Yesterday, the interwebs lit up with with rumors that the Patriots were looking hard at Mark Barron, and were potentially looking to move up ahead of the Cowboys to get him. Tom E. Curran from CSNNE.com was one of many sources reporting the Patriots' interest:
"I am hearing from multiple sources that if the Patriots were to make a move and move up in this draft it would be for Mark Barron of Alabama. He’s a safety, but he’s a guy the Dallas Cowboys with the 14th overall pick might be making a run at."
The Patriots do not have a big history of trading up. Instead, they have traditionally preferred to stockpile picks, especially in the second and third rounds, in the hopes of increasing their mathematical chances of hitting on a prospect or two. If they are indeed targeting Mark Barron, they might have to trade up ahead of the Cowboys, and with four picks in the first two rounds, the Patriots could do this without even breaking a sweat.
On Monday, Peter King of SI.com put Mark Barron on his list of rising prospects for the draft. On Wednesday, Charley Casserly of the NFL Network called him the "Draft's hottest prospect" and Don Banks, also of SI.com, writes that the Cowboys have been fairly well locked in on the Crimson Tide safety for weeks now.
Yet among Cowboys fans, there is much debate about whether Barron is even worth the 14th pick. After the break, we look at what some draft analysts had to say about Barron in recent days.
Mark Barron underwent double hernia surgery earlier in the year and missed both the Senior Bowl, the Combine and the first Alabama Pro Day on March 7 as a result. He did finally work out at Alabama's second Pro Day on March 29 - with Jason Garrett in attendance - and recorded a 4.54 40 Yrd Dash, a 34 1/2 vertical jump and a 10'02" broad jump. Barron himself said he was "somewhere between 80 and 90 percent healthy" when he worked out at the second Pro day.
The uncertainty over his injury status, and the absence from almost all prospect evaluation events meant that analysts and draftniks were understandably cautious about his status and penciled him in as a late first round pick in many early mocks. Now that Barron has passed the rigorous injury pre-draft injury inspection during with his workouts, analysts are once again focusing on his college production and achievements and are coming away quite impressed:
Barron was a unanimous first-team All-American (2011), Jim Thorpe Award finalist (2011), Chuck Bednarik Award semifinalist (2011), first-team All-SEC (2011, 2010, 2009) and All-SEC Freshman Team (2008). From 2009-2011, Barron recorded 34 passes defended (PD) and 12 INTs. Just for comparison, Morris Claiborne had 23 PDs and 11 INTs in two years, Dre Kirkpatrick had 19 PDs and 3 INTs in two years, Stephon Gilmore had 23 PDs and 7 INTs in three years and Janoris Jenkins had 33 PDs an 8 INTs in three years.
The NFL Draft Advisory Committee gave him a grade of 90, which makes him the 10th highest graded player in this year's draft class, and the number two defensive back after Morris Claiborne (91.5).
Mike Mayock, in a conference call yesterday said
"Barron is one of the best players in this draft and I think he's going to go between 10 and 15."
And here's what Nolan Nawrocki from Pro Football Weekly picked up from an unnamed NFL source:
Barron was only about 85 percent recovered from surgery at his (pro-day) workout. He didn’t do any of the shuttles or quick movement stuff, but he ran and performed drills. He is the real deal. He is solid. You know exactly what you are getting."
Regardless of whether you think of Barron as more of an in-the-box safety that can hit like a linebacker and can cover tight ends,or whether you think he can also be a ball-hawking, centerfield-type player, the fact is that Barron is a safety with great range and ball skills to make big plays. Additionally, whichever team drafts him will get a proven field general for their defense.
No wonder the Patriots want to trade up for Barron, and no surprise that he is at the very top of the Cowboys' wish list. And don't rule out the Eagles or Jets making a play for Barron either. Yesterday, Bill Jones picked up on the Patriots' willingness to trade up for Barron, and asked the following question:
NE reportedly wants to trade up to 13 to take Mark Barron? So, Cowboys fans, would u trade 1st (14) & 3rd (81) to NE for two 1sts (27 &31)?— Bill Jones (@cbsdollarbill) April 19, 2012
Well, would you? Or would you follow this trusted piece of NFL wisdom:
"Never trade with New England. They win every time. When the Patriots call, you hang up the phone."
And with a big tip of the hat to BTB Member ProBowlFactory, here are three video links to NFL Networks in which Barron is featured on Game Changers.
SB Nation draft profile: