Expectations are high for Top 10 picks in the NFL draft, and linebacker
1. Pass-Rushing Production
If quarterback is the most important position in football, then it would stand to reason that a player who can neutralize the quarterback is nearly as important. That’s why teams covet pass-rushing production, and that’s the first reason Barr will make an immediate impact for the Vikings. In just two seasons playing linebacker at UCLA, Barr collected 23.5 sacks. His 13.5 sacks in 2012 ranked second in the nation behind only first-round pick Jarvis James. Also, Barr registered 41.5 tackles for loss, telling you he made himself quite comfortable in the offensive backfield over the past two seasons.
Note: Twice during his two years playing linebacker at UCLA, Barr knocked the opposing quarterback out of the game. He did so to USC’s Matt Barkley in 2012 and to New Mexico State’s King Davis in 2013.
2. He Can Cover
As Vikings GM Rick Spielman noted during Thursday’s press conference, you don’t take a linebacker in the Top 10 if you don’t think he can help you on all three downs. Barr’s ability in coverage will allow him to play all three downs for the Vikings.
“When we watched him in coverage and you see him buzz to the flat, there is no question that this guy can flip his hips,” Spielman said. “You have a six-foot-five guy that runs a 4.47 (40-yard dash), we are not going to have any issues, I do not believe, covering down the seams when he has to run vertically. Plus, with that frame and that length, it makes it very difficult for quarterbacks to see down the seams. He has a unique ability to drop his weight, for that height, and change directions.”
Stat: Barr had 5 pass breakups for UCLA in 2012, his first season playing defense.
3. His Intelligence Will Allow Him to Learn the Game Quickly
In listening to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, it sounds like the coaching staff has big plans in terms of the number of ways they may be able to utilize Barr’s skillset.
“I think we can use him in a few different positions,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, he is going to be a linebacker in the base package. We have some plans in our blitz package and how we can use him in the substitution packages.”
It sounds like a lot to learn for a rookie who has played just two years of defense in his football life. But because of Barr’s intelligence, the Vikings don’t seem too concerned about being able to bring him up to speed.
“He is really a first-class kid, very, very intelligent,” Zimmer said. “We met with him, as a matter of fact, Adam (Zimmer), my son, when we talked to him on the phone, he said ‘You remember some of that stuff we said to you on the board?’ and he was repeating it back to him and that was two weeks ago. He remembered that from just a visit here. I’m really, really, really excited about him.”
If the “intelligence” angle doesn’t have you sold, Spielman added that Barr’s instincts are top-notch, too.
“The one thing that I noticed when I watched tape on him is you didn’t see anything (missing) from an instinctual standpoint,” Spielman explained. “This guy has very good football instincts for only playing the position two years.”
Quote: “He's only been a [linebacker] for two years. He needs experience. When you watch the tape, does he look like Jason Taylor or what? There's a lot of upside, and (new head coach) Mike Zimmer and his staff will get it out of him.” -- Mike Mayock