The flowing hair cascading out of the back of Bryton Barr’s helmet was one of the positive images left with UMass fans in 2018.
It meant the Minuteman senior linebacker was in the midst of chasing down the ballcarrier.
And shortly after, it meant that ballcarrier was going to the ground.
Mock drafts around many of the major and middling mock draft websites do not project Barr being selected outside of the seventh round.
But even if he doesn’t hear his name called in Nashville later this month, teams would be wise to call him directly for a camp invite.
Why teams should be interested
Barr is a prolific tackler.
The 6’0”, 225-pound Barr moves well, hits the hole running, and possess good lateral speed to pursue the ball and provide coverage against tight ends. In the past two seasons, Barr has accumulated 245 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two interceptions.
His 147 total tackles this past season ranked tied for fourth in all of FBS.
His relentlessness and ability to read the offense and find a gap show top-class instincts.
Barr may also be the most experienced prospect in this year’s draft class.
At 25, Barr was granted a rare seventh year of eligibility by the NCAA after injuries sidelined him for most of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons while at Towson.
And before you go ahead and make his injury history an automatic negative, remember that he has had two full consecutive healthy seasons.
NFL teams are not necessarily looking for rookies to instantly be locker room leaders, but Barr has the intangibles and work ethic to win over his new teammates fast.
Barr is not a track star.
However, he does move very fluid from sideline to sideline and is not very easily contained when doing so by pulling guards or tackles.
When you finish near the top of the NCAA in tackles, it shows a nose for the ball. Barr’s nose was in on plenty of plays.
What may give teams pause
As in, Barr is not a burner.
He makes plays by putting himself into great position. He reads the play, fills the lane and rarely misses the tackle.
He’ a great athlete, no doubt, but qualifying him as someone with elite speed like his UMass teammate Andy Isabella is too generous.
To be fair, despite the positives of his playing experience, his injury history does have to be considered.
He tore a pectoral muscle in 2013, missed 2014 with a similar injury and then had to rehab a torn ACL in 2015. Teams will want to do their due diligence prior to drafting Barr to be 100 percent sold on his health.
Some may look at Barr being 25 as a potential negative as well, instead of investing in someone 2-3 years younger. It shouldn’t matter at this age, but merits asking.
Mock drafts are not to be taken for gospel, but on the whole, are currently not projecting Barr to be drafted.
Barr is an ideal candidate to be drafted by teams with more than seven picks (especially more than two in final two rounds) for a great support reason: special teams.
With those aforementioned abilities to fill a lane, lend relentlessness pursuit and then make a sure tackle almost every time, I see Barr projecting as a backup linebacker for teams who run a 3-4 scheme, but more importantly, a special teams coverage ace.
In other words, that flowing hair would look real good under an NFL helmet on opening kickoffs for Sundays this fall.