In 2010, the Vikings waited until the seventh round to draft a linebacker they tried to convert to fullback. Ryan D'Imperio didn't work out, but this year there is growing momentum behind the scenes that the Vikings' first pick in the draft may be another convert.
All the Johnny Manziel talk might be nothing more than trying to keep the attention on the quarterback position while the Vikings have a growing interest in linebacker Anthony Barr, according to a league source. Barr made the move from fullback to linebacker at UCLA, the reverse of the way D'Imperio tried to do it in the NFL.
For many draftniks, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Barr gets lined up behind Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack when it comes to defensive prospects, but Barr compares favorably and in some cases ahead of either of them, despite being relatively new to linebacker.
In tackles, Barr finished in between the two. He had 149 tackles in two seasons playing linebacker while Mack had 194 and Clowney had 94. Barr and Mack tied with nine forced fumbles while Clowney produced four turnovers. And Barr's 40.5 tackles for a loss were more than either Clowney or Mack. The same was true for sacks – Barr with 23.5, Clowney with 16 and Mack with 13.5.
In short, Barr is every bit the playmaking defender as Clowney or Mack – at least when measured by statistics – and his athleticism is just as impressive. Barr ran a 4.44 at his pro day in March. But at the NFL Scouting Combine, Barr ran a 4.66 40-yard dash while Clowney ran a 4.51 and Mack a 4.59.
Barr started 37 of 51 games at UCLA, including 10 at fullback and the final 27 starts at right outside linebacker. He finished his career with 151 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 40.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback pressures, nine forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and six passes defensed.
He ranked third among Football Bowl Subdivision players in averaging 1.5 tackles for a loss per game and tied for the lead with an average of .33 forced fumbles per game and tied for second with an average of .87 sacks per game.
While injuries have crept up here and there for him – he missed his senior year of high school with a fractured ankle and missed time in three games in 2011 after arthroscopic knee surgery – his intelligence and versatility/athleticism are some of his top assets.
At UCLA, he was a business major and a multiple-time selection for Academic All-Pac 12. He narrowed his college choices down to UCLA and Notre Dame, where his father Tony Brooks played fullback, becoming a fourth-round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles.
His athleticism is further witnessed by playing running back at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and rushing for 1,890 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, earning all-state honors. His broken ankle as a senior sidetracked his progress, but he was still a highly regarded recruit out of California.
Despite spending two seasons as a fullback at UCLA, once he made the switch to linebacker he became a candidate for some of the most prestigious awards at the position – a finalist for the Butkus, Lombardi and Bednarick Awards, as well becoming a consensus All-American and unanimous All-Pac 12 selection.
Because of his switch to linebacker two years ago, he is still considered a bit raw, but in 10 mock drafts analyzed by Scout.com, Barr was selected anywhere from sixth to 16th. Depending on how the draft falls in front of them, he could be a prime candidate for selection by the Vikings at No. 8, a possibility they have been investigating diligently, according to a source.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Barr gaining momentum as Vikings possibility
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