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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Bucs reach for Alabama's Barron – or do they?

TAMPA - You heard it here first … Actually, the Saints heard it first (you think those flowers in the Bucs draft room were really flowers?), but you heard it here second: It's the … safety ? Yes, as predicted by this columnist, the Bucs selected Mark Barron, strong safety, University of Trent Richardson, with the seventh pick of the NFL Draft, the first first-round safety in Bucs history.
By the way, this columnist's great grandfather predicted Titanic would hit that 'berg, from his bathtub in Flushing, N.Y. We went to a football draft and the Bucs took a center fielder. Not really. Mark Barron isn't that kind of safety. He was the best college safety out there, a physically punishing team captain, high on character. And he played in the best NFL farm system, the SEC. He has a true championship pedigree, having played for two Alabama national champions. Plus he fills a major Bucs need. But a safety … at 7? And get this: The Bucs insist they would have taken Barron at 5 if they hadn't traded down two spots down with Jacksonville so the Jaguars could boldly grab receiver Justin Blackmon. If I were the Bucs, I would have gladly taken Blackmon at 5 if I knew the most I could get for trading down was a fourth-round pick (Seattle got more than that for going from 12th to 15th). Bucs GM Mark Dominik was asked if Barron would start right away. "I would hope so," Dominik said. Hope so? At 7, this guy better turn out to be Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu. By the way, Reed went 24th in the 2002 draft and Polamalu went 16th in 2003. Yes, safety is one of the many Bucs holes. They were looking at Ronde Barber swinging over from corner and Cody Grimm coming off knee surgery, and you know how Cody Grimm was last year when he wasn't coming off knee surgery. It also speaks to new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, a former Bears defensive backs coach, who loves Barron's size and knows how it might play against large receivers. "He's the mismatch, not vice versa," Schiano said. Dominik, when asked about another Bucs safety, last name Lynch, responded. "I would say he's physical like John," Dominik said. Remember the good old days, when we said Sabby Piscitelli to John Lynch? This is different. Mark Barron might be made of sterner stuff. Why, he had had seemingly no problem overcoming fairly recent double hernia surgery. Still, I nearly had a double hernia myself when the Bucs picked him at 7. Three things instantly went through my mind: 1. The price of even thinking about moving up to get Trent Richardson was too high. 2. The Bucs weren't nearly as high on Morris Claiborne as we thought. 3. They must think Aqib Talib is going to beat the rap. Dominik was adamant in a pleasant sort of way. "He was in our mind at 5," Dominik said of Barron. "… I was a little nervous when the Dallas Cowboys traded up to 6." Really? Really? Wonderlic be damned (or it it dammed?), Dallas picked Claiborne. I have no problem with the Bucs not going up to get Trent Richardson, which will probably save us from writing one or two knee surgery stories in the next few seasons. I have no problem with the Bucs not dropping back to pick middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, either. But it's still up to Mark Barron to show us he wasn't a reach. For all know, we might be talking to him about his eighth Pro Bowl eight years from now. Or not. "I was very excited," Barron said after being picked by the Bucs. "I was really surprised, but you know it's a great opportunity to go down and prove that I'm worth that seventh pick." Well, there you go.
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