There have been a slew of players linked with the Titans at the 11th pick. One of the more popular names I've seen, outside of offensive tackles, has been an linebacker, namely the outside guys like Anthony Barr out of UCLA. The need is apparent. The Tennessee Titans lacked a dynamic pass rusher last season, a role that was supposed to be filled by Kamerion Wimbley. With him possibly on the way out of town with a bloated contract, the Titans could well use help in that aspect of the defense.
After reviewing tape from Barr's past two years at outside linebacker, it is clear that he shows exceptional balance and acceleration, exploding upon making tackles. He also displays good lateral agility, a fact backed up by his combine numbers.
Barr possesses an impressive combination of size and athleticism, with long arms and a solid frame to add bulk. He shows good burst and closing ability, with enough strength and leverage to bull rush. While he needs to develop a larger repertoire of moves, on tape he flashes a developing swim move to fool blockers. Barr is a former running back with impressive athleticism, and that shows up in his skill and ability to make plays in lateral pursuit. Solid recovery quickness when out of position, and a generally high motor. Beyond this, he has solid production to back up his high draft projection.
At this point, Barr isn't suited to play three downs as a stand up 3-4 OLB until his weaknesses in coverage are corrected. That said, 3-4 OLB his natural fit at this point, but has the versatility to play 4-3 OLB as well. Plays too tall at times, and with only average base strength, needs to show better use of his frame and physicality at the point of attack. Barr also needs to refine his diagnosis of running plays as well as angles to the football.
He was too often fooled by play-action and struggles to locate the ball at times. As with all NFL rookies, needs work on hand placement and leverage. While it is a questionable weakness, Barr relies too much on speed when pass rushing, and while his physical skill may have won the day at the college level, he will need to widen his approach in the NFL. Overall, Barr needs a good deal of up-coaching as a run defender, projecting more as a situational pass rusher at this point.
How would he fit in Tennessee?
With Jurrell Casey carrying the Titans' pass rushing unit from the interior, the team could have been all the more dangerous had the ends capitalized accordingly. Anthony Barr could fill that role for the Titans from the 3-4 outside linebacker spot, whether he's standing up or putting his hand in the dirt. One NFL exec had this to say about the UCLA backer:
Those compliments are not without substance. While a few inches shorter than Dion Jordan (6'6"), Barr still has the long frame to add muscle, which will help him shed blockers in the running game in particular.
The concerns about his ability to play the run physically are well-documented, but at least initially, he wouldn't be forced to "do it all" for the Titans. With plenty of depth on the defensive line and some capable bodies already at outside linebacker, especially if Zaviar Gooden develops as the Titans hope as a 3rd down pass defender, the situation might be ideal for Barr.
While his would not be a pure 3-4 OLB role in Ray Horton's scheme, he would get a chance to rush the passer plenty. He would also be effective due to his versatility to play both as a down end and as a stand up defender. In a league where disguise is often everything for a defense, Barr's wide skill set could make all the difference.
Despite being relatively new to the position, his production earned him First team All-Pac-12 and First team All-American honors. His combine numbers below also give you a good idea of his inherent athleticism.
|40 YD||20 YD||10 YD||225 BENCH||VERTICAL JUMP||BROAD||SHUTTLE||3-CONE DRILL|
While the UCLA star is far from a finished product, the Titans would be hard pressed to find better value (BPA) at 11 if he falls into their laps. While Khalil Mack is still, as far as I'm concerned, the cream of the crop of this draft as far as outside backers are concerned, with some work, with his former coach in Lou Spanos no less, Barr could be the missing piece to a Titans pass rush that, for the past few years, has been a second or two away from being a top unit.