Despite all the clever moves made in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons are still in need of a pass-rusher. Specifically, their move to a 3-4-based defensive scheme means the desire for outside linebackers capable of getting to the quarterback.
Draft prospect Anthony Barr appears to be one of those guys, and that's why the Falcons plan to take a long look at him.
Barr has a private workout scheduled with the Falcons before the end of the month, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation. The UCLA outside linebacker had been projected as a top-10 pick immediately after the college football season, although most draft experts have now dropped him behind the other touted outside linebacker, Buffalo's Khalil Mack.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound Barr has a great combination of size and athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds at the NFL combine, but UCLA coach Jim Mora said Barr improved his time to 4.45 at UCLA's pro day. Mora also said Barr increased his bench press reps from 15 at the combine to 19.
"I think definitely in the top 10, from what I got from the (NFL personnel) today," Mora said of Barr after the pro day. "And they understand that the ceiling is so high. He's only played the position for two years. And they see the talent."
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. projected Barr to be drafted anywhere between 10-20 in the first round. The Falcons currently hold the sixth-overall pick.
In terms of the Falcons' needs, adding an offensive tackle such as Auburn's Greg Robinson, Michigan's Taylor Lewan, or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews would appear to take priority over a pass-rusher. Then again, all that could change depending on how things unfold at the top of the draft.
It would be hard to pass on Mack, considering how his stock continues to soar. He doesn't have a workout scheduled with the Falcons as of Friday.
If the Falcons see something in Barr during the private workout, maybe he'll rise up their draft board. Whatever happens, they are doing their due diligence in checking out capable impact pass-rushers.
Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford (6-1, 250) said during an interview he had a workout upcoming with the Falcons, and that workout actually took place Thursday. Bradford is projected as a second-rounder, and the Falcons might have to go that route if they elect to target a tackle in the first round.
As things stand for the Falcons right now, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi, and Osi Umenyiora would be the top outside linebackers in the 3-4 setup. Umenyiora reportedly has been asked to take a paycut, so his status for 2014 remains unclear.