Hopefully Mark Barron will be chilling on the Cowboys sideline in 2012.
Throughout the draft process I stayed persistent in my feelings for Melvin Ingram and David DeCastro. If either one of those players were available when the Cowboys went on the clock, they would be an instant producer for them. The problem is, I am not so sure if either one will be available at 14. I believe the Cowboys are heavily interested in DeCastro, but they may not be in love with Ingram because of his size.
Since the NFL Combine in February, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has been a fast riser on draft boards. His name has been associated with the Cowboys, plus they also brought him in for a closer look. Cox reminds me a lot of Corey Liuget, a disruptive five technique who would be a welcomed sight to the defensive line.
Cox is another player who may not be available when we go on the clock. I really like his upside as a young player, but I am not blown away by his game tape as others are. He really does look like a good football player in the making, but I am not seeing some of the dynamic features I look for in a top-fifteen selection. That doesn't mean I wouldn't welcome Fletcher with open arms, it just means I think there may be better options available.
Take the jump for more draft goodies....
The prospect who has really begun to take off around the NFL circuit is Alabama safety Mark Barron. The New England Patriots have been rumored to be gaga over the physical safety. My fellow BTB cohort One.Cool.Customer wrote a great article about the Patriots recent interest. Check that outstanding post out again, but also be sure to check the video links out at the end. The video of Rod Woodson interviewing Barron gives you a good feel for the type of player he wants to be. There is a second video where the two workout and Woodson gives the young safety some tips.
Barron has been a player I have supported for a very long time. I didn't have him rated extremely high on my big board early on, but since he has recovered from his double sports hernia injury at an amazingly fast pace, he is beginning to rise in the rankings.
Writing about Barron the past year has been a joy because of how desperately the Cowboys need a good safety in their secondary. Even when I was still writing FanPosts, I was mentioning how Barron would be the best safety we have had since Darren Woodson retired.
The past few years, there has been a serious decline on the quality of safeties entering the league. It's hard determine the reason behind this, there isn't a clear cut rationale behind it. Maybe because of the evolution of the passing game, safeties have more on their plate to handle. The safety position is truly one of the hardest positions in all of sports, not just football.
Look at the some of the traits you see in the few good safeties around the league.
- Physical- Every good safety has some degree of physical play in their game. You don't have to be an MMA fighter, but you do have to lay the wood every now and then.
- Athletic- Not only do you have to be physical, you have to be a great athlete. As a safety, you are exactly that, the last line of defense. Covering a lot of ground quickly and changing direction is a must.
- Speed- People overrate the 40 yard dash when it comes to the NFL, but speed is important. Keeping up with receivers and tight ends is a must as a safety in the NFL. It's not about being able to run in a straight line either, some forget that. Quickness may be more important than one's top speed as a safety.
- Footwork- Having good footwork can make the difference between a deep touchdown or an incomplete pass. Safeties learn to limit wasted motion in order to make plays on the football faster. This is something that does take time and experience to master, but once you learn it, you become a really good football player.
- Ball Skills- This is what separates an average safety from a good one. Average safeties will not intercept the football, but the good one's manage to come away with the interceptions leading to big plays.
- Instincts- So a safety has to be a great athlete right? Yes, but they also have to be intelligent. The leader of the secondary is usually one of the safeties. They can call the audibles for the secondary and motion to the rest of the defense about the impending play. Some of the best leaders are safeties.
Reading over that list makes me realize how hard it is to play safety in the NFL. The reason Mark Barron is rising so high is that he really is the complete package as a prospect. He stands out in every aspect as a safety prospect.
A lot of the folks on BTB have commented that Barron reminds them of former Cowboys safety Roy Williams. Personally, I just don't see the comparisons. The two are similar in the fact that both liked to hit, but just because Barron loves to be physical doesn't necessarily make him the next Roy Williams. 12 career college interceptions should count for something. He may be more of an in-the-box safety, but do not underestimate his ability to play the centerfielder role.
Yahoo! Sports has released their scouting segment, "The Shutdown 50", the past few years leading up until the draft. It really is a good read because they analyze 50 of the best players in the draft. Mike Tanier recently released his take on Barron.
As stated above, Barron knows what he is doing. He lined up as both a free and strong safety at Alabama, alone in deep coverage and in Cover-2, in the box as a blitzer, short-zone defender, and force defender, and anywhere else a safety can find himself. Barron adjusted to sudden assignment changes because of defensive audibles and/or formation shifts; it was not unusual to see him start at deep safety, then race to the line to blitz after offensive motion. He should have no trouble mastering a complex defense.
The last sentence really hit home because of the defensive coordinator we have. Rob Ryan loves his complex scheme, but he is lacking some of the intelligent players to run it. Gerald Sensabaugh has made it well known publicly that he doesn't want to be the vocal leader of the secondary. If you have ever watched Barron while at Alabama, you will have noticed him leading the secondary. He is constantly being a vocal leader and motioning hand signals.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has done an excellent job preparing Barron for the next level. I see Barron as the ultimate RKG that Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan would love to have in their organization. He is a smart player with the physical ability that should make a great football player in the NFL. His experience as a three-year starter in the SEC only enhances his ability as a pro-ready prospect.
In the same Mike Tanier article, he points out the Cowboys' recent supposed love affair for Barron. The comparison to Adrian Wilson really sells me even more on wanting Barron rocking a star on the side of his helmet. Imagine having the quality safety Wilson is without the injuries, that sounds very appealing to me.
The pre-draft scuttlebutt has the Dallas Cowboys eager to select Barron. The Cowboys also selected big, hard-hitting safety Roy Williams back in 2002. Barron is better than Williams. That is hardly faint praise: Williams played in five Pro Bowls, though the last few were reputation selections. Barron provides all the hits, better pass coverage, and despite his combine remarks, a lower probability of having an illegal tackle named in his honor.
NFL Comparison: Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals
One NFL analyst that I have the utmost respect for is former general manager Charley Casserly. Remember that this is the man who passed on Reggie Bush and Vince Young for Mario Williams. Casserly has a great article about where he thinks Barron matches up with the other safeties drafted recently.
Barron is 6-foot-1, 213 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.5's. He is very smart; Nick Saban runs a complex defense at Alabama and Barron had no problem understanding it. He should be able to be the defensive signal caller for his NFL team. He is very athletic and has the ability to play man coverage versus tight ends, which is not common in a safety. He is also exceptional when playing zone defense. Barron has excellent instincts to break on the ball and the speed to cover a lot of ground. As a physical player and fine tackler, he often played linebacker in Alabama's nickel defense. When I evaluate Barron as a safety, I do not see anything he can't do. To me, he's a very safe pick.
Once again, Barron's intelligence to run a complex scheme is brought into focus. This is one smart cookie who has the physical tools to become a premier safety, but he is also a safe pick. There are very few "safe" prospects anymore. In my opinion, Barron falls under the safe category, but also has immense upside. I believe he will only continue to grow as a football player with more experience and coaching. The Cowboys have neglected the safety position for far too long to overlook him next Thursday night.
I am in love with Ingram and DeCastro, but Barron has really grown on me the past few weeks. Maybe it's because the Patriots want him so badly, or maybe it is because he is such a good football player at a position of need. Every year we hear how the next draft will be loaded with safety talent, but I am tired of waiting. If Barron is available when the Cowboys go on the clock, it may be the right time to finally add the type of safety who could change the direction of our franchise for a very long time.
It looks like I may be all in on Barron. Does anyone want to join me?