Within an hour of drafting UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr ninth overall, the Vikings mentioned him in the same sentences with Jason Taylor, Chris Doleman and Von Miller.
For those keeping score, that’s a future Hall of Famer, a current Hall of Famer and the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
That’s the kind of ceiling placed on a guy when he’s 6-5, 255 pounds, runs a 4.47 40-yard dash and completes the three-cone agility drill faster than any of the cornerbacks at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“You can’t coach what this guy has,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. “It’s the same conversation we had last year with Cordarrelle Patterson.”
Oh yeah, did we mention they also compared him to last year’s raw athlete-turned-rookie-All-Pro-kick-returner?
Unlike former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who didn’t utilize Patterson until the Vikings season was kaput, Spielman sounds confident that head coach/defensive mastermind Mike Zimmer will maximize Barr’s rare abilities. The new coach sounded like the wheels in his head started turning long ago.
“I’ve never had a linebacker that has the size and the speed and all the things this guy has,” said Zimmer, who spent 20 seasons as an NFL defensive assistant, including the past 14 as a coordinator of multiple top-10 defenses.
Although Barr has played linebacker for only two seasons, he’ll start at strong-side linebacker in a role Zimmer said compares to Miller’s role in Denver. Chad Greenway will be on the field with Barr, but Zimmer wouldn’t elaborate on where or how he’ll be used.
“Chad can play anywhere,” Zimmer said. “But I don’t want to let Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit know what we’re doing. I’m going to let them try to figure that out.”
Now, here are the knee-jerk reactions from Thursday night’s top-10 picks. We’ll revisit these a week before next year’s draft (ouch):
1. Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Knee-jerk: Yeah, he’s a once-in-a-generation physical freak. But does he want to do all it takes to be great? Based on last fall, it doesn’t appear he does. Houston, you have a problem player.
2. Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Knee-jerk: Had Jake Matthews going here in Thursday’s mock, but this will be a better offensive tackle selection. This kid and those 35-inch arms and giant frame will dominate.
3. Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Knee-jerk: The first wow moment of a wow round. And we thought the Jaguars reached too high for Blaine Gabbert at No. 10 three years ago. Can you really redshirt a raw player when you pick him No. 3? Expectations just became too unrealistic for Bortles.
4. Bills (trade with Browns): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Knee-jerk: Special size and speed will make him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Buffalo’s No. 1 receiver.