I can already hear your reaction. "There's no way Anthony Barr falls to the 25th pick." Just like last year when Shariff Floyd was guaranteed to go top 5, and Star Louteleilei was going to be the #1 overall pick. It's the NFL draft. You never know. The Chargers 1st 3 picks and how they acquired them in the 2013 draft was the most unlikely outcome possible.
Because he didn't take the next step in his development, many of soured on Barr, and that's why he's taken this recent tumble. I may be in the minority, but I have not. I think he improved his game as a senior and became a more complete player.
Not many prospects have the "wow factor." Barr does. Barr's explosive 1st step, ability to bend/dip under offensive lineman, and show a closing burst to get home are all special traits. The fact that he's played the position only 2 years, and has been as productive as he is, is incredible to me.
When Barr is the aggressor, he's able to keep himself clean, slap the offensive lineman's hands away, and be very disruptive. This example he's not able to get home, but he's able to move the quarterback off his spot and force a non throw.
Barr is a ridiculous athlete. He wins with speed, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you can beat the lineman to a spot, you can win. That's what Barr brings to the table.
The difference between the special pass rushers and the normal pass rushers is that when they get there, they're looking for the strip sack, the turnover, the big play. This is what I like most about Barr, who had 6 forced fumbles in 2013. You also really see get the chance to see Barr's ability to close.
Barr certainly fits the high energy type of player that Tom Telesco looks for. When he has the quarterback in his sights, he sells out to finish the play.
Another thing that I like about Barr is that his production primarily came by way of him beating his man. No freebies.
Lack Of Creativity
However, Barr isn't a very creative pass rusher. Greg Peshek does very in-depth work, and he noted of the 275 times Barr rushed the passer in '13, 50% of the time he would take an outside rush, basically trying to win with speed. Barr will need to develop an arsenal of pass rush moves if he wants to take the next step in his development. When his initial momentum is stopped, Barr doesn't offer much else. For an athlete his size, you would expect Barr to convert speed to power much better than he does.
While Barr's explosive first step makes you rewind the play, you can't win with speed every time. The few times he's tried to counter, whether with a hard inside step, or another counter move, it's beautiful. Problem is, I can count on one hand the amount of times he's tried to do that. His lack of counter moves really hurts him.
If you take an edge rusher in the 1st, it damn sure isn't to stop the run. At the same time, you don't want them to be a liability against the run, or in coverage, however it is you plan on using the player. Barr certainly showed he was comfortable in space, and shows his athleticism changing directions in underneath zone coverage.
I think Barr's ability to understand & execute his responsibilities in the run game are really underrated. As a strong side linebacker, he can lock out, and set a strong edge, not allowing defenders to get outside of him.
Barr is also good at maintaining his gap responsibility, and taking on blockers with the correct shoulder. Match that with the motor he plays with, and it's easy to see him develop into a very good run defender.
A lot of Barr's weaknesses are displayed all in one play. Barr will come off the snap high, the tackle will get his hands on Barr, Barr won't use his length to his advantage by disengaging, and will refuse to counter. On run plays, Barr will have a chance to make a play and will either over run the play, or have a chance to break down in space and make the tackle, and he'll look silly because he isn't playing under control.
The pro style, run first teams really exposed Barr as far as his ability to shed blocks consistently. Barr is actually quite strong with his initial punch, and that's usually where he wins.
The first play of the game shows that.
The first play of the game above shows that, but tackles lock on to him and completely neutralize him if he doesn't win initially.
Like most players, the difference between Barr when he plays with good leverage, and when he doesn't, is extraordinary. If Barr fires off low, his athleticism takes over, and he's able to get under the tackle, and get to the quarterback or blow up the run in the backfield. That doesn't happen enough. Too often he gets himself in trouble by firing off the ball high, and that's when the downward spiral starts.
There are times, stretches during the game, where it seems like Barr has no clue how much length he has. He just needs to figure out how to use it. It seems like he's still playing running back, and pass protecting at times. Once he corrects this, and improves his hand usage, you're looking at a special player on our hands.
Do I think Barr is a top 10 talent? No, I wouldn't. There are issues, and the criticism Barr is warranted(for the most part.) Do I think Barr is a top 10 player in this draft? Yes, I think he's the 7th best player in the draft. There's a difference. I'm banking on Barr to continue to improve and become a complete, well rounded football player, with the ceiling of a top 5 pass rusher in the NFL.
How He Fits as a Charger
No brainer. Barr gives you a pass rush opposite Freeney that the Chargers don't have. He doesn't have to play 100% of the snaps early on, but that doesn't take away from his value, which is getting after the quarterback. So you feature him as a pass rusher as he continues to develop into a complete football player. Come this time next year, or the year after, when Jarret Johnson & Dwight Freeney are no longer on the roster, he has the ability to play either on the strong side or weak side of the formation.
San Diego has to be prepared for anything to happen on draft day, & if Barr is to fall, without question he should be the pick.