Mark Barron: The next elite NFL safety?

By Gil Alcaraz IV

It’s not very often that a safety is a Top 10 draft pick these days. But when one does come off the board that early, it’s safe to assume that there’s a good reason for it.

The case is no different for Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Mark Barron, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Hailing from Alabama, Barron brings an intimidating factor to the backend of the Buccaneers defense that they haven’t seen since the days of John Lynch. And evidenced by the plethora of Crimson Tide defenders that were drafted in the early rounds this past April, you know that you’re getting a gamer when you select one of Nick Saban’s former students.

What really makes the 6’2’’, 218-pound Barron dangerous are his phenomenal instincts, great size for a safety and knack for consistently making impact plays. Like a lion, Barron prowls the middle of the field for unsuspecting prey, picking off passes and punishing receivers who dare enter his zone. He’s one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the 2012 draft class, which he also uses to provide excellent run support.

Barron displayed some coverage issues in 2010, but put any concern to rest in 2011 when he had a bounce-back senior campaign for the Crimson Tide. Game in and game out, he made his presence felt in the secondary and helped Alabama remain near the top of the SEC food chain.

His speed isn’t the best, but Barron makes up for it with technique and excellent angles.

Throughout his college career, Barron amassed 229 total tackles, 12 interceptions, four sacks and one touchdown. The Buccaneers will get their money’s worth if they can get that type of production from Barron for the next several years.

On top of all of the physical tools that Barron brings to the table for the Buccaneers, it’ll be an invaluable asset for the rookie to spend at least his first season on the field playing aside veteran Ronde Barber. The former cornerback-turned-safety will provide Barron with an experienced mentor who can show him the ropes and help usher him into the NFL.

Apart from Barber, Barron will also be surrounded by a surplus of other talented defenders like Mason Foster, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn and Aqib Talib (when he’s not dealing with off-field issues). All of these gifted players should help lift Barron to the top of the NFL’s safety hierarchy.

With the newest wave of elite NFL safeties coming in and the old wave headed towards retirement, it’s a better time than ever for Barron to make his mark on the NFL. Luckily for the Buccaneers, he’s on their side. Not so luckily for the rest of the NFC South, he’ll be wreaking havoc on the other side of the ball for years to come.

Barron might just be a rookie, but he’s primed for a quick jump to the top tier of NFL safeties.

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