Barr becomes 7th first-round linebacker in Vikings franchise history
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings needed to improve on defense and they took their first big swing on former UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Barr is the 7th linebacker selected in the Vikings' first round since the franchise started in 1961.
1972: Jeff Siemon (10th)
1974: Fred McNeill (17th)
1985: Chris Doleman (4th)
1996: Duane Clemons (16th)
1997: Dwayne Rudd (20th)
2006: Chad Greenway (17th)
2014: Anthony Barr (9th)
For a defensive-minded coach like Mike Zimmer, it's no surprise the Vikings took the second linebacker of the night in Barr. The draft's top-rated linebacker in Khalil Mack went to the Oakland Raiders with the No. 5 overall pick.
But what can Barr do for Minnesota?
The Vikings brought him in for a look in their annual 'Top-30' event, in which the team hosts top draft prospects at their Winter Park training facility.
He's only played defense for two seasons; has never played in a 4-3 scheme.
"You can't coach what he has," general manager Rick Spielman said. "Same conversations we had last year with Cordarrelle. You can't coach what he has...He has a very, very high ceiling because of his limited amount of time he's played on defense."
Spielman seemed sold on Barr's upside, believing that he hadn't reached his potential in limited time at UCLA.
The Vikings' top authority in roster matters also said that Barr could be "plugged in" at the strong-side, where linebacker Chad Greenway has started in 2012 and 2013. However, in former coach Leslie Frazier's Tampa-2 style defense, Greenway started at what would be called the weak-side linebacker in Zimmer's defense. So there's really no position switch, just a matter of terminology.
Regardless, Barr could be expected to likely serve the James Harrison role that helped lead Cincinnati's defense under Zimmer, who said the strong-side linebacker is expected to put pressure on the passer more often than the weak-side responsibilities.
"Obviously, he is going to be a linebacker in the base stuff," Zimmer said. "We have some plans in our blitz package and how we can use him in the substitution packages."