The Jets need a safety or two and their shopping may start in a couple of weeks when the NFL’s league year commences. Both Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool will be unrestricted free agents on March 13, so that leaves starter Eric Smith and reserve Tracy Wilson on the roster. Even if the Green & White add a safety in free agency or via a trade, they may be looking to add another one on draft weekend.
Alabama’s Mark Barron is the top safety prospect in the draft and he will probably be the only S selected in April’s first round. The 6’2”, 218-pounder will likely merit strong consideration from the Jets if he is still on the board in the middle of the opening round.
“You keep on hearing about Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama, is a good fit for what they need and that’s kind of where he should go,” ESPN’s Todd McShay told newyorkjets.com at the combine. “He had double-hernia surgery last month, and everyone says it’ll be fine and it’s something that will not affect him long-term or even in the short term when you’re talking about his rookie season. I think he would be a great fit there.”
Barron, who plans on working out in late March, is NFL-ready after playing both safety positions for Nick Saban at ‘Bama.
“We played in a very difficult defense, first of all,” he said. “We did a lot of different schemes. My role was, as far as communicating, I had a lot to do with that on the back end. And I felt like sometimes I brought some energy to it with the hits I make and things of that nature. I did a lot of different things, so I can’t pinpoint one exact role for me on defense.”
The versatile Barron lined up at free safety this past season and strong safety the year before. He was known not only as a big hitter — he collected 12 interceptions during his collegiate career.
“He is physical. He will come up and hit you,” McShay said. “The thing about Barron is there is no aspect of the game that he doesn’t do well. He’s not the best cover safety, if you will. He has some limitations in terms of man-to-man, but he can cover the tight end. He has good range in terms of being back. In being the high man in the three-safety or three-defensive-backs look, he comes up and is physical against the run. He can play in the box.
“I just love the way he plays the game, the tempo he brings and the leadership he brings in the secondary. It’s hard to imagine that he’s not a successful impact type of player who can be a leader on a defense.”
When asked by a reporter if he prefers to make a bone-crushing hit or an interception, Barron leaned to the takeaway but acknowledged both have their place.
“I like making plays, period. I would say interception because that’s more of a game-changer. That affects the game more,” he said. “But I like hitting and making interceptions.”
Quality safeties often have to wait around for a bit on draft weekend. Ed Reed, the Miami product who played for Rex Ryan in Baltimore and already has a jacket ready at the Hall of Fame, was selected No. 24 overall by the Ravens in the 2002 draft. A year later, USC’s Troy Polamalu went No. 16 overall to Pittsburgh. The 49ers’ Dashon Goldson, a Pro Bowler who had six interceptions in 2001 and is scheduled be a prized free agent this spring, was a fourth-round selection out of Washington in the 2007 draft.
“If a guy is a good player, then he’s just a good player,” Barron said. “I don’t see why position-wise, if you have a better player that’s a safety and then you have a corner that may not be a better football player than that guy, I don’t see a reason why that corner should go ahead of that safety if that safety is a better player. I’ve seen that happen, so I just don’t understand it. But that’s not my position to pick players and who gets drafted where.”
Not a huge fan of the NFL’s safety rules, Barron plans on continuing his aggressive play at the next level.
“Honestly, I don’t like them because the way I’ve been taught to play the game is hit and I hit hard,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to make some adjustments. Hopefully I’ll definitely make them — I’m not sure if I will because like I said that’s the way I was taught to play the game.”
Tags: Alabama, Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, Mark Barron, NFL Combine, Todd McShay, Tracy Wilson
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