My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Tennessee Titans who hold the #11 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
Many teams will hold it against Anthony Barr that he didn’t start playing outside linebacker for UCLA until 2012. That means he’s still very inexperienced and raw to the position. However it should instead be commended that he’s made so much progress in such a short time, developing into one of the best pass rushers in this NFL draft. It’s a testament to his talent. Barr is a lengthy athlete who has the instinct and drive to knife into the backfield to make plays either attacking the quarterback or dropping a ball carrier. With a little polish he could be a heck of gem.
Why: Ray Horton switch to 3-4 defense requires a talent like Barr
Pass rush was one of the primary problems for the Tennessee Titans defense in 2013. Despite their impressive turnaround, they tended to run hot and cold when it came to putting heat on the quarterback. Now they are in the midst of a scheme shift under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton. To make that transition as seamless as possible he will require a couple of players at key positions. A pass rusher at outside linebacker is arguably the most important one of all.
Argument: Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard are important too
The problem is pass rusher isn’t the only need on the team’s agenda. They also have issues to address in the secondary. Word is that Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner is going to hit the open market and will likely be signed elsewhere. That leaves a rather large hole to fill and makes the drafting of Justin Gilbert out of OklahomaState make way more sense. He is a long, fast athlete with the instincts to play the football and the toughness to play press coverage, which are big requirements in the 3-4. The same goes for Darqueze Dennard, the award-winner out of MichiganState who aptly earned the nickname “No Fly Zone.” His ability, work ethic and leadership would be most welcome too.
Counter-argument: Draft is deeper in corners than pass rushers
There is no doubt the Tennessee Titans have to get a corner, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be right away. This 2014 NFL draft is quite deep at the position, with potential starters waiting in the 2nd to 4th rounds. On the other hand, the pool of pass rushers who fit the 3-4 scheme is good but not limitless. Barr is the second best on the board by a pretty good margin behind Khalil Mack. The Titans will find plenty of use for his playmaking ability and raw talent.
That is why I would take Anthony Barr if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?