The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is looking golden for Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. His two picks, Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater, have been selected to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl. The news, announced on the team’s official website Monday, gives the Vikings five representatives in this year’s game.
The two will play this Sunday in Honolulu, Hawaii as injury replacements. Bridgewater will take over the spot vacated by Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Barr will fill in for New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins. This is the first Pro Bowl selection for either player.
As the 9th-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Barr was viewed as a project player for Mike Zimmer and staff. He quickly shed that label, and in two seasons, has become arguably the Vikings’ most explosive and important defender. This year, he had 68 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles, and seven defended passes. With his size and athletic ability, Barr can rush the passer, defend against the run, and drop into coverage; a skill set he didn’t possess when he entered the league just two season ago. But according to Zimmer, Barr’s intangibles and “football IQ” make him the perfect fit in Minnesota:
“He sees things fast and that combination in guys and once he continues to develop some more strength and then some of the other things he still needs to work on. There really is no limit for his athletic ability for him because he has the other intangibles besides just being an athlete.”
On the other side of the football, Bridgewater didn’t light up the stat sheets like other Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Still, the quarterback’s complementary play and on-target passes earned him a trip to Hawaii this week. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater was the league’s most accurate quarterback this season and completed an adjusted 79.3 percent of his passes. And Rich Gannon, a former Vikings quarterback, believes Bridgewater will continue to grow as a passer.
“I think he can make great strides in those early years as he gets stronger in his core, legs, back and shoulders,” Gannon said, per Charley Walters. And he’s in a good situation — he’s got a good coach (Norv Turner) around him. He’s going to be a good, solid player in this league.”