Take UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr, for instance. When the draft process began, Barr was considered a top-five pick by most accounts after notching 23.5 sacks over the last two seasons while transitioning to the defensive side of the ball. Now, some believe Barr could even slide out of the first round. How to explain the opposing viewpoints on Barr?
"I studied his tape last year and thought he was a very talented player, obviously extremely athletic, fast and had a lot of potential," said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who projected Barr to be picked 25th overall in his most recent mock draft. "So, it kind of started there. And obviously he was very productive and had a lot of big plays. But, you put a grade on a guy when you're talking about him going into his final year and you put a grade on a guy thinking that he's going to improve … I thought I was going to see a different player than what I actually saw when I studied the tape after the season. He wasn't bad, I don't want to give the wrong impression, but his take-on skills have to improve. He's not very strong at the point of attack. He does not do a good job of setting the edge. He's close to a one-trick pony as a pass rusher, in terms of just speed rush. His speed-to-power moves, they stall.
"He can still be a very, very good player at the next level. I just think it's a lot bigger of a projection, still, than I was expecting it was going to be at this point in the process. To me, I still have a late-first-round, kind of a fringe first-round grade on him … I've talked to people recently who say, 'Oh, he's a top-10 pick.' That's a reach, and I think you're taking a big gamble."
NFL Network's Mike Mayock provides the counterpoint, insisting that he actually wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles made a move to trade up to select Barr.
"If Barr from UCLA were to start to slide, I think he'd be a guy (the Eagles) could trade up for. They need a 3-4 outside linebacker edge type," Mayock said on a conference call. "I don't think he's sliding. I think that's more of a media perception. I think he could go as early as 11 to Tennessee. I think Dallas would love him at 16. This draft is not deep in edge rushers. The bottom line with Barr is I think his best football is ahead of him. You might have to wait two years. He only played the position for two years. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, he needs to learn the position from a perspective of learning how to pass-rush. Every rush can't be a speed rush. But the kid has great talent. He's the prototype 3-4 outside linebacker. I don't think there's any way he gets into the 20s."
Whether it's Barr or not, Mayock believes the Eagles would like to address the defense in the first round. In addition to Barr, Mayock mentioned Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as a potential trade-up target.
"From my perspective, they're looking for a guy that can play strong or free safety, has to have both those skill sets," Mayock said. "Jimmie Ward could do that. Lamarcus Joyner from Florida State, both of them are going to go in the second round. In the third round, the only safety I have is Terrence Brooks from Florida State. After that there's a bunch of guys, Brock Vereen can play corner or safety. Dontae Johnson from North Carolina State can play corner or safety. Those guys would be appealing to the Eagles."
"Here is the premise I'm operating off of," added Mayock. "They made the playoffs last year with an offense that was number four in the league in points scored. I give Billy Davis a ton of credit for bringing a defense along that in August was horrific, and they got better and better every day. But they didn't have a whole lot of talent. They've done a good job in free agency with