UCLA's Anthony Barr is the latest elite prospect to declare himself "the best player available" in this year's draft, and it's safe to say he won't be the last.
I liked hearing it from Barr, though. No one expects him to have his name called first May 8 at Radio City Music Hall, but I think he has a chance to be that good -- by the end of his career, we might look back and say he was every bit worthy of a No. 1 overall pick.
Barr has rare ability and I expect him to put it on display at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has great size, strength, speed and explosiveness. He plays with good effort, and he's still very young in his career as a linebacker. He was a running back until Jim Mora moved him to defense two seasons ago. The position change was the first step in his ascent, just like it was for Seahawks CB Richard Sherman at Stanford when he moved from receiver to cornerback.
It was, however, a bit of a surprise for Barr to join the "I'm the best player available" club because he hasn't been as vocal as some of his top-tier colleagues. Perhaps he's heard the chatter that Buffalo LB Khalil Mack should be drafted ahead of him and it was his way of saying, "Don't forget about me."
Not that I needed a reminder -- the upside for Barr is still off the charts, and he has all the attributes teams are looking for in an elite performer.
In addition to his talent, another thing I like about Barr is his proven ability to persevere. As UCLA dealt with attrition last season, the Bruins had to make adjustments and took Barr out of his most natural role as a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker. That's what you want him doing because he can be a terror. He had to play at times like a true defensive end, where he had to take on double teams against some of the better teams in the Pac-12, and he did it well and without complaint. That showed me something about his character. He's about winning games. Even when he arrived at UCLA as a big-time running back recruit, he was never the primary rusher during his Bruins career. He didn't complain then, either.
Things haven't always gone his way, but he has persevered. To me, that makes him an even more intriguing prospect. Coming into the league as a rookie can be tough. There are a lot of ups and downs along the way. Everything doesn't go swimmingly.
Barr has dealt with those kinds of situations before and he's come out on top. No NFL team should overlook that fact.