In our annual 32 picks in 32 days CSNPhilly.com mock draft, we select one player each day until the start of the NFL draft on April 26.
14. Mark Barron, S, Alabama, 6-1213
The Cowboys' defense under the bombastic Rob Ryan floundered in its first year playing his attacking system. While they looked good pressuring opposing QBs, the secondary got exposed. A lack of communication and playmakers doomed them to 23rd overall in pass yards allowed per game in 2011.
Jerry Jones made a move shortly after free agency began to help rectify his secondary woes, signing ex-Chief Brandon Carr. Carr, a terrific man-to-man corner, will replace long-time starter Terence Newman, who was not re-signed, and should fit Ryan's scheme perfectly. Jones also replaced Abram Elam, last year's starter at strong safety, with Brodney Pool. Pool, who like Elam is mediocre, will be paired with free safety Gerald Sensabaugh. In 2011, Dallas' starting safeties combined for a mere two interceptions, three forced fumbles and no sacks. If Ryan hopes to take his defense to the next level, a pairing of Pool and Sensabaugh isn't going to cut it.
Barron is the top safety in the draft, and the only one worthy of a first-round pick. He started 38 games over the past three seasons in Tuscaloosa and was named first-team All-America in 2010 and a unanimous selection in 2011.
Barron is a ball-hawking safety, who can play the back end or drop down into the box and aggressively play the run. He's not Ed Reed, but he's got superb instincts, finds the ball in the air and reacts quickly. What the Cowboys need is a guy in the secondary who is going to make teams pay for bad balls, and Barron does exactly that.
As a cover man Barron has some limitations. He's not as fluid in the hips as you'd like to see, but should be able to stick with tight ends. He does have a good closing burst to the ball.
Barron had hernia surgery after the 2011 season but seems to be fully recovered.
Jared Sherman has been providing CSNPhilly.com with draft analysis since 2000. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Phillyjared.