The Vikings, running a 4-3 scheme, picked Barr ninth overall and haven’t regretted that decision since. This year, with Barr in place on the strong side and Chad Greenway’s status in limbo on the weak side with an $8.8 million salary-cap hit, the Vikings are clearly doing their due diligence on outside linebackers.
They met with plenty of them formally and informally at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a formal interview with Clemson’s Vic Beasley, who measured in at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds in Indianapolis.
As mainly a defensive end at Clemson, he worked out with the defensive linemen, but that may not be his position in the NFL.
“The majority of the teams are going to want me to play outside linebacker and I’m fine with that,” he said.
“Guys I look up to are guys like Von Miller, Bruce Irvin, guys who I plan on mirroring my game out there at the next level. And I see those guys drop back in coverage here and there, and that’s why I try to mirror their game.”
He certainly has the athleticism.
Beasley’s 41-inch vertical jump was about 6 inches higher than most defensive linemen and bested only by a 42-inch leap by Bud Dupree in the linebackers and defensive linemen participating in that jump at the Scouting Combine. The athleticism was shown further in his 10-foot-10 broad jump, third among defensive linemen and linebackers, and one of only 10 among the linebackers and linemen to eclipse 10 feet.
But the transition to linebacker is one he is willing to make.
“Teams really just want to see me dropping in coverage. They haven’t seen me with my hand off the ground that much and obviously they want me to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position at the next level, so they want to see me drop,” Beasley said.
“Outside linebacker, D-end, I’m willing to play either one. Whatever the team I get picked by and whatever position they want me to play, I’m willing to move wherever they want me to move.”
Scout.com draft analyst and NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas believes linebacker will be Beasley’s best spot and thinks he has the athleticism to excel in the right system.
“Moving him to a stand-up position is his best option to avoid the ‘bust’ tag,” Thomas wrote in his evaluation. “In the past, when asked to work in zone coverage, the Tiger showed fluidness working in space and good hips for quick turn ability.”
During his four seasons at Clemson, Beasley had only 72 tackles, but 52½ of them were for a loss and he had 33 sacks, further reinforcing Thomas’ contention that Beasley could be a dangerous disruptor in the offensive backfield from the linebacker spot. Beasley said most teams are looking at him as an outside linebacker.
“The game is changing. It’s a passing league,” he said. “The NFL is a passing league, so you’re going to need guys to be able to rush the passer. That’s what this draft is predominantly based on. There are a lot of good pass rushers in this draft.”
Here is Thomas’ evaluation of Beasley, who garnered a first-round grade from him as a linebacker:
It’s going to be “boom or bust” for Beasley in the NFL, all depending on the scheme and position he is asked to play. I am firmly convinced that placing him on the defensive line will lead him down the same path as former Tiger and current Tampa Bay bust Da’Quan Bowers. As a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, Beasley’s ability to pressure the pocket would play out much better than taking on blockers at the line of scrimmage. Take away his plays in the backfield and Beasley has made just 13 more hits in 2014, leading to a reduction in playing time down the stretch in 2014, as the coaches often replaced him in short-yardage situations.
Moving him to a stand-up position is his best option to avoid the “bust” tag. In the past, when asked to work in zone coverage, the Tiger showed fluidness working in space and good hips for quick turn ability. He gains good depth, but sometimes stalls in transition at the X’s. He makes quick breaks and is good at maintaining relationship with the tight end, staying on their hips through the routes. Even when he is sometimes late, he has the recovery speed to compensate. He is not asked to play man coverage much outside the short area, but shows good hip snap and turn coming out of his backpedal. He has the speed to shadow and run with the receivers on deep routes. He is high in his drops and turns, showing alertness to locate and pick up the receiver coming out of his backpedal.
If a team is comfortable with using him strictly as a pass rusher, they get a player who leads all active FBS players in stops-for-loss and sacks during his career. The school’s all-time sacks leader, Beasley has had a remarkable run to the record when you consider he has started just 24 games in his career. All of his sacks have come in his last 38 games.
Rated at both rush end and outside linebacker, the Tiger has fluid change of direction agility and flexibility. He maintains balance redirecting and shows sudden initial quickness off the snap. He is a good leverage player with the hip snap and burst to close. He sheds with effectiveness and does a good job of using his hands to protect himself. He can stack and shed blockers, showing good strength behind his arm swipes. He uses his long arms very well to gain separation and can take on and utilize his hand power to split double teams.
Beasley can sink his hips and shows solid second effort to slip off blocks when his initial move fails. He has the pass rush speed and flexibility to turn the corner of the edge almost instantly. He blitzes with good desire and takes proper angles in pursuit. He is also very active with his hands in attempts to defeat the block.
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