When it comes to the 2014 NFL Draft, most of the hype has surrounded the quarterbacks, whether it be Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Derrick Carr. Nonetheless, there are plenty of great defenders to lookout for in this year’s draft as well, but most of the hype surrounds South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
While I feel Clowney is an amazing player, I’m here to remind you all that there is one particular defender right now who could be drafted before Clowney in the 2014 NFL Draft. That player being linebacker Anthony Barr of UCLA.
When you talk about Barr, you’re talking about fierce versatile defender. He can fit and succeed in both the 4-3 and the 3-4 defense. When it comes to the pass rush he is extremely relentless, he has the ability to get around the edge quickly and get to the quarterback. He also has good balance and flexibility to change directions and avoid defenders but he also has quick feet to chase down mobile quarterbacks.
While most fans and analysts know him as a pass rusher, I must say there is more to him than that. When it comes Barr, he also does great job containing the run game. Mainly because he does a great job of reading and reacting quickly which is mostly due to his high football IQ. He’s also an explosive hitter, he has been known to force fumbles during his career but what I like most about him is his tackling technique. Unlike so many, he actually knows how to wrap up and tackle. Now don’t misunderstand me, Barr is more than capable of laying a punishing blow to an opponent but he also has the skill and technique to wrap up and finish a tackle.
Probably the most underrated aspect of Barr’s game is his pass coverage. When it comes to the NFL, it pays to be an asset in pass coverage as a linebacker and that’s what Barr is. As I said earlier, Barr has light and quick feet which helps him to be consistent in coverage. He also has the ability to stay with receivers in coverage but good athleticism to make plays in the air whether it be making an interception or simply knocking down a pass.
Now obviously, he isn’t perfect. Like so many young players, he tends to rely a little too much on his athleticism and speed. At this point, I would love to see him improve more on his technique. Don’t get me wrong, his athleticism and speed are great but when going to the next level, you have to remember that the offensive lineman know how to contain speed and athleticism with technique. Which leads me back to my point that Barr will have to improve his technique specifically with his hands. When dealing with veteran offensive lineman, it’s best to have good and quick hand techniques to get pass lineman and get to the ball carrier.
Overall, Barr is great defender with a bright future. As I mentioned earlier, he still has some areas to improve on but besides that, there is not much holding him back from being the first defender taken off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft. He is a dynamic athlete who can exploit various offenses at the next level. Obviously its still early in the 2014 NFL Draft process but that doesn’t change the fact that as of right now Anthony Barr could very well be the first defender taken off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com