Entering Day 3 of the NFL draft, the Denver Broncos did not have a fifth-round pick. They surrendered their original pick on Friday so they could move up in the second round to select wide receiver Cody Latimer.
By trading down with the Chicago Bears, the Broncos were able to pick up a fifth-round pick this year and a fifth-round pick next year. With the 156th overall pick, they finally selected an inside linebacker. Lamin Barrow from LSU finds himself as the newest member of the Broncos.
General manager John Elway was anxiously waiting for their pick in hopes that Barrow would be there:
“We were thrilled that he was still there. We moved back a little bit and picked up the fifth-round pick for next year. We had to sweat it out a little bit, but thankfully he was still there.”
The Broncos were letting the draft come to them on Day 3, but the team did have a keen eye on the linebacker market.
“It comes down to a matter of how many linebackers are still there that can come in and help you. I thought it was a safe move for us to go back.” Elway continued, “The linebackers started moving a little bit, so it made for some nervous moments, but fortunately he got to us.”
At the scouting combine, Barrow ran a 4.65 40-yard dash. He has good straight-line speed, and that helps him in coverage. Barrow can play from sideline to sideline because of his speed and natural lateral agility.
His speed isn’t the only thing that helps him stand out in coverage. Barrow also has long arms and a wingspan that measures at 79 inches. This length helps him make up ground quickly, and he can knock away passes as they come in.
Barrow has worked hard to get to this level. He’s known as a coachable player with a strong work ethic. Barrow will put in the time lifting weights and watching film to maximize his potential as a pro.
He is a two-year starter at weak-side linebacker with 28 total career starts at LSU. Over the last two years, Barrow has racked up 195 tackles. He certainly has a nose for the football, and Barrow can quickly get to plays that go away from him.
He is an aggressive player who is not afraid to mix it up in the middle as a run defender. He’s not the biggest linebacker, measuring in at 235 pounds. Barrow is also a lean player who has a frame that might be maxed out.
His aggression can be used against him in coverage. Barrow is a smart player, but at times he’s too late when reacting to the play. He will bite on pump fakes or double moves in a route because he’s looking to make the play in front of him. The Broncos will have to coach him up in order to build confidence and strengthen his discipline when asked to cover.
Barrow also has work to do as a run defender. He will drag down the ball-carrier, but he’s not known as a “thumper” or intimidator on the football field. He’ll not only overrun patterns, but also get out of position when heading in to stop the run.
Do you like the Barrow pick?
We could see Barrow put up a good fight for the starting middle linebacker job in training camp. He was a two-year starter at weak-side linebacker for the Bayou Bengals, but he has the ability to play inside at the pro level.
Elway talked about Barrow’s versatility after the pick:
“He’s a tough guy and a good kid. He can play ‘Mike’ or ‘Will.’ He’s got good speed, can run and has good instincts. He’s going to bring great competition to the linebacker group.”
At this time, the Broncos will have a competition between veteran Nate Irving, third-year pro Steven Johnson and Barrow for the middle linebacker job. With his ability in coverage, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Barrow earn significant playing time as a nickel linebacker if he doesn’t just win the starting job outright.
During his conference call with the Denver media, Barrow talked about his ability to play inside or outside.
“I definitely came into the fold—came up as an inside linebacker. But then LSU and their coach, [LSU defensive coordinator John] Chavis, he had me on the left side and then the middle, but it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to (playing in the middle).” Barrow concluded, "I feel like I’m going to work really hard and whatever they need me to play, I’ll play it.”
Barrow will begin his pro career as a player who will compete for a starting job at middle linebacker. At the very least, he can contribute on special teams as a rookie. It’s a good fit for a team looking for inside linebacker help, but also looking for a player who won’t have to come off the field on passing downs.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.