Anthony Barr may have pushed his way back near the top of the 2014 NFL draft with a great pro day at UCLA on Tuesday.
Coming into the week, the Bruins star's stock had been trending downward.
At the combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds, sixth-best among linebackers, and tied for 14th in the vertical (34.5 inches). His 15 reps on the bench press were also dead last among those who participated, according to NFL.com's combine tracker, which is less of a concern given his skill set.
Still, for a linebacker who is praised for being such a great athlete, Barr's performance in Indianapolis left a lot to be desired. As a result, he needed to look good in Los Angeles in order to remain near the top 10.
All Barr needed was 4.44 seconds.
That's how quickly he ran the 40, and following that, he did 19 reps on the bench, per UCLA head coach Jim Mora:
Anthony Barr @itheeayb just ran an electronic 4.44 in the 40 for Pro Scouts...and that's why you train on the UCLA campus with Sal Alosi.— Jim Mora (@UCLACoachMora) March 11, 2014
Anthony Barr @itheeayb just improved his Bench from 15 at Combine to 19 at UCLA. Again,that's why you train on Campus at UCLA with Sal Alosi— Jim Mora (@UCLACoachMora) March 11, 2014
Both of those represent major improvements from the combine, especially the 40. It's an absolutely absurd time for somebody listed at 6'5" and 255 pounds on NFL.com. If Barr had done that in Indianapolis, he would have had the best 40 time among linebackers by 0.07 seconds.
Working with Sal Alosi has obviously paid off, as NFL Network's Jacob Ruffman thinks Barr has gotten back into the top 10, if he ever left it:
Anthony Barr putting up a 4.44 40 and 19 reps on the bench should keep him in the Top 10. Those were the numbers everyone wanted to see.— Jacob Ruffman (@JacobRuffman) March 11, 2014
Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News thought that Barr was "a bit leaner" than he was in Indianapolis, which accounts for part of the reason he ran much better on Tuesday:
WR Shaq Evans looks noticeably bigger at UCLA Pro Day than at the end of the season. Anthony Barr looks a bit leaner.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) March 11, 2014
Jadeveon Clowney is the consensus favorite to be the first defensive player taken off the board. If the Houston Texans don't take him at No. 1, then he won't drop much further than the second or third picks. So it's not as if Barr will suddenly shoot to the top of everybody's draft board as a result of UCLA's pro day.
What this may have done, though, is propel him ahead of Khalil Mack, who is his toughest competition at linebacker.
The Buffalo star ran a 4.65 in the 40 at the combine and then an unofficial 4.54 at the Bulls' pro day last week, per John Kryk of Sun Media:
Barr was viewed as having the physical superiority, while Mack was the more polished and versatile defensive option. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks spoke with scouts who called Mack more "pro-ready":
I've had some interesting conversation with NFL scouts regarding the Khalil Mack vs. Anthony Barr debate. Some view Mack as more pro-ready— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 27, 2014
Which player would you draft first?
The fact that Barr was losing his physical edge didn't bode well for his potential draft position. Although his drop hasn't been precipitous, falling too far outside the top 10 can result in millions of dollars down the drain for prospects.
Now, though, he has at least asserted that he's an athletic freak—the kind that offers the highest ceiling in the NFL.
Teams may still prefer a player like Mack, who offers great value and is arguably more prepared to contribute right away. Looking good at the combine and your pro day doesn't guarantee future success. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller evoked the name of Aaron Curry when contemplating where to gauge Barr's potential:
UCLA's Anthony Barr may have most potential of all OLBs, but I've been burned by his type so often. You hear me, Aaron Curry!?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 25, 2014
Plus, Barr wasn't even a linebacker when he came to UCLA. He only moved there in 2012. Of course, Barr isn't concerned as to whether his inexperience at the position will hurt him in the NFL, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The transition was pretty smooth, honestly. It was difficult at first. I think moving backwards, going back in coverage, was something that was new to me. But now, I feel comfortable with that. It’s still sort of new to me in a sense. It’s exciting. If I continue to work, the sky’s the limit.
When you're looking to invest a lot of money and time into a player, the fact that a player is still transitioning into his current position may raise a major red flag.
At least Barr won't be looking back on his pro day wondering if he could have done more. He hit a home run in Los Angeles.