UCLA’s Anthony Barr goes No. 9 overall to Minnesota Vikings
UCLA’s Anthony Barr moved up and became a top-10 pick.
USC’s Marqise Lee slid out of the first round.
That was the local story Thursday night during the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Barr, a pass-rushing linebacker who switched from offense to defense two years ago, was chosen ninth by the Minnesota Vikings.
Lee, the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football’s top receiver, was not among five receivers selected. He is now expected to learn his NFL destination Friday when the second and third rounds take place.
UCLA offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo, regarded by some as a possible first-round pick, also is among local players hoping to be selected Friday or Saturday, when the draft concludes with the final four rounds.
Unlike Lee, Barr was not among prospects attending the draft. But he did not have to wait long for a phone call from the Vikings, who traded the eighth pick to the Cleveland Browns and then chose Barr with the next pick.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be a Minnesota Viking,” Barr said during a conference call with Vikings beat reporters.
Barr, who played at Los Angeles Loyola High, was a UCLA running back as a freshman, and then moved to a tight end-fullback hybrid position.
In 2012, after Coach Jim Mora arrived at UCLA, Barr moved to defense and recorded 131/3 sacks. He returned for his final season of eligibility and had 10 sacks.
“I was very confident in my abilities but wasn’t exactly sure what direction this was going to go in,” he said of the switch to defense. “So I’m just very happy to be in this position.”
Barr, the second linebacker selected, became the highest-drafted UCLA player since quarterback Cade McNown was chosen 12th in 1999.
It marked the second consecutive year a UCLA player was drafted in the first round. In 2013, the Green Bay Packers selected defensive end Datone Jones with the 26th pick.
USC has not had a player chosen in the first round since 2012.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the organization thought Barr had the potential to be the next-best edge pass rusher in the draft after defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans.
“You just don’t pass up these athletic-type players because they’re too rare and too hard to find,” Spielman said during a news conference.
Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer described the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Barr as “one of the most unique” players in the draft.
Barr’s relative inexperience at his position is not expected to hinder his transition to the NFL.
“He’s like a fawn,” Zimmer said. “He’s just learning some of these things… I’m excited to take him and mold him.”
Lee spent what must have been a long evening in the green room.
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was chosen fourth by the Buffalo Bills, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans seventh by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Louisiana State’s Odell Beckham Jr. 12th by the New York Giants, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks 20th by the New Orleans Saints and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin 28th by the Carolina Panthers.
Lee began last season projected as a possible top-10 pick, but injuries limited his production.
After catching a school-record 118 passes in 2012, he had only 57 receptions last season, four for touchdowns. His performances at the NFL scouting combine and USC’s pro day workouts were apparently not impressive enough to push him into the first round of a draft deep with receivers.
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