As we move toward the second round of the draft, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at a few scouting reports on Mark Barron, so we can get a better feel for the Bucs' first-round pick.
Mocking the Draft:
Final word: Barron has nice strength, on-field intelligence and three years of starting experience on the nation's best defense. Although no area of Barron's game is elite, he's fair and away the best safety in the 2012 NFL Draft. He should be able to contribute in the NFL immediately at strong safety. Has had some injury issues. Missed the NFL Combine with a sports hernia. Tore a pectoral muscle in 2010, which knocked him out of the team's bowl game.
Barron played a lot of man coverage at Alabama. Don't know where idea he's just box safety came from. Multi-dimensional safety. Worth it.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 27, 2012
Love Barron. Absolutely one of 7 best players in draft. Great player at need position. Idea is to draft players better than ones on roster.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 27, 2012
Barron not a single high safety consistently (not that kind of pure range) but can easily be a half field defender in 2 deep shells.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) March 31, 2012
Maybe I'm missing something but I saw Barron do everything at ALA, inc. man-to-man. Only thing he'd struggle with is single high safety.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 8, 2012
Safety another position not valued highly. Will that change in this TE era? Barron easily best S in draft. Multiple skill set. Played man.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) March 31, 2012
Impression: Has the makings of a heck of a special teams player who can also attack downhill vs. the run game, play inside the box and drive on the football in front of him in the pass game. Isn't going to be a major threat turning and tracking the football, but his improved instincts makes me think he can start in the league early on.
Conclusion: The man coverage liability limits Barron's long-term potential. He will never develop into the Troy Polamalu-Ed Reed class of safeties. There is a whole class of excellent, productive defenders just below Polamalu and Reed, however, and Barron should join that group sooner than later. Drop him deep, and you will get some interceptions and dependable support coverage. Stick him in the box and he will beef up the run defense. Use him in a Giants-style "heavy nickel" defense with three safeties, and he can provide mistake-free coverage in short zones while providing a potential blitz weapon.
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.
What he brings: The No. 1 thing that jumps out when you watch Barron's film is his instincts. He's always in position to make the play, whether he's defending the run or in coverage. He's not just a fundamentally sound player, either. He shows above-average range in coverage and he can deliver the big hit in run support.
How he fits: The secondary was a tremendous area of weakness a year ago and they just gave up a lot -- they were 31st in the NFL in average gain per pass play -- and plenty of those came between the hashes. Their safeties are nondescript both versus the run and the pass. While this has been a Cover 2 zone-type secondary in the past, we will see more man-to-man looks under new coach Greg Schiano. We actually could see Barron team with Ronde Barber inside in some packages. He is a playmaker in every area. He will give this defense a lot of the big plays they've been missing the past couple of years in both man and zone.