The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

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Jonathan Bales

With all of the attention being paid to the interior line, outside linebacker and cornerback, a lot of people are forgetting the Cowboys could still benefit greatly from securing an elite safety.  Gerald Sensabaugh is here to stay, but Abram Elam wasn’t great in 2011.  Is the position worth a first-round pick?  It depends on what the team plans to do in free agency.

Alabama’s Mark Barron is the consensus top safety in this year’s draft class.  He’s viewed as a pure strong safety, and while that description is accurate, I think he’s far more versatile than people think.  Here is what I observed on film. . .

Scouting Report

At 6’2”, 210 pounds, Mark Barron has ideal size for a strong safety.  He carries that weight pretty well, possessing adequate (not great) speed but superior change of direction ability.  Check out the 24 second mark below, where Barron initially gets beat.  The clip might look meaningless, but you can see just how quickly Barron is capable of flipping his hips to get into position.  Abram Elam ain’t doing that.

Most scouts claim Barron is an “in the box” safety, and this is partially true.  He does excel in the box, succeeding when he can fly up in run support or play short zones such as in Cover 3.  He reads the quarterback’s eyes well and has the quickness to jump underneath receivers.

Barron’s deep coverage is underrated, though.  He will not be a full-time “centerfield” safety in the NFL, but he can play there from time to time.  Check out the 1:58 and 2:44 marks below.  You can see Barron is capable of playing the deep middle, particularly when he locates the ball.  He is going to struggle in man coverage or other times when he has to turn and locate the football late.

Barron’s bread and butter is tackling, however.  He diagnoses plays very quickly and flies up in run support (as at the 44 second mark).  He is an exciting to player to watch and one who could add some much-needed nastiness to the Dallas defense.  On the very next play, Barron displays good sideline-to-sideline ability.

Barron reminds me of a young Brian Dawkins in that he isn’t afraid to lay a lick on ball-carriers but also isn’t a glorified linebacker.  Barron is far superior to Dawkins in coverage, though.  His most valuable trait is his versatility, as he played free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback and even linebacker at Alabama.  With so many responsibilities, it is impressive that Barron seems to play with proper leverage and remember his responsibilities.  On a defense that was so loaded with talent that everyone probably appears better than they were, Barron still stands out to me.

Projection

Barron is probably going to be a first-round selection, but it will likely come in the later portion of the round.  He could even slip into the second round due to concerns about his speed and change of direction (which I don’t share with others).  So what is Dallas to do? Trading down is an option, and I would have no issue with the team selecting him in the early-20s (or later) and securing pretty significant compensation for the move.  Easier said than done, of course.

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Picks

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

 

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24 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Nice analysis.

    But this guy isn’t worth a 14th overall pick (unless the Patriots are the team doing the picking).

  2. Oh..no doubt about that. He’s a guy for which to trade down or one to scoop up if he falls. It is a shame he is the top safety in the class, because if there was an Earl Thomas type in this draft, he could fall into the second.

  3. john coleman says:

    JB-Your comment says it all,” It is a shame he is the top safety in the class, because if there was an Earl Thomas type he could fall to the 2nd. I have been saying that this class has a serious lack of sure top flight talent. (plug and play guys) It seems that the 2nd and 3rd rds could be larger in legitimate talent grades. I have heard a lot of banter about this CB class being deep. Deep,yes, deeply average. The elite characteristics are simply not there. Height, weight, speed and skills all in one are very hard to find. IMO the safety market has been thin for a while now and is largely responsible for not only our needs at the position, but a league wide shortage.

    With all of that said- I advocate staying at the 14th pick only if we believe the player comes in and plays as the starter from day one. For example, DeCastro, and I’m mixed about his ceiling, comes in and starts effectively, Day 1. How many of this years pool can we say that about. Example, Nick Perry, huge potential and decent production, but is he 3 down NFL ready.

    Finally- I both read and personally converse with folks that have a lot of opinions on our current players. Many say cut Spencer, let him walk. Truth is that he is a strong 3 down player and is knocked only because he doesn’t match Ware’s sack numbers. Ware is the league’s best. I would point out that Spencer had the same sack total as Clay Matthews. Then there is Laurent Robinson and again many say let him walk. Truth is he had equal production to Superfly Dez in less games and more Td’s. He obviously also is on the same wavelength as Romo. Another is Elam who is mentioned in this article. Sure he had a quiet year. IMO that’s good. He was servicable and could be at least competant backup again. So if possible let’s stay with the proven commodity. If possible means, reasonable short term contracts that are incentive laden. Only Newman must go. For 9 years I have read 41 and Newman on the back of his jersey, while he was trying to catch the guy who just burnt him. Just my 2 cents worth.

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JC,

    I agree w/ your assessment – there aren’t many in this class that really project to be elite. Outside of Luck, RGIII, Richardson and DeCastro, can anyone really defend another prospect as the next HoF potential player.

    If you look at history, HoF players are rarely labled as such while prospects. Peyton Manning is about the last one I’ve heard of. Since then, there have been several QB that have been drafted, many as the 1st overall pick, that are good but have never been thought of as superstar / one of the best ever / etc.

    That’s why is it SO important that when a guy like that DOES come along, that you do everything you can to get them. Usually, when a guy is labled as such, even if they don’t quite live up to the hype, they’re rarely horrible. They are at least solid players.

    Andrew Luck – compared to Elway for 2 yrs now. Even if he isn’t the next Elway, he’ll be pretty good. Same for RGIII. Same for Trent Richardson (I heard a AP comparison on ESPN radio just yesterday). And the same for DeCastro.

    Screw VORP or BPA or whatever strategy you think works. The strategy that is needed is “GET the ELITE PROSPECT NOW.”

  5. Tom says:

    Agree with you guys, Barron probably will go towards end of the 1st, depending on his Combine/workout numbers, IMO. Another weak safety class aside from him. Might have to look at the bigger CB’s and see if any project well to FS (like the kid from Montana as an example).

    Still like DeCastro as the pick @14. Unless a legit pass rusher emerges over the next month, in which case you would have to consider him. My example here would be Mecilus, a very intriguing prospect. Probably will be reading his scouting report soon.

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    JB – I agree this draft class doesn’t appear to be loaded with many “sure thing” prospects, so, that said, I wouldn’t have any problem with us trading down and landing Barron. Again, though, I’m somewhat hesitant to jump on the bandwagon for `Bama players as a rule because the defense as a whole was so talented and well-coached. I think that makes individual players look better than they really are, in many cases. I used to have the same issue with Nebraska guys, many of whom maxed out as college players, never getting any better in the NFL. Not saying that’s definitely the case with Barron, but that it needs to be factored in.

    JC – I keep hearing how we should think twice about replacing Spencer with a better pass rusher because he’s such a good run stopper. Well, my argument there is, when isn’t that the case? IOW, how many of your better pass rushers are also great run stoppers? Very damn few.

    It seems to me a very logical thing that much of the time you’re going to lose some run stopping ability to gain a better pass rush. The questions are, is the gain in pass rush worth the loss, and, can you replace that loss with better run play elsewhere? I say yes, because you MUST have a pass rush and you can always find run stoppers. If the money’s right, I wouldn’t mind keeping Spencer, but if some team is willing to pay the guy anything in the ballpark of elite OLB money, then he should go. We can get another run stopper, it’s the pass rush we need, though personally, I think we need it more from one of the D-linemen. But 3-4 linemen who can mount a consistent pass rush are rare as hen’s teeth, so we gotta do what we gotta do.

    For the record, I’m still much against any O-lineman at #14, my thinking being we need to address that area (OL) in free agency one way (Expensive All Pro Nicks) or the other (Cheaper & lesser, but still a solid player) and use our premium draft pick(s) on defense. I can’t see how anyone can logically argue against me on this one.

  7. Great comments here, and Barron looks like a guy who simply won’t be in range for Dallas to grab him, unless they make a move.

    BTW..preview of what’s to come..I did two articles for USA Today which will be out in their draft preview magazine..one on the best and worst drafts since 2000 (Dallas 2001 being one of the worst), and another a mock draft. I brought that up because as I begin my mocks, I don’t see DeCastro dropping. I know he’s a guard, but there are a lot of teams right ahead of Dallas that could use him and I think he’s just too dominant to fall. I currently have the Cowboys drafting Devon Still, and I see a HUGE difference between he and DeCastro.

    Also..I will be working on an assessment of CB Stanford Routt, in whom Dallas is rumored to have interest.

  8. Vince_Grey says:

    Tyrone – Of the players you mentioned, I would only list Luck as a “Once in a decade” type player.

    At this point, RGIII is more hype than anything else. He’s reportedly on the smaller side (For an NFL QB, which I agree may or may not mean much in the long run, but still…), and I don’t see his game translating so effortlessly to the NFL as Luck’s does. While I agree he has vast upside, he also has vast bust potential as well.

    As for Richardson, he’s a RB, and they’re a dime a dozen. No way would I take a RB these days high in the 1st round. Really, not even in the 1st period.

    JB – I wanted to bring up DeCastro here, because I want you to tell me how you factor in (If you do at all) the difference, in wins, you see even this so-called future super multi all-pro GUARD would have on a team vs a rock solid, play the run strong and get 7-10 sacks a year, make-the-Pro-Bowl-a-few times, but never all pro DE would have.

    I say the defensive player, though a lesser talent, would benefit the team, MORE, MUCH MORE, than any guard.

    Bottom line, there’s only so much difference a truly great guard vs a solid guard can make on any squad.

  9. Vince–First of all, agree on Richardson. I just did a mock for USA Today and had him falling out of the Top 10 because teams simply don’t overdraft RBs anymore.

    I’m going to disagree on the G/DE comparison. First, a 7-10 sack guy at a five-technique spot is a Pro Bowler, period. If you are comparing a Pro Bowl 3-4 DE and a Pro Bowl guard, I don’t really see a difference in value to a team. The interior line’s importance is so underrated, and the production of a five-technique will almost always be low. I think you simply need to evaluate on a case-by-case basis, and I see DeCastro as one of the top guard prospects since I’ve “scouted” players.

    Also, the production of a five-technique has A LOT to do with scheme and gap responsibility, while guard evaluation, although varying somewhat, is generally about the same from team to team.

  10. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    VG,

    Actually, I forgot Kalil. If you think Tyron Smith was good, watch Kalil – he’s the next Jake Long.

    Agree w/ JB. 7-10 sacks a year from a 3-4 DE is all pro work. Doing so w/ some consistency, which I’m sure you’d hope for, is Bruce Smith, Howie Long, Leonard Marshall, Jerry Ball type work. Definite HOF potential – and I don’t see Brockers, Quinn or Still as those guys. Not saying they won’t or can’t if given the opportunity, I’m just saying it’d be fairly surprising.

    However, DeCastro being a multiple all-pro OG wouldn’t be. In fact, at this point, it’s somewhat the expectation. Everything I read about the kid (and this is pre-combine / pre pro-day) isall – the kid doesn’t miss blocks. He’s impressive at the 2nd level. He grades out consistently 95% and above game after game. He’s compared to one of the best OGs to ever play the game in Steve Hutchinson.

    Let’s say he ends up not being that – chances are he’d be at LEAST good to solid. He’d be better than any of the OGs currently on the team and would hold a starting job for the next 7-12 years (barring injury). He’d start and retire w/ the same team. More importantly, he’d be MUCH cheaper than Nicks for the 1st 5 years (probably 40% of the price).

    Now, drafting him at 14 seems to be a problem for you. Well, you yourself mentioned that good RBs are a dime a dozen and don’t warrant a 1st round pick. Well, when do you draft a RB that expected to be elite? One that compares to AP or Barry Sanders or Walter Payton? Would it be a stretch to draft that guy w/ a top 10 pick? Same reasoning applies to all positions – if a good FB can be had in the 6th round, when do you draft an proposed elite one? Is the 5th round a stretch?

    Is it risky to go against “conventional” thinking and make an exception when warranted? Of course it is. But the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. If Dallas continues to draft interior O lineman w/ picks normally reserved for elite talent, then acquiring an elite OG shouldn’t be expected. And, quite simply, the value of an elite player at ANY position, is better than a solid one at the same position – even if it is just an OG.

    Let’s say DeCastro doesn’t live up to all the hype. That’s a possibility. But, he will, most likely, be at least solid. That’s start in the league for 7-12 years solid (barring major injury). That’s better than any OG on the team now solid. And that’s also probably more than 50% cheaper than Nicks solid. DeCastro makes more economic sense – and that’s even if he ends up not being as good as projected. Just think of the result if he is…

    So, I’m in favor of taking the chance on DeCastro (who fills a moderate need) than I am on drafting a defensive player who’s projected to be above average just because they fill a bigger need. Smart teams fill whichever needs they can w/ the best available players over time – not all in one year. Bypassing a better player for a lesser player of need makes no sense.

  11. Wow…incredibly well-argued, Tyrone. Do you mind if I put this in the blog section? Dead serious.

  12. Derek says:

    JB, could you do a report on Harrison Smith, the safety from Notre Dame? I like his name, as a fellow Smith. So, I watched some of his tape. I played safety – when I played High School football. And Darren Woodson was always my favorite Cowboy – he probably still is. I always see the defense from a safety’s perspective, and I like to see players who actually play it well.

    I’m not impressed by Barron. He seems fast enough and strong enough, and I’m sure he’ll be good but not first round good.

    Since The Cowboys likely won’t trade back to get Barron and should take either DiCastro, Still, or Jenkins (I can’t help but want a play-making corner after all these dreadful years – I was a huge Newman fan, and I always expected him to turn the corner. His season last year broke my heart) with their first pick, I think they should take a safety in the second. Top safeties make a defense much better – just look to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, San Diego, Indianapolis when Bob Sanders played, The Giants, and the 49ers.

    Sensabaugh is good enough. I think he deserves the contract he got. I like Abe Elam, but a top notch defense needs a top notch safety. I think Harrison Smith could be it. I think he’s underrated. He looks better than Barron to me, but he’s ranked either number 2 or further down, depending on where you look. My eyes tell me he’s a top guy. But I suppose I’d trust you over my lying eyes. So, could you do a scouting report on him?

    I like that he was a captain, has the measurables, seems smart, and seems to make plays. His highlight tape against Stanford shows what he can do against a top QB, too. Thanks.

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  15. Derek–will do! I am going to get to a few of the bigger-name prospects first, but I will put Smith on my list. Shoot me an email at the end of next week if you still haven’t seen a feature on him.

    Agree totally on Newman…you probably know I was on his bandwagon his entire career, but I admit I was wrong on his play-making ability..he has (or had) elite coverage ability, but horrendous ball skills. Agree on Sensy as well..underrated player.

  16. Vince_Grey says:

    JB and TJ – Okay, while I disagree on the idea that a 3-4 end who averages say, 8 sacks during his peak years is a for sure Pro Bowl starter (Which, when I say “Pro Bowler” is what I mean, not just some 3rd string alternate guy), that’s not the point.

    Re-phrasing, let’s say we compare a “pretty good”, above average, but not great, 3-4 DE (Say he averages about 5 sacks per year.) to the next multi-time All Pro guard. The question is, which player is more valuable? Well, based on pay, that DE would likely command more money than the guard in the open market, if all other factors (Age, health, attitude, intelligence) were comparable.

    The fact is, in the NFL great guards are not that valuable, and by that I mean the difference between a solid NFL starter and an All-Pro. Our line suffered not because we didn’t have any all pro interior linemen, it suffered because we had some below average interior linemen. If all three played at or slightly above average, with Smith becoming an all pro soon, and Free playing good, that’s a good enough line to win a SB. With the the O-line, it’s weak link(s) that kill you, not the lack of super stars.

    TJ – We can get or sign a good/pretty good guard (Not Nicks) either in FA or later in the draft. Taking one at 14 is a waste of resources.

    As for the RB question, when it’s so easy to find a 1400-1500/4.5 ypc RB in the 2nd, 3rd, or later rounds, why spend a high 1st on one guy who alone might get you 1700/5.0?

    Or let’s look at the Vikings: In 2007 they took AP at #7. They could have waited a bit and had Patrick Willis or D Revis… and then taken Matt Forte in the 2nd round the next year.

    And why did the Vikings need AP that much anyway? Chester Taylor was coming off a 1216 yard season. AP had 1345 his rookie year. The team made the huge jump in wins from 6-10 to 8-8. Big whoop.

    Is Forte a better RB than AP? Probably not, though it’s debatable, but for damn sure Forte AND either Revis or Willis are better than just AP alone.

    The question isn’t whether a great RB is worth a high 1st, it’s this: Can you find an almost as good RB later on and use that precious upper 1st rounder on a position that’s hard to find, like elite pass rusher, or dominant LT.

    THAT’S how you work the draft.

    I await any rebuttals.

  17. Vince_Grey says:

    BTW, I totally agree with Derek that having a great, play-making safety makes a HUGE impact on a defense, more so than a great corner, (though less than an a top end pass rusher). Once we get a that pass rusher in the 1st at DE (preferably) or OLB, I would have no problem at all drafting Barron in the 2nd, but what if it where to cost us, say a 3rd or 4th, to trade up a little to get him? Worth it? I’m on the fence with that scenario and want to hear some other opinions.

    JB – About time you came around on Newman and his lack of making plays. Pretty good corner, not great by any means, and definitely not worth a top 10 pick.

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  19. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JB, feel free to post away. Use any and all portions / no bibliographical reference needed.

    VG, I seriously think you undervalue the position of OG, not too mention a pro bowl caliber one, but that’s neither here nor there. I will agree with you that there’s a line or point where a 3-4 DEs production is SO much better than an OG, that the DE is more valuable. However, the exact reverse applies as well and is my whole point – that in this year’s specific draft, there aren’t any 3-4 DE (or DT or OLB or CB) prospects within reach of pick 14 that are expected to produce so much more (over an entire career) that drafting them is a better strategy than drafting DeCastro. Can you think of a 3-4 DE or even a DT that is within reach of Dallas that can compare to DeCastro? Brockers? If this years draft contained a player like Suh or McCoy or even JJ Watt (that were within reach of Dallas’ selection), then that’s a different story. But for this year, according to your arguement, DeCastro is the better value.

    Maybe next year will be a different story. But, I wouldn’t put off drafting DeCastro just because there’s a chance that next year a better DE will be available. And, when you factor in that in the upcoming years Dallas is expected to improve, hopefully, they will be picking later and later. That in and of itself makes it less likely for any DE picked this year or the next will ever produce more than DeCastro will.

    Lastly, I’ve never been a fan of “good enough.” Passing on the best available player because one can be acquired later who’s less talented but is still good enough is a defeatest attitude. VORP is a failed way of thinking and is part of the reason why Dallas is in the boat they’re in. They could’ve drafted Stefan Wisniewski or Marcus Gilbert or a few others last year but didn’t – opting for Arkin in the 4th because he was thought to be good enough. Chances are, Arkin may just end up starting because he’s the best option available but will never be elite nor would he crack the lineup for another team. And that was the decision coming off a year where Romo was injured after the FB missed blocking a LB who blitzed up the middle. Instead, the Boys opted to take a better overall player in the 2nd round – even though he was injured – because his upside and potential over an entire NFL career is better.

    Further, if top 10 picks are so valuable and should only be used on certain positions (OG not one of them), what other positions are off-limits? FS? RB (now)? With that logic, the #1 pick each year should be a QB since that position is the most important on any team.

  20. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    And, let me also mention…AP is an elite back. Do you honestly think that Minn should’ve passed on him because of Chester Taylor having 1200 yds the year prior?

    CT had been in the league 6 years at that point and that was his 1st year w/ more than 1000 yards in a season. AP had 125 more yards than that his rookier year and 1800 yds rushing and receiving just 2 years later when the Vikings lost to the Saints in OT for the Conf championship. What has CT done since his 2006 season w/ the Vikes?

    As far as bypassing AP – neither Willis nor Revis was projected to be elite. They were both expected to be very good players – but itheir production/success has been more than what expected (including the teams that drafted them). AP was no suprise.

    Teams draft according to the information they have at the time. AP was projected to be better than both Willis, Revis and certainly Forte. In fact, Forte is a receiving back that thrives in a Mike Martz system – put him w/ the Vikings and he’s average. Now that Martz is retired, let’s see who Forte really is. But AP is an elite back in just about any system…

    You don’t pass on elite talent – ever!

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