- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
- 0 Shares
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr doesn't have an ESPN.com Insider account, so he hasn't seen that NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper has him ranked as the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Not that Kiper's ranking would sway Barr's decision on whether or not to come back to school for his senior season.
Barr said he is still sorting through the whole process, which isn't surprising since he went from a nondescript running back during his first two seasons at UCLA to an all-conference linebacker who is leading the nation with 13.5 sacks this year.
"Three months ago everybody was asking me how my first game was, and now were here," Barr said. "It’s pretty crazy."
Barr said his phone and social media have been "blowing up" since Kiper moved him to No. 10 in the Dec. 5 version of his Big Board. But he has been relying on his mom and others around him for support. He also has a vast library of knowledge on the inner workings of the NFL on the field with him every day.
Coach Jim Mora spent 25 years in the NFL and knows what teams are looking for in the draft. Defensive coordinator Lou Spanos and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich also have NFL experience and Barr has been using them as sounding boards the past few days as his name has cropped up on mock draft boards throughout the media.
Mora said it's dangerous for kids to put too much stock into what draft analysts say. Often players are ranked in the proper range, but rarely are they 100 percent correct, Mora said.
"Mel Kiper, he doesn’t make a draft pick," Mora said. "He can put out his top 15 and his first two rounds, but guys in the NFL don’t look at Mel Kiper’s pick when they are deciding who they want to pick. What you have to do is try to help the players divorce themselves from some of the stuff that they read from these guys that are draft experts but are not in a draft room."
The Bruins have several draft-eligible juniors and redshirt sophomores who must make decisions. Shaquelle Evans, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Zumwalt, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Tevin McDonald and Cassius Marsh are among that group. Sophomore Xavier Su'a-Filo is also draft eligible.
But Barr's stock has skyrocketed and he is the only Bruins player who has shown up in the first-round of any major mock draft.
Still, it's far too early to tell what NFL teams are actually thinking at this point considering that all the mock drafts and expert draft boards are total speculation, Mora said.
"You don’t want a guy making a decision based on that," Mora said. "Like I said, Mel Kiper and all these other guys, their boards are vastly different than the real boards and the real boards haven’t even been put together yet. They’re just starting to gather the information that they need to make the decisions they need to make in terms of who they are going to draft."
Barr said he's taking all the advice he can. He will ask for an evaluation from the NFL draft advisory board to get an idea of where he might get drafted. Such an evaluation would not commit him to leaving UCLA. He's also confident that Mora and the UCLA staff will guide him in the right direction because of their vast knowledge and NFL experience.
"It makes it more comfortable and not as unknown," Barr said. "They have the inside scoop. They feed to me what they are hearing and I trust their opinion and what they are saying."
Barr said that he will wait until his evaluation is in to make a final decision, but if he had to decide right now he "would probably stay" for his senior year.
Mora said he hopes all of the draft-eligible players who are not seniors return to the team next year.
"I want all of our guys to come back because I think this is a special team that we’re creating,” Mora said, “and I want them all to have the opportunity to experience success at this level at the highest level. And I think that we’re capable of that as we go forward.”
2dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller