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2012 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft: Chargers 1st Round Pick

 Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide yells at Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide yells at Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Over at Mocking the Draft, they have been running a Mock Draft polling the SBNation writers for each blog to get each of their selections. They have 3 teams make picks each day and then a few days later post an article with a writeup from the team's blog as well as their site manager Dan Kadar. A few days ago I made the Chargers selection and picked Alabama S Mark Barron. Here's what I said about the pick.

The plan with this pick after all the free agency moves was to go best player available. Mark Barron is that guy. The scouts over at Bolts From The Blue have been watching Barron closely since the beginning of the 2010 season. He’s shown himself to a be a good playmaker, great at diagnosing plays and very good in run support. The Chargers have a prospect in Darrell Stuckey ready to take over the SS position, but Barron is a better talent. The Chargers need a player like that playing next to Pro Bowler Eric Weddle and helping out their corners who got exposed at times last year. One of the team’s top priorities for the offseason was fixing their defense so that they are no longer last in the league on 3rd downs. This is a step in that direction.

At Mocking the Draft, they have their own board of NFL prospects and Mark Barron was not listed in their top 5 available. However, I checked out a couple different prospect lists and he came up as the best available multiple times. That he fits a need and could be a starter in 2012 is a bonus. A couple of the commenters claimed that this is a reach and that he's only highly ranked because of a lack of depth at the position. I don't believe in ranking players any higher because of a lack of depth. They earn the grades they get regardless of what other players are in the draft. It's not a reach, I drafted for value not need. However, the return on his value will be greater for the Chargers in 2012 and beyond due to a current need, which, as I said before, is a nice bonus. I would think most Charger fans would be fine with this pick because of that. Other teams' fans are just jealous.

More on Mark Barron after the jump.

Back in October 2010, Barron got mentioned for the first time on this blog. Here's what I wrote:

Mark Barron, S, Junior, 6'1, 210 lbs (1st or 2nd round) -Barron is as close as you seem to get these days to an all around Safety. He can play coverage, holding his own in zone defense and is aggressive at the line of scrimmage at bump-and-run. His weakness is in man-to-man coverage on shiftier slot receivers. He's a big hitter, but can be prone to over-pursuing at times. He's good at tracking the ball and can come away with the interception. Like Julio Jones he's a good character guy.

I'm always afraid at looking back and seeing something that I glaringly got wrong now that the final evaluations are out. However, most of this is still true. The game I was previewing that day was Penn St.-Alabama where the Crimson Tide rolled over the Nittany Lions. The next week I had this to say about Barron's performanace:

Mark Barron couldn't have had a much better night for Alabama. The safety spent the early part of the chasing down Nittany Lions and cleaning up others' messes. He made a touchdown saving tackle on a reverse that most of the Crimson Tide fooled. Later on that same drive he contributed to a Penn State fumble. In the second half he capped off his night with an interception. As Scouts Inc's Kevin Weidl summarized, "It is hard to find a Penn State drive that was not affected by Barron in some way." He's special.

I vaguely recall watching this game, but reading this I remember I was pretty stoked about Barron after watching this game. Two weeks after the Penn State game Alabama had another big game that I previewed. They were playing Ryan Mallett and an undefeated Arkansas team. I included a quick blurb on the 'Bama Safety.

I am still in love with S Mark Barron, but he might be playing his way up into the middle of the first round (or higher), which would probably keep him out of reach for the Chargers.

I think I may have been writing Mrs. Wonko Barron on my scouting notebook at that point. Alabama had yet another big game against rival Florida the next week and smitten that I was mentioned the playmaker again.

Alabama is an old news for this column... However, I can't get enough of Mark Barron, they are a great test for their opponents' prospects and this is an awesome matchup, so here they are again.

In my postgame notes from that matchup I wrote:

Picked up a sack. This guy can do it all.

Much later in the season Alabama got beat by Auburn and Cam Newton in a crazy comeback performance by the Tigers. I had a note on Barron from that game:

Mark Barron fell victim to a couple of big plays that turned the tide for the Tigers. I'm a little upbeat about this because I still really like Barron, but this could knock his stock down such that he's available to the Bolts in the late 2nd round or later. That would be a steal in my book. Safeties get beat and when they are young and playing against unique competition in college sometimes. It can be excusable if the talent and work ethic is still there. He's only a Junior, so on the other hand a performance like this could keep him in school.

While I did semi-predict that Barron would stay for his senior year, it was actually a torn pectoral muscle that kept him out. He wasn't going to be able to work out for teams and since he was a 1st round talent with some questions he needed those workouts to solidify that 1st round status were he to come out.

Starting the 2011 season, his stock was a little lower than it was to start his Junior year. In week 2 of the college season, the Crimson Tide had their rematch with Penn State and I wrote a new report on Barron:

Mark Barron, Alabama, S, Senior, 6'1, 223 lbs (2nd round) - For those that read these scouting articles last year, they might remember Barron. Many had him projected to come out for the 2011 draft especially back when he was still considered a 1st round pick. It takes a lot these days to be a 1st round prospect at safety. Two of the last three drafts had no safeties taken in the first round. So, in my mind, saying that someone is a 2nd round pick at safety really means that they are one of the best (possibly top 1 or 2) safeties prospects in the college game. Personally, having seen a lot of Barron, I think the guy is a playmaker and I expressed that last year. The knocks on him are his stiffness (a common knock on non-elite saftey prospects), his injury last year (torn pectoral muscle that caused him to miss the team's bowl game) and an incident involving a single car accident where he was arrested.

In week 10, I added this to the end of that report when I previewed the Alabama-LSU game:

He's fully recovered from that injury and showing people again this year how much of a difference maker he can be. It should be noted that he's definitely a SS and needs to be free to move into the box and make plays closer to the line of scrimmage.

At that point I'd changed his projection to 1st-2nd round prospect. Then, by the BCS Championship Game, he was a solid 1st round prospect again. He'd shown enough to erase many of the doubts about some of his coverage abilities. He still wasn't a potential FS prospect, but he had everything you want to be a SS prospect even if he wasn't quite the caliber of an Eric Berry or Earl Thomas. He's just a notch below and that's got plenty of value at pick 18.

There is still one knock on him. And it goes back to the way his 2010 season because his 2011 season ended on a similar note. He had to undergo double hernia surgery which had a recovery time of 2 months. He missed the combine and wasn't quite at full strength on his Pro Day. The question the Chargers have to answer is if there is a pattern here or if these were isolated occurrences that just happened to the same guy in back-to-back years. It is worth noting that Barron hasn't missed much time due to these injuries and even excelled after returning from one. Football players get hurt and the NFL is riddled with guys that play 16 games and need offseason surgery.