UCLA senior Anthony Barr may have only spent two seasons as defensive player, but it's been enough to become a top ten prospect in this year's NFL Draft. Barr has shown tremendous talent as a pass-rusher with 146 tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, and 9 forced fumbles in his short career.
Prior to 2012, Barr lined up in variety of spots for the Bruins offense, from running back to fullback to tight end, before making the transition to defense. With just two seasons at outside linebacker, Barr's draft stock is rising due to his talent and untapped potential.
"He does a little bit of everything in their system and really drew a lot of attention from opposing offenses, freeing up other linebackers to make plays when he was double-teamed," FWAA writer Bryan Fischer said in an interview with Texans Radio. "He's a very good pass rusher off the edge but also is solid enough to set the edge in the run game -- he excels at shedding blocks. With his speed and length, he can also cover tight ends or wide receivers as well. People will watch him and love everything that he can do because he's so flexible. "
Barr struggled in his first two seasons on offense but showed a natural instinct for playing outside linebacker. Colleges saw it too. While many tried to recruit Barr as a defensive player, he chose to go to UCLA where he could continue playing on offense. After two mediocre seasons, Barr made the swtich and finished his UCLA career on the opposite side of the ball. Recruited by then-head coach Rick Neuheisel, Barr played linebacker under defensive-minded head coach Jim Mora, who took over in 2012. Barr's natural capabilities and work ethic drew rave reviews from the former NFL head coach of the Falcons and Seahawks.
"In my opinion, and I haven't seen everyone in the country, but there is nobody I'd take over Anthony Barr," Mora said via nfl.com. "I spent 28 years in the NFL and I have a real clear understanding what they're looking for from football character to personal character. He's an A-plus in everything."
Barr's quickness, long arms, and sheer size make him an intriguing prospect with tremendous upside. While he may be best suited as a pass rusher in 3-4 defense, he has demonstrated the ability to adapt and play linebacker in any system, on any down. With all of his time devoted to studying film and learning, Barr is projected to flourish once he reaches the NFL.
"I think the best comparison a lot of people are going to make is Clay Matthews," Fischer said. "Physically, the two are very similar. Barr probably has a little more growing to do and he can certainly add a few pounds here or there. You can't teach the 6'4" 250 pounds and he brings that to the table.
"I think he's perfect especially with the way offenses are trending, not only in college but the NFL, where you've got to be a 3-down player because these teams are not substituting. They are going no-huddle and are up-tempo and he's got to stay on the field. Because he can play the run and the pass equally well, that's why he's going to be a high draft pick and why NFL GMs are excited about the prospect of picking up Anthony Barr."