November 17, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tight end Randall Telfer (82) holds back UCLA Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr (11) from getting to Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) in the third quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. UCLA won 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Says Cowboys Could Go Linebacker First

With the mass exodus of defensive lineman from the Dallas Cowboys via free agency this week, one might expect that position to be addressed with the Cowboys first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.  But according to ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper, the team may be interested in going another direction in May. Here’s what Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News tweeted out on Thursday about Kiper on the team’s possible selection:

“On a conference call this morning, Mel Kiper mentioned UCLA’s Anthony Barr as a pass rushing possibility for the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16.”

Machota went on to describe the prospect as a 6-4 and 1/2, 247 pound linebacker who ran a 4.45 forty and did 19 bench reps at February’s NFL Scouting Combine. And he also pointed out Barr played in the same defensive scheme in college as Dallas currently does, the 3-4.

NFL.com’s draft guru Mike Mayock ranks Barr as the third best linebacker available in this year’s draft, behind Buffalo’s Khalil Mack and Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. CBS Sport’s Draft Expert Rob Rang agrees with Mayock’s ranking and projects he will be drafted by the Tennessee Titans 11th overall in the upcoming draft. Here’s Rang’s analysis of Barr:

“Barr’s emergence as one of the nation’s elite NFL prospects after languishing as a running back early in his career has been well documented. Barr exploded in 2012 in his first season on the defensive side of the ball and backed it up with another spectacular campaign in 2013, including 65 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and five forced fumbles, earning him the Lott IMPACT Trophy. His burst and bend around the corner make him an immediate threat as 3-4 rush linebacker or potential conversion to defensive end in the 4-3. He does not yet possess ideal strength, however, as his 15 repetitions of 225 pounds at the combine indicates.”

The Cowboys current linebacker corps include starters Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Justin Durant. Lee is coming off yet another injury-plagued season, although it was still arguably the best of his short four-year career. Carter is entering into the final year of his rookie contract. Many believe the Cowboys will not retain him after the season, at this point. And Durant, a free agency acquisition from last year disappointed in his first season of a two-year deal. He recorded just 24 total tackles in a ten-game injury-shortened season and could become a cap-casualty soon because of it.

Despite having young prospects like DeVonte Holloman, Kyle Wilber and Cameron Lawrence; the Cowboys could use an instant starter like Barr to help sure-up the worst defense in franchise history. I’m just not a sure a player like Barr, who many thought was a top-three pick, drops into Dallas’ lap at #16. Even Kiper agrees with that, as he has Barr gone by Dallas’ pick in his latest mock draft.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Anthony Barr Dallas Cowboys Mel Kiper

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