UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
With less than a week to go before the Detroit Lions are on the clock in the first round of the NFL draft, we need to look at all of the potential first round picks if they stay at number ten. There is a possibility that they could trade up or trade down in the draft to get a different slotting and add more picks. It is also possible that they may move up to get Sammy Watkins, Jadeveon Clowney, or Khalil Mack. For now though, I will be exploring who they could take at the ten spot.
Former UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr is a difficult prospect for a team like the Detroit Lions. He is considered very raw. He moved from running back to outside linebacker while at UCLA and is still learning the position. He played very well at UCLA but concerns arise when it comes to how he translates to the NFL. The Detroit Lions are no stranger to talented raw players with very little positional experience. Last year they took Ziggy Ansah at the number five slot in the draft. Common thought is that Detroit coveted one of the top three offensive linemen but all were off the board when they picked at five. Ansah, though, has proven to be a quality player and still has room to grow.
Barr showed signs of being a natural for the position in his two seasons at UCLA. In his first season at outside linebacker, he posted 83 tackles and 13 1/2 sacks with 4 forced fumbles a blocked kick, and a safety. Those were fantastic numbers for a first year outside linebacker. Last season, he posted 65 tackles, 10 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. While not great numbers, they are still pretty respectable given his lack of experience at the position.
One concern about Anthony Barr, especially this high is his injury history. Barr suffered through hip and ankle injuries throughout high school and in college dealt with knee, finger, and head injuries. The head injuries are perhaps the most concerning given the issues with concussions in the NFL and the Detroit Lions issues with Jahvid Best and his concussions. Barr suffered head injuries prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons but was able to play both seasons.
Outside of his injury concerns, Anthony Barr has several good and concerning qualities. For starters, he is quick He is an explosive tackler who made a name for himself by taking quarterbacks out of games with his hits. He generates turnovers regularly with 9 forced fumbles in two seasons. He is not a player that would be expected to make plays in coverage although he did an average job of knocking down passes. He is still developing his instincts which means he is not as NFL ready as most at his position. He is easily fooled by play action and does not always get off of blocks. He has poor strength and lacks pass rush moves relying more on his speed than anything else.
Overall, Barr is a scary prospect. There are a lot of reasons to believe he will not translate to the NFL and will bust out of the league quickly. He is very raw, but with excellent coaches and a willingness to learn, he could develop into a great player. I think he is more suited to play in a 3-4 than in a 4-3 and I think the Detroit Lions would be wise to pass on him.