Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Duke OL Graham Barton with the 26th overall pick. Grade: C-

A lot of analysts I trust and respect love Graham Barton’s game, and while I did see flashes when I watched his tape, I’m not sure exactly what he does at a dominant level. If I’m taking a player in the first round — even the late first round — I want at least one alpha trait. Barton obviously brings intelligence and positional versatility to the field, but when a prospect shows a relatively low ceiling at the NCAA level, what does that mean for his NFL potential?

A three-star recruit out of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee, Barton was named a Second team Freshman All-America pick by The Athletic, and worked his way up through 40 career games and 39 career starts with the Blue Devils to first team All-ACC honors in 2023. Barton switched from center to left tackle in 2021, and he allowed 10 sacks and 50 total pressures during his time at Duke.

The question is not how Barton will fare in the NFL as a left tackle; he’s certainly going to move inside. His body type doesn’t support staying at the edge, and the tape backs that up. But can he be a credible guard or center at the next level?


— Nasty technician on gap and inside zone runs; Barton gets low and under a defender’s pads to deliver a quick blow off the snap, and he’s got some formidable knockdown blocks.

— Quick enough to cross the defender’s face and seal the edge.

— Keeps his speed and balance on pulls; he’s accurate to his target on the move.

— That target accuracy extends to the second level when he has to go up and take a linebacker out. Barton has outstanding contact balance in space.

— Can move bigger defenders on the track even if he gets bent back in the rep. He’s got a recovery plan if things don’t go well right away.

— Center tape from 2020 shows an easy mover with good power at that position.


— We’re not going to get into Barton’s issues as a left tackle, because it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be a left tackle in the NFL, but… his wingspan, arm length, and hand size are low percentile for tackles, and they’re even low for guards/centers. He’s moving inside.

— Can be easily shocked by speed rushers to either side; he’ll need to work on trapping defenders when they move outside of his vision.

— Barton is hit-and-miss in power situations when he’s not striking the first blow; he really needs that quick aggression to succeed.

— Has the vision and understanding to pick up stunts and games, though he’ll let some leakage through.

I’ve seen some first-round talk with Barton, and while he’s got a lot to offer, I’m not so sure. If I’m selecting a guard or center that high, I would want to see obvious dominance at those positions, and Barton (while very good) really doesn’t do that.

Most likely, someone’s going firm up his IOL assets, and get a plus starter for the next 10 years. Nothing wrong with that.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire