2012 NFL Draft: Is Mark Barron a Safe Pick for Dallas Cowboys at Strong Safety?

Tom FirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 27, 2012

OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 15:  Defensive back Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide lines up against Mississippi on October 15, 2011 at Vaught- Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

Mark Barron of Alabama is a phenomenal talent at strong safety. He has the size, talent, skills and attitude to succeed as a safety in the NFL. However, the four-year player who started three years has his share of drawbacks. Before the Dallas Cowboys think much about Barron, they should weigh his baggage.

Barron's credentials are very high. He carries the reputation of a hard hitter who gets his share of interceptions and plays good zone coverage. At 6'2" and 218 pounds, Barron has great size for a safety. He is a good athlete. He runs quickly, has good timing and hand-eye coordination.

In 2009, Barron had seven interceptions. Last season, he had two, along with five pass deflections, as he made the All-American first team.

With all that said, he's too much of a risk for Jerry Jones to call his name for the Cowboys in the first round.

Barron has had a couple of serious injuries. In 2010, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a game against Auburn, which forced him to miss the Capital One Bowl and cancel his plans to enter the 2011 draft. This year, Barron had a double-hernia surgery, which forced him to miss the Senior Bowl and the combine.

He had been hoping to be back in working condition to participate in the Alabama pro day on March 7, but is now looking to work out for scouts in late March, per the Huntsville Times.

What's more concerning about the hernia is that Barron said it had been on and off for two years. Hernias are no laughing matter. They're excruciatingly painful for adults to endure, let alone work through for an entire football season.

While some might commend Barron for toughing it out, hernias are too much to work through. Playing through the pain of a hernia is nonsensical. He might have enjoyed the success and accolades of his senior season, but it came at a cost he's now paying.

Besides injuries. Barron has a criminal background. He was arrested in March 2011 for a misdemeanor hindering prosecution charge for not telling the full truth to police about a car accident. That's another caution flag on his record.

Barron's tally adds up to too much baggage for the Cowboys to handle.

The Cowboys would do better to draft a safety later in the draft if they wish. Duke Ihenaco, a strong safety from San Jose State, stands two inches shorter than Barron, but does everything that Barron does, and then some. Ihenaco, who projects for the fourth or fifth round, is a ball hawk who tackles better than Barron.

Harrison Smith of Notre Dame is about the same size as Barron, reads plays just as well, hits hard and makes plays.

Also, the free-agent market has its share of good strong safeties. Dashon Goldson hits the market after a big season for the San Francisco 49ers where he grabbed six interceptions.

Tom Zbikowski, a former Fighting Irish masher like Smith, has been an ominous presence on the Baltimore Ravens defense for the last three years. Zbikowski also excels on special teams.

Thus, the Cowboys have plenty of options as Abram Elam enters the market after an unsuccessful year with the Cowboys. Barron would be a huge risk, and likely wouldn't have the health to give much in return. Plenty of players could give the Cowboys greater productivity at a better price.