Draft Daily: What If Anthony Barr Slips?

Anthony Barr began his college career at UCLA on the offensive side of the ball.

In high school, he averaged 171 rushing yards per game, but suffered a broken ankle as a senior and struggled to get healthy as a college freshman. During his sophomore year, Barr got limited touches, and when Jim Mora took over, it was decided that Barr would be best served moving to the defensive side of the ball.

Two years later, the 6-5, 255-pound outside linebacker is in position to be a first-round pick in May’s draft.

In addition to the height, Barr has 33 1/2-inch arms and outstanding athleticism:

The son of Tony Brooks (a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in 1992), Barr had 10 sacks last season and 13 in 2012. He had 20 tackles for loss as a senior (eighth) and 21 as a junior (tied for seventh).

For the Eagles, a team looking to add depth at outside linebacker and find an eventual replacement for Trent Cole, Barr makes a lot of sense. But there is a rawness to his game, which is understandable, considering he’s only played the position for two seasons.

Chip Kelly has stated in specific terms what he wants out of his outside linebackers: guys who can set the edge/play the run, get after the quarterback and drop in coverage. From what I saw out of Barr, he needs some work to be a complete player in those three areas.

Let’s start with the run game. This is a weakness for Barr. In the games I watched, he was often controlled by offensive tackles and even tight ends. Last year, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole consistently manhandled tight ends who tried to block them one-on-one in the run game.

Take a look at this play against USC:

Barr sets up at right outside linebacker (as he did on most of the snaps I watched). The tight end comes in motion and blocks him upfield, opening up a hole for the running back. Defending the run is something Barr will absolutely have to work on this spring and summer.

Without the benefit of the All-22, it’s tough to properly evaluate Barr in coverage. His athleticism suggests he’d be fine there in the Eagles’ scheme, especially when you consider how Cole performed in the new role last season.

But I didn’t see anything particularly special from Barr in coverage. It’s not like Dion Jordan last year, who lined up all over the place for Oregon and ran with tight ends and receivers 10 yards downfield. I’m not saying Barr can’t be that kind of asset in coverage. I just didn’t see it in the games I watched. And while he was moved around a little, it would take a significant projection to see him in Barwin’s “jack” role.

Of course, the key to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 is the pass-rush. And that’s where Barr had success in college. Here’s an example against USC:

Barr beats the tight end around the edge and uses his length to strip the football.

Here’s a similar play against Oregon:

This time, Barr beats the left tackle, flies off the edge and strips Marcus Mariota.

Because his biggest threat will be his outside rush, Barr can set up tackles who guard against that and get pressure with an inside move. Here’s a spin against USC:

There’s plenty to like about Barr – specifically the length and athleticism. But this is a player who will need to be coached up at the NFL level. If the Eagles were to draft him, I’m not sure he’d beat Cole out for the starting job by the time Week 1 rolled around.

Opinions seem to vary greatly on where Barr might get selected. Gil Brandt of NFL.com said recently that Barr is becoming the wild card of the first round – a player who could go as high as No. 6 to the Falcons or as low as No. 16 to the Cowboys. It seems unlikely, although not impossible, that Barr would drop all the way down to the Eagles at No. 22.

There has been some discussion recently about the Birds potentially moving up to snatch Barr if he starts to slip. That would be a risky move in my opinion. As we’ve mentioned before, this is a loaded draft and the Eagles only have six picks. Giving up additional ammo for a player who is not considered polished makes little sense to me.

If Barr falls to No. 22 though, the Eagles would likely give him serious consideration.