay Barr a visit this weekend to catch him up as much as possible.
For an actual prediction, projecting double digit sacks for any rookie is a bit of a stretch, but if Zimmer is able to put Barr in situations to succeed it’s certainly possible. A more attainable goal seems to be around seven or eight sacks for Barr his rookie season, a season that should be focused more on his overall development than his production on the football field.
Mike Mayock said that Barr had the potential to be special on the NFL Network broadcast, and Mike Zimmer and his staff should be able to get the talent out of him. With a player of Barr’s rawness though, it may take more than one year, so this is not a pick that should be judged by the 2015 offseason.