This has been one of the hardest years to determine who the Dallas Cowboys war room will decide on. We can narrow the list down to six names: Fletcher Cox, David DeCastro, Michael Brockers, Dontari Poe, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron. Each player would bring a much needed talent influx to their position group.
Safety continues to be one of the hardest positions to draft for in the NFL now. The quality of players coming out of college is at an all time low. Even the free agent safeties on the market isn't what it used to be. For whatever reason, the position is one of the hardest in sports to fill your roster out with.
The Cowboys have been no strangers to the safety dilemma. Since future Hall of Famer Darren Woodson retired, there has been a revolving door at safety in Dallas. Roy Williams looked like the next best thing since sliced bread, but he began to deteriorate due to his vicious style of play. Ken Hamlin parlayed a good 2007 season into a huge contract, but he also disappeared after his big pay day. Because of those two players, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been reluctant to hand out a large deal to a premier safety.
Gerald Sensabaugh signed a five-year $25 million dollar extension last season. With the way his contract is structured, he could be released after this year if he flames out as well. Sensabaugh is more of a strong safety playing out of position at free safety. While he is a solid player, he isn't the playmaker or leader the Cowboys desperately lack in the secondary.
Brodney Pool signed a one-year $1.2 million dollar contract last month. Pool is familiar with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's system, but he isn't a spectacular playmaker either. I do think Pool will be an upgrade over another Ryan pupil, Abram Elam. Adding Pool to the roster for that price was a good move, but the Cowboys should still consider looking at one of the best safeties in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Alabama's Mark Barron has the skill set that would be a tremendous upgrade over what we currently have on the team. He is a natural leader with great physical ability. Next year doesn't offer a strong safety class either, so if the Cowboys want to finally address the safety position, the time may be now.
- 22 years old
- 6'1, 213 pounds
- Consensus All-American
- First Team All-SEC
Barron is a player I have followed closely during his college career. He is known for his physical style, and he does have some Roy Williams in him. However, the two are different. Barron doesn't take the unnecessary hits: he will make his presence felt and dish out the big hit, but he does it smartly.
As a safety, he combines both coverage ability and physicality. Barron is much better in coverage than he is given credit for, and his 12 career interceptions indicates he has the ball skills to be a playmaker on the next level. Barron also had 5 career sacks and can be utilized on the safety blitz. He can pretty much do it all as a in the box safety who has the ability to play some centerfield.
One key component that is that he comes from a well coached program. Nick Saban produces quality football players that NFL teams and scouts love because they are pro-ready. A three-year starter from the SEC is an added bonus if you take Barron.
- Good size for the position
- Excellent instincts for the safety position
- Natural leader
- Great tackler
- Maintains good footwork and balance
- Good ball skills
- Good speed
- Can get beat over the top when he takes the wrong angles
- Needs to do a better job of tracking the football in the air, but has improved on this
- Could struggle in man coverage with wide receivers, running backs and tight ends
- Will take aggressive chances that will get him beat, he needs to limit this in the NFL
A few months ago, I thought Barron was going to be out of the first round completely due to a hernia injury. After a great pro day workout, he has re-established himself as the premier safety in the draft.
Pro Day Results
- 4.54 40 yard dash
- 34 1/2 vertical jump
- 10'02" broad jump
Barron is not 100 percent healthy due to surgery that was required for a double sports hernia injury. He had the surgery back in February, so for him to be running in the 4.5 range in the 40 yard dash already is quite impressive. His speedy recovery shows that he can recover from injuries at a fast rate. With the safety position being immensely physical, you feel more comfortable with a prospect who can recover from injuries in a timely manner.
Sports Illustrated writer Peter King recently released his mock draft. King suggests that the Cowboys should take Barron with the 14th overall pick. He also reports that the team really likes Barron, and I hope that is true.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see Dallas trade up to make sure it gets Barron, perhaps with Kansas City at 11," King wrote. "The Cowboys have no identity in the secondary. No big-time players either. Barron would immediately boost a unit that's been beaten down—and provide the kind of tackler at safety that the Boys haven't had since Darren Woodson."
I agree with King that Barron would provide the Cowboys with the type of safety they have been missing since Woodson retired. The Cowboys did send Jason Garrett to the Alabama pro day, so there is hope he was watching Barron closely there.
For whatever reason, the team has been reluctant to draft a safety high in the draft recently. Barron has the talent and leadership qualities that could bolster a secondary that has lacked a premier safety for a very long time.