With the 10th pick in Pride Of Detroit's 2014 NFL mock draft, the Detroit Lions select UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Jeremy Reisman is serving as the Lions' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
After agonizing over this pick for hours, I decided Anthony Barr provides the best combination of talent and need for the Detroit Lions at No. 10. Before I get into why Barr was the right choice, let me discuss who I didn't pick and why.
The name that immediately came to mind when I saw who had fallen was Mike Evans. I've had a very love/hate relationship with Evans during my scouting process. Having a tall, physical receiver in addition to Calvin Johnson has always been something I've dreamed of. Additionally, this would allow the Lions to use Golden Tate in a wide variety of ways. They could move him into the slot, into the backfield, out wide. The more unpredictable the offense, the more explosive it could be. However, I question Evans' ability to get true separation from defenders. Watching his highlights, I mostly saw a guy who made crazy catches out of pure athleticism. The gap between talent is much smaller in the NFL and Evans will have to develop smarts and route precision to continue his dominance at the next level.
However, the main reason I passed on Evans was because I don't think the success of the Lions offense will depend much on the addition of another receiver. The more I think about Detroit's offense, the more I realize its success relies almost exclusively on the progression of Matthew Stafford. During the first half of 2013, we saw the Lions excel with less explosive weapons than they have now. Once Stafford struggled in the second half of the season, the offense tanked. For this reason -- unless it's Sammy Watkins -- I don't think the Lions should choose a wide receiver in the first round.
Safety, in my opinion, is the biggest need for this team right now. However, I did not fall in love with the top two safety prospects: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. Pryor fits the mold of the strong safety the Lions appear to be looking for, but his coverage skills are too much in question for him to crack the top 10.
While cornerback is a position of relative need, the highest-rated cornerbacks in the draft didn't catch my eye and won't make an immediate impact anyway.
I briefly considered Eric Ebron for the pick, but his alarmingly high drop rate was enough to scare me away this early in the draft.
Which leaves me with Barr. Admittedly, Barr is a bit of a risky pick, as he is probably a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. However, the Lions have made it known that they are seeking a blitzing linebacker, of which they currently have none. Barr would immediately take over that role and could possibly be much more.
One knock on Barr is that he will be only a situational pass rusher who isn't worthy of such a high pick. My response to this is simple: Just because he was in a limited role in college does not mean that is his limit in the NFL. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Barr is that he was recruited as a running back. After failing to break into the depth chart, UCLA moved him to linebacker. In his very first year at the position, he was second in the nation in sacks (!!!!!). Barr's willingness to change roles and his ability to make an immediate impact speaks to his high character, elite athleticism and football smarts. Sure, his college head coach, Jim Mora, is a bit biased, but look what he had to say about Barr:
"He's the best player on our team and the hardest worker on our team. He's a great leader who does it with his actions, his work ethic, his attitude, his commitment. In my opinion, and I haven't seen everyone in the country, but there is nobody I'd take over Anthony Barr, and I spent 28 years in the NFL and I have a real clear understanding what they're looking for from football character to personal character. He's an A-plus in everything."
Barr will provide an immediate impact as a pass rusher, and while he may not always get to the quarterback, when he does, he will make a huge play. Eventually, I can see Barr developing into a team leader on defense with his intensity and his character. But don't take my word for it, watch the tape:
Check out the 2014 POD Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.