2012 NFL Draft: Why Mark Barron Still Isn't a 1st Round Pick for Mel Kiper Jr

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 29, 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

Mel Kiper Jr. may well be one of the most knowledgeable NFL draft "experts" in all the land. But as is the case with any mock draft, Kiper isn't immune to projecting a first round choice that leaves a fella scratching his head.

In his latest mock draft for ESPN, the biggest puzzler is likely the Dallas Cowboys' selection of Alabama safety Mark Barron with the 14th overall pick.

The 6'2" 218-pound senior is likely the top prospect available at his position after a 2011 campaign in which he tallied 66 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions en route to being named a first team All-American. But Barron's not inconsiderable talents aside there are a number or reasons that selecting the Crimson Tide standout in the first round would be a reach at best.

Barron might have had a shot to stake his claim as a legitimate first rounder with a strong showing at the recently concluded scouting combine in Indianapolis. But Barron was unable to participate due to recent surgery to repair a sports hernia, which raises the sort of durability concerns that don't generally help a player's chances of being chosen in the top half of the first round.

Safeties also aren't generally considered a "premium" position in the NFL draft like cornerbacks, quarterbacks and offensive tackles. Given that only three safeties have been selected in the first round of the past four drafts, it seems unlikely that Barron would buck that trend.

Especially since only one of those players (Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs) was chosen earlier than where Kiper projects Barron will be picked

Also, while the secondary is absolutely an area of need for the Cowboys, cornerback is likely an even bigger hole in Big D than safety is. So if Dallas were to use their first round pick on the defensive backfield, it would probably be better spent on the likes of Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama than Barron.

This isn't to say that Mark Barron isn't a fine football player who may well become a standout in the National Football League. Possible that a team with a need at the position—like the New England Patriots—might take him towards the end of the first round (when safeties generally start coming off the board).

However, given his health, the Cowboys needs as a team, and the relative value of the position in the NFL draft it would be absolute folly for the Dallas Cowboys to select Mark Barron that early.

Perhaps if the esteemed Mr. Kiper would lay off the hairspray for a second and let the air clear he'd realize that.

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