The Vikings’ first-round pick of UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr was no surprise to me, since the word around the NFL was that General Manager Rick Spielman and company became impressed with him last season when they watched the 6-4, 255-pounder put on a defensive show against Washington with seven tackles and a sack.

Those impressions remained with Spielman. The word is that Barr, who during his only two seasons at linebacker after earlier playing fullback with the Bruins, made 149 tackles and 23½ sacks while have to carry a big load for the 10-3 Bruins.

Compare Barr’s tackle totals with that of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, the South Carolina defensive end who went to Houston and had 94 tackles over his past two seasons, or Khalil Mack, the Buffalo outside linebacker who went fifth to the Raiders and had 194 tackles. Barr also had 41.5 tackles for loss, while Mack had 40 and Clowney had 35.

Spielman made it clear that defense, and not a quarterback, would be the theme of the 2014 draft, with plenty of quality quarterbacks to pick from in the later rounds of the draft. Contrary to what some media outlets predicted, there was no plan to take a quarterback early because when you finish near the bottom of the league and lose five games in the final minutes, it is pretty obvious you need help on defense.

The Vikings eventually traded up into the final pick of the first round, selecting Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The lessons of a similar draft in 2012 — which had a number of high-profile, first-round quarterbacks — came in the third round when the Seattle Seahawks grabbed Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson at 75th overall and the Philadelphia Eagles selected Nick Foles 88th overall out of Arizona.

The Vikings had six quarterbacks ranked on their board, and they offered Seattle a second- and fourth-round pick (Nos. 40 and 108 overall) to move up to No. 32 and grab Bridgewater — at one time touted by some draft analysts as a possible No. 1 overall pick — who they hope will have success similar to Wilson or Foles.

Wilson, of course, has become one of the best quarterbacks in the league and won the Super Bowl last season. Wilson threw for 3,357 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year — three more TDs than Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, the 2012 No. 1 overall pick, threw for in his second season. Foles was statistically the best quarterback in the NFL with a 119.2 rating, passing for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The past few drafts have proved that great quarterbacks can be available at any time.

Negative for Colts bid

Colts owner Jim Irsay is battling, along with potential host cities Minneapolis and New Orleans, to win the 2018 Super Bowl for Indianapolis.

In mid-March, Irsay was stopped by police in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis. He admitted to possessing several prescription medications and also had over $29,000 in cash and was jailed.

Irsay was later charged with drunken driving and four counts of felony drug possession.

One wonders if Irsay’s recent trouble with the police will have an effect on the Colts’ bid, and whether the problem will cause owners to instead vote for New Orleans or Minneapolis.

As far as the Vikings, they lack a prominent NFL official pushing Minnesota’s bid like Jim Finks did to get the owners’ votes for the 1991 Super Bowl.

In talking to owners after that favorable 1991 vote, I learned that despite a great presentation by local business people, it was Finks — the former general manager of the Vikings who was the Saints GM by that time — who was able to get the votes necessary to have the Super Bowl here. In fact, Finks called me about a week before that 1991 Super Bowl vote and said he had the votes for Minnesota.


• After being a healthy scratch in Game 3 against the Wild, Eden Prairie native and Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy will be back in the lineup for Game 4, according to the Chicago Tribune. Leddy told CSN Chicago that he’s using his benching in Game 3 as motivation: “I think any competitor would get ticked at that. But that was a coach’s decision, and I think for me, as a player, I know I have to be better. It’s definitely a huge learning experience; definitely a big wake-up call.”

• Alex Illikainen, a highly recruited basketball player from Grand Rapids, was one of the big stars as the Howard Pulley team won seven games last weekend in the Pulley Invitational of the Twin Cities tournament. The Gopher Illustrated website reported that Illikainen hit seven of 12 shots and scored 20 points in the title-winning game against All Iowa Attack. Also doing well with the Howard Pulley team in the tournament was Hopkins’ Amir Coffey, who had 16 points and eight rebounds in the title game.

• Former Gopher Thomas Vanek has three goals and three assists in seven playoff games for the Montreal Canadiens. … For the New York Rangers, Hastings native Derek Stepan has two goals and two assists in 11 playoff games; former Cretin-Derham Hall standout Ryan McDonagh has one assist but leads the Rangers in ice time at 24 minute, 53 seconds per game.

• Former Gopher Hassan Mead, who competes for the Oregon Track Club Elite, finished second in the 5,000-meter run at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday. He ran a time of 13:02.80, only six-hundredths of a second behind winner Ben True. Mead’s time is the second-fastest time in the 5,000 meter run in the world this year.

• Going into Wednesday night’s game, the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings’ starting rotation had gone 3-1 over their past eight games, with five quality starts and a 1.71 ERA over 47⅓ innings pitched. … Chris Parmelee had an 18-game on-base streak for the Red Wings before it was stopped Tuesday night. During that streak he was hitting. 394. In the International League, Parmelee is tied for fourth in home runs (seven), tied for fourth in total bases (64), tied for fifth in RBI (23) and tied for sixth in hits (36).

• Wild prospect Matt Dumba has 13 goals and 26 assists in 44 games for the Portland Winterhawks this season. The 6-foot, 182-pound defenseman had eight goals and 16 assists in 26 regular-season games and has five goals and 10 assists in 18 playoff games.


Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.