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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Will Cowboys Wait On Defensive Line Help?

The Mark Barron to the Dallas Cowboys rumors continue to grow, as ESPN Dallas' Bryan Broaddus, a former NFL scout with a lot of connections in the Cowboys organization, has the team taking the Alabama SS in the first round:

14. Mark Barron S 6-1 213

Analysis: The Cowboys could trade back here because most of the defensive players they are holding out for are still on the board -- Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers, Courtney Upshaw and maybe Dre Kirkpatrick. They need a defensive end in the worst way. Cox visited, Brockers didn't. I don't feel as if they really like Upshaw at 14, and Kirkpatrick would have a better shot if they hadn't signed Brandon Carr. No DeCastro means that this is going to be a choice between Barron, Cox and Brockers. They grab the safety now and work on the defensive ends in the second or third rounds.

While the defensive line is considered a more premium position group that the defensive backfield, Barron is far and away the top safety prospect on the board. The National Football Post gives Barron a 7.0 rating, with the next highest SS (Harrison Smith of Notre Dame) grading out a 6.4.

In his senior season, Smith had 90 tackles, including 3 for loss, as well as 10 pass deflections. However, the 6'2 215 safety didn't have a single interception and he ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine, making people question whether he has the top-line speed to match up with NFL WR's in the slot:

Isn't a guy you want to trust to run with receivers down the field. However, because of his solid natural range and instincts, I can see him getting over the top and making plays in a center field type role as an NFL strong safety.

If the Cowboys think the drop-off between Barron and Smith is far greater than the ones in the defensive front seven, it could make their decision on draft day a lot easier.

In contrast to the safety position, there are eight defensive ends with at least a 6.4 grade, and if you include OLB's, the number of top pass rushers in this draft grows to nearly 20.

Smith's highlight tape from the 2012 season:

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Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.