The Importance of Cover Safeties Today

Alabama's Mark Barron is a popular pick for the Cowboys at No. 14 tonight – if he makes it that far, of course. He was a winner, a big hitter, a physical tackler and a guy who played through injuries for Nick Saban.

The only question among some is whether Barron, a strong safety, can cover well enough when needed in a league that's using more and more spread formations to exploit mismatches in the secondary.

Cowboys scouting director Tom Ciskowski was asked Wednesday about the importance of having two safeties, not just one, with strong coverage skills.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the scheme, if people like to play interchangeable safeties where due to the form one time he might be a free and the next time he is a strong," Ciskowski said. "But obviously with college football and the way they are spreading the ball over the field it's easy to detect whether a guy can cover or whether he can overlap and play where maybe even 20 years ago in the SEC it was the I-formation with the great backs at Auburn and some other teams where they powered the ball.

"So I think the game has changed but it's changed more for we as scouts to determine if a guy has the ability to cover in man as well as zone."

What about Barron in particular?

"Yes," Ciskowski said. "He played in the SEC so he's covered players at that level."

The SEC doesn't exactly sling it around like the Pac-12. But since the Cowboys and even some teams ahead of them on the draft board seem to like Barron's potential, there must be at least some comfort level with that facet of his game.

Whether he winds up in Dallas tonight remains to be seen.

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