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NFL Miami Dolphins

2014 NFL Draft: Don’t Rule Out Anthony Barr As Possibility For Miami Dolphins’ First-Round Pick

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There is certainly quite a bit of mystery surrounding what the Miami Dolphins will do with their first-round pick. Despite the unknown, however, favorites have emerged.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin has been the most frequently mocked prospect to the Dolphins, followed by a distant second, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Meanwhile, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, Virginia tackle Morgan Moses and UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo have all been tabbed as possibilities.

There hasn’t been much mention of UCLA’s versatile linebacker Anthony Barr. It’s time to stop overlooking that potential outcome.

Barr hasn’t been grouped in the same category as some of the aforementioned prospects primarily because a) most draft analysts project he’ll be swooped up long before the Dolphins are on the clock and b) he doesn’t appear to be what Kevin Coyle‘s 4-3 defense is missing after a surface-level evaluation of the roster.

In reality, Barr is no longer unanimously perceived as a top 15 pick and would actually fill a need in Miami if nabbed with the No. 19 overall selection.

There are plenty of pundits who love Barr’s game, but he’s certainly a polarizing prospect. One prominent draft evaluator who has been critical of Barr is ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has said he would “have a hard time” using a top 25-pick on the UCLA standout.

“(Barr) is a speed-rusher who stalls out when attempting to convert speed to power, and there is too much finesse to his game for me to pay a top-15 price for him,” McShay wrote back in February.

McShay’s negative assessment of Barr is surprising for a reason. There are plenty of draft gurus who are enamored with Barr’s tape, including NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger.

“For playing OLB for two years, when I watch him I am blown away by just how fluid he moves and how smooth he is,” Baldinger recently said of Barr.

Still, mixed feelings seem to suggest Barr is no lock to be off the board when the Dolphins select if those contrasting evaluations are being mirrored inside NFL front offices. But if Barr remains attainable, would the Dolphins make him the pick with pressing needs elsewhere?

Some peg Barr an edge rusher, and the Dolphins have plenty of those. Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan comprise a potentially elite pass rushing trio with good health and continued development.

While Barr made his mark rushing the quarterback at UCLA, his ideal position in a 4-3 scheme is outside linebacker, according to many scouts. The Dolphins pursued D’Qwell Jackson to play middle linebacker and have reportedly been tossing around the idea of moving Koa Misi inside, but make no mistake, outside linebacker is just as crucial of a need.

After Philip Wheeler was a severe disappointment in his first year with the club — most notably ranking as Pro Football Focus’ lowest graded 4-3 outside linebacker — the Dolphins would like to move Dannell Ellerbe to weakside linebacker where he would be less of a liability against the run and a significant upgrade over Wheeler.

Doing so would create a void inside, however, which could be filled in the draft or by Misi finally making the switch that has been rumored for years. The latter would then leave a void at the “Sam” spot. While some 4-3 teams believe he can play defensive end, Barr is believed to have the blend of athleticism, pursuit prowess and physicality to hold down strong side outside linebacker duties in a 4-3 alignment.

A starting linebacker corps of Ellerbe at “Will,” Misi at “Mike” and Barr at “Sam” certainly wouldn’t eliminate uncertainty. It would be a new position for Ellerbe and Misi while Barr would be a versatile rookie whose true position in the NFL is debatable. But after how leaky the unit was in 2013, the corps couldn’t be much worse with that lineup. And its potential, no doubt, would be far superior, mainly because of how gifted Barr is as a physical specimen.

Any Barr to Miami discussion will likely prove moot. It’s unlikely that 18 teams will pass on a talent of his caliber even with some serious doubt persisting about his ability. If Barr is still available, though, he would be difficult to bypass for rookie GM Dennis Hickey, who swears by taking a best-player-available approach. If Barr has yet to hear his name called after 18 picks, it’s unlikely any remaining prospect will be ranked higher.

Follow Cody Strahm on Twitter.