Coming into the 2013 season, it was nearly a unanimous belief that South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney was the best player in college football. He would certainly be the first pass rusher, if not the first player overall selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.
However, with Clowney’s inconsistent performance and perceived lack of effort following a decision to take himself out of the lineup last week, draftniks are beginning to raise the question of who the better pass rusher is between Clowney and UCLA‘s Anthony Barr.
After watching both Clowney and Barr’s film, it doesn’t really seem fair to even compare the two. Clowney is a legitimate power rusher who frequently pushes tackles back and runs over offensive players. Though Barr does play a traditional pass-rushing position as a 3-4 outside linebacker, his game can’t really be summarized simply by limiting him to a rushing role.
Barr is a player who’s capable of making plays all around the field, and unlike most players who play his position, his labeling as a “linebacker” shouldn’t just be written off as creative 3-4 terminology. Barr makes an impact in coverage, frequently being matched up with wide receivers, and he actually benefits the team most as a tackler in open space.
That’s not to say he’s a slouch getting to the quarterback — he was second in the nation with 13.5 sacks — but he’s not a traditional pass rusher. This has been more evident in 2013, as he has eight tackles for loss in his first four games compared to only three sacks.
Barr certainly has the potential to be a major impact player. This is only his second year playing defense after being converted from fullback to outside linebacker by new head coach Jim Mora Jr. in the spring of 2012. It probably would be easiest for him if he was selected by a team that could use him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
However, if he was selected by a team that runs a 4-3, he would probably be most effective if used as a strong-side rush linebacker, similar to players such as Von Miller, Manny Lawson and Rob Ninkovich. There are several reasons that would limit Barr as a 4-3 defensive end: he hasn’t gotten any experience with his hand in the dirt, and he’s rather light for an end at 245 pounds.
But, he’s shown he has all the skills it takes to play linebacker in any defense, so he should be high on draft boards no matter what type of defense the team runs.
- Very quick and athletic
- Has the ability to hold up well in coverage, and is frequently matched up with slot receivers
- Even if he takes a bad angle, he usually recovers well enough to get in on the play
- Does a great job of moving from sideline to sideline
- Good at getting into the backfield and swatting balls down
- Overpursues far too much and gets pushed out of the action
- Doesn’t exert a lot of power and relies more on finesse moves to beat offensive linemen
- Tackling form isn’t fantastic
- His game wouldn’t seem to translate well to a 4-3 due to his more finesse rushing style, unless he’s used as a strongside linebacker
- Could be concerns about his intelligence; he’s been at UCLA for four years and still has yet to declare a major
Through four games, Barr is UCLA’s third-leading tackler with 23 stops, including a team-high eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also has three forced fumbles. As the Bruins open their conference schedule, they’ll be one of the favorites in the Pac-12, and it will be interesting to see if Barr can showcase his game and move ahead of Clowney on draft boards.
2014 Draft Projection: First Round