It seemed like the entire state of Minnesota was watching when the Minnesota Vikings made the No. 9 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Much to the dismay of many fans, the Vikings decided not to select quarterback icon Johnny Manziel with this pick. Instead, the Vikings selected UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Linebacker represented a position of need for the Vikings. In fact, one could argue that linebacker was an even bigger need than quarterback given the Vikings’ lack of talent at this position. With Khalil Mack no longer available, Barr, a consensus All-American in 2013, represented a prime opportunity to address this need.
In Barr, the Vikings acquired a pass-rusher with tremendous upside potential. Despite standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 255-pounds, Barr also runs the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.66 seconds and maintains very strong agility numbers. His frame combined with running back-speed was just one reason he was coveted by the Vikings.
The Vikings desperately needed not only linebacker help, but also a pass-rushing threat to replace Jared Allen. With 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss in just two seasons despite frequently facing double teams, Barr certainly profiles as an elite pass rusher.
Barr is a raw talent and must improve in both run and pass coverage to be a productive NFL player. However, he is a rare talent who presents an immediate upgrade to a Vikings’ defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last season.
Given his defensive genius, it will be interesting to see how Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer uses Barr. His flexibility and athleticism will allow Zimmer a number of creative options. With that said, this pick could look even better than it does now after a couple of seasons of Zimmer’s influence.
The Vikings’ selection of Barr was certainly not the most valuable pick at 9th overall, but with pass-rushing at a premium in today’s NFL and the Vikings’ desperate need at the linebacker position, it was definitely a great pick in terms of team fit.