Since the Colts cut safety Melvin Bullit it has become a pretty much guarantee that the Colts will have to draft a safety next month. A true weakness due to depth the last few seasons, the safety position has become something that the Colts have not been able to replace since the demise of a healthy Bob Sanders. Antoine Bethea has been a pro-bowl caliber player at one side, but the strong safety position has been a void of suck the last few years. This is where this season draft comes into play. It is time to put a premium on the position and draft one high. Enter Mark Barron.
Barron was a three year starter on the nation’s top collegiate defense and has shown great ability to translate his game at the next level. At 6’1” and 213 lbs Barron has the size to be able to be a run stopper at the NFL level when asked to but also has very good coverage instincts to go with his size. Probably the most impressive thing about Barron is his hands. For a defensive back he reels in a lot that gets thrown his way. He had 12 career interceptions and is good at putting himself in a position to make a play on the ball.
His biggest weakness as a football player is a self-admitted one. In an interview about his draft status he openly admitted that he too often goes for the big hit instead of just making the tackle. Obviously this puts him and his teammates in a bind in certain situations and as a safety that can lead to routine plays turning into home runs. Luckily, this glaring issue is hardly something to be overly concerned about. The fact that Barron has admitted the problem is the first step to fixing it. The player realizes he’s doing something wrong so fixing it shouldn’t be an issue.
Another question about Barron is his injury history. He missed the combine and Alabama pro days due to a sports hernia and he tore a pectoral muscle in 2010. These aren’t major injuries as both aren’t chronic injuries. It isn’t a history like a knee injury where it can affect the player for his entire career. A torn pec or surgically repaired hernia rarely flare up and cause problems over and over again. When those injuries are repaired the player is usually back to normal. Still, with the depth problems at safety it is something to keep an eye on.
Finally, this all may be for naught. Barron is one of those players that no one can quite peg where he’s going to go. He shows a lot of intelligence for a defensive back and he is high level player at a weak position in this year’s draft. Being the consensus top safety in a class where there isn’t a ton of talent could see him going as soon as 15th. But his recent injuries and the inability for teams to evaluate him physically puts him as a top candidate to fall further than he should. I feel that if he’s a guy that is still there at the 33rd pick the Colts have to take him. He’s one of those guys that should be high on the draft board because he’s physically ready to compete immediately and he has the instincts to stick for several years. He really is near the top of my Colts wish list. He isn’t necessarily a sexy pick, but he’s a necessary one if the Colts want to get back to competitive quickly.
Health Check, by Laura Calaway:
Mark Barron’s injury history includes a torn right pectoral muscle (2010), torn cartilage in his ribs (2011), and a double sports hernia that required surgery just a few weeks before the 2012 Combine. Barron suffered the torn pec on November 26, 2010, in Alabama’s game against Auburn. At the time, Chase Goodbread wrote about the months-long recovery period and the potential impact to Barron’s ability to participate in the 2011 Combine. Barron stayed in school (likely due in part to the labor situation and his injury), and went on to register 237 tackles, 12 interceptions and 5 sacks in all 13 games of 2011.
The injury to Barron’s ribs (which was originally rumored to be cracked ribs, but later described by coach Saban as torn cartilage) forced him to miss most of the annual Iron Bowl in 2011. It also forced him to sit out some practices leading up to the National Championship game in 2012.
The final injury of note is Barron’s double sports hernia, a condition affecting the groin where the athlete experiences chronic pain and stiffness. This Wikipedia article explains the symptoms and causes, and that it could be a tear or abnormality in any one of a number of tissues in the area. Suffice to say that Barron must have suffered quite a bit with this pain on both sides of his body, and he underwent a double surgery to correct the problem in advance of entering the NFL. The surgery likely involved applying a type of mesh to the affected area; the mesh then integrates with the body’s tissues to bond it into place.
Barron’s injury history will likely be cause for concern. While the cartilage in his ribs will likely recover and not be a future source of issues, the same cannot necessarily be said of the pectoral muscle and sports hernia. He played well despite a repaired pectoral muscle, but any injury requiring surgical repair is one to watch. Finally, while plenty of professional athletes (and Tom Brady) have had hernia repairs, it’s a sensitive area of the body that could cause trouble down the road. Barron is an exciting player, but I have the sense that he and Bob Sanders may eventually be spoken of in the same breath.