IRVING, Texas** – There's a popular caveat you're bound to hear when discussing the Cowboys' desire to draft Anthony Barr. If Dallas can get its hands on the UCLA pass rusher, it's always "if he's still available" or "if he falls."
That's the way it goes for a team with a pick in the middle of the first round. The Cowboys select at No. 16, which is just out of reach of many of the draft's elite prospects – barring something unforeseen. Barr is considered by many to be a top 10 pick, which would mean the Cowboys need help to draft him.
At least one analyst doesn't feel that way, however. In his latest mock draft, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay slotted Barr as the No. 25 overall pick to San Diego, projecting him as an easy possibility for Dallas. In a pre-draft conference call, McShay explained why.
"You put a grade on a guy thinking he's going to improve – that's what a lot of this is, is projecting, especially before the season," McShay said. "I thought that I was going to see a different player than what I actually saw after the season."
That may seem like an odd criticism for a guy who posted 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for the Bruins, but McShay said his concerns are mainly with how Barr's skills will translate to the pro game.
"He wasn't bad –I don't want to give the wrong impression," he said. "He's not very strong at the point of attack, he's not very good at setting the edge, he's close to a one-trick pony as a pass rusher, in terms of just a speed rush. His speed-to-power moves, they stall – they almost always stall out." [embedded_ad]
Barr is the most high-profile of what feels like a dozen tweener prospects – that is, players who project as either a pass-rushing linebacker of a defensive end. At his UCLA Pro Day, he posted a 40-yard dash in the 4.50 range, giving him tantalizing speed. At the same time, his 6-4, 247-pound frame leads many to wonder if he can play as a down lineman.
"In the league, those guys are so good at offensive tackle that if you can't beat them both ways – with speed and with power – then you're in trouble," McShay said. "He can still be a very, very good player at the next level. I just think it's a lot bigger of a production, still, than I was expecting it was going to be at this point in the process."
It will be interesting to see if NFL teams share that thought process. It's long been suspected the Cowboys would need to either get lucky or execute a trade to land Barr. But if others share McShay's concerns, he could be a choice at No. 16.
Regardless, McShay said he wouldn't be surprised to see the UCLA star go in the first round, but he emphasized caution to those coveting him as one of the draft's top picks.
"I still have a late first round, kind of a fringe first-second round grade on him … but I just don't think he's as good as maybe where he's projected to go," he said. "Some people still have him -- I've seen and talked to people recently who have him projected as a top 10 pick. That's a reach, and I think you're taking a big gamble."