The Minnesota Vikings could have gone multiple directions with the eighth overall pick, and they acquired a fifth-round pick this year after swapping picks with the Cleveland Browns, who had traded down to ninth overall. Johnny Manziel was still on the board at No. 9, and plenty of other players that fit needs were also available, but the Vikings wound up selecting UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Barr was sure to be a first-round pick after an excellent final two seasons with the Bruins, where he total 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss. But he is a very raw prospect, with only those two years of experience on the defensive side of the ball during his college career, and what exactly the Vikings have planned for him is unclear.
Barr will have to bulk up from his current 255 pounds to become a defensive end in Minnesota’s 4-3 defense, and he does not have the skills to be consistently effective as an outside linebacker in that scheme at this stage of his development. That’s not to say he can’t be coached up and become a more complete linebacker in time, but the Vikings’ defense needs linebackers that can be all-around contributors and Barr looks likely to be at best a situational pass rusher as a rookie.
Head coach Mike Zimmer surely had some input into the Vikings targeting Barr with a top-10 pick, so I’ll rely upon a coach’s expertise and the imagination of the new defensive staff in terms of how he’ll be used. But I think general manager Rick Spielman could have done better with the No. 9 pick if drafting a defensive player was the priority, and adding a 3-4 outside linebacker that offers nothing more than pass rushing ability right now looks like the wrong move as well as a bad fit.