10 possible Pats: Mark Barron

In the days leading up to the NFL draft, ESPNBoston.com will identify players who project as solid fits for the Patriots:

Player: Mark Barron

School: Alabama

Position: Safety

Listed height/weight: 6-foot-1, 213 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: 1st

Draft projection: First round

Why he’s on our list: The safety position is one of the Patriots’ biggest needs and Barron is widely viewed as the top-rated safety in the draft. It’s hard to imagine he will be there at No. 27, so this is a situation where if he slides within striking range for a trade-up, the Patriots could strike with some of their extra draft-pick ammunition (e.g. TE Daniel Graham in 2002).

Recommended link: The Patriots often say that one of the things they look for in a prospect is that football is important to him. Tommy Hicks of the Press Register explains how Barron fits into that category (link here).

Key stat: Totaled 12 career interceptions, showing he’s more than just a run-support safety.

Workout stat: Arms measured 33 5/8 inches, which are long for a player at his position.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: "The 6-foot-1 and 213-pound Barron is widely considered the best safety prospect in his class and in this case the hype is deserved. Two aspects of his game stand out on film. The first is his instincts and the second is the way he defends the run. He quickly diagnoses plays and gets into position whether he’s defending the run or in coverage. It’s also worth noting that the awareness and route-recognition skills he shows in zone coverage amplify his range because he rarely has to recover from false steps. In terms of run support, he’s a powerful and reliable tackler that’s big enough to hold his own at linebacker depth and takes sound angles to the ball when he lines up deep. Barron isn’t the kind of safety teams should feel comfortable asking to match up with quicker slot receivers. He’s just not fluid or explosive enough but he’s athletic and fast (ran a 4.57 in the 40 at his Pro Day) enough to stay with most tight ends. Add in his ability to make plays in coverage and Barron doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses as a prospect in terms of his film. In fact, the biggest concern is his durability. He underwent sports hernia surgery in January, an injury limited him during the 2011 Auburn game and he tore a pectoral muscle in the 2010 game."