Mike Mayock likens Vikings OLB Anthony Barr to Jason Taylor

Conventional wisdom was that former UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr was sliding down draft boards. Conventional wisdom was wrong.

Barr (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) was picked ninth by the Minnesota Vikings, whose new coach, Mike Zimmer, is a defense-minded guy.

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Barr had 23 sacks in just two seasons on defense with the Bruins; he began his career as an H-back/tight end. He remains raw as a defender and can be overpowered against the run.

"He needs core strength, he needs experience," NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said after the Vikings' selection. "But does he look like Jason Taylor or what?"

Mayock said Barr put up the big sack numbers solely because of his athleticism.

"He has no idea what he's doing (as a rusher) -- it's all speed, all natural ability," Mayock said.

Despite the seeming negativity, Mayock liked the pick, saying Barr has a big upside. And any time you're compared to Jason Taylor, you have to have a big upside.

Barr was expected to slide a bit because he is far from a finished product, as Mayock pointed out. On the other hand, his pass-rush ability is a huge selling point and is the reason he went a bit higher than most expected. Heck, last year, Dion Jordan and Ziggy Ansah were first-rounders, and neither came close to matching Barr's college production.

The issue with Barr is whether he can learn some counter-moves, whether he can set the edge, whether he can get stronger -- in short, whether he can become a better-rounded linebacker. The Vikes certainly need a consistent edge rusher.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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