INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 02: Graham Barton #OL06 of the Duke speaks to the media during the 2024 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 02, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 02: Graham Barton #OL06 of the Duke speaks to the media during the 2024 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 02, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Graham Barton Isn’t Elite

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LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – OCTOBER 28: Graham Barton #62 of the Duke Blue Devils walks the sidelines in the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

I don’t get the first-round hype on Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton heading into the 2024 NFL Draft.

I’ve evaluated him in a total of seven games over the past two seasons and he’s consistently showing the same strengths and weaknesses.

Barton is an athletic try-hard.

I can understand a solid developmental round grade on him, especially considering he’s coming off missing a couple of games (lower-body injury) and he’s being projected to switch positions in the NFL, but first-round?

That doesn’t make sense to me.

Barton wasn’t controlling blocks like that on film.

Sure, he’s ultra-competitive…

Nothing irritates me more than over-grading. Unmet expectations are the source of all human disappointment. Expectations need to be framed around what the prospect puts on film to give them their best chance to succeed.

What did the game film reveal in pass protection?

One thing I know for sure ⎯Barton is not starting left tackle material at the next level. He didn’t have the necessary lateral footwork even at Duke against college-level competition.

Maybe Barton can start in an emergency at left tackle in the NFL, but he does not have the footwork to be a regular starting left tackle.

While it makes more sense to move Barton inside at the next level, his average anchor he showed at Duke, is concerning. When I envision Barton matching up in the NFL against bull-rushing defensive tackles, Barton didn’t sell me on that as a projection.

Barton does have a strong upper body, arms, and hands. He also showed good hand technique and he’s a good athlete.

But nothing about Barton in pass protection said first-round at Duke.

How about the run game?

This is where Barton excels.

He’s a tenacious, aggressive, tough, physical, and extremely competitive run blocker who is inconsistent at sustaining blocks.

Good run blocker, but not great.

Barton wasn’t dominant.

He will fight to the death. However, he gets too out of control at times and isn’t smooth enough. He lost too many blocks too soon or just barely did enough at times.

Barton does move around well and connects with defenders out in space but with mixed results.

High football IQ

This is one of my favorite traits Barton has.

Barton plays smart. He’s active, alert and in pass protection, he showed repeatedly he could handle stunts and blitzes.

His high football IQ is what gives him a developmental upside.

The biggest concern at guard (or center)

Barton’s lower body is not strong enough to hold up as a starter.

There’s talk that maybe he projects as a center, but that’s a whole other world with all the line calls that centers need to make.

According to Pro Football Focus, all of Barton’s 2,134 snaps at Duke were at left tackle. In other words, he’s never even played center (or guard for that matter) at the college level. I understand he’s smart and competitive, but projecting him as a first-round talent based on his background and game film is unrealistic.

It’s a wild high-end projection.

The first round means polished, dominant, dynamic, and pro-ready.

#62 Graham Barton 6-foot-5, 314 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: Third-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 61.7% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of April 2, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Duke’s Graham Barton Doesn’t Grade out as a First-Rounder (3 games evaluated)

2023 game film reviewed: FSU, North Carolina, Virginia, and Clemson (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

Barton Combine Results (the league website grades Barton ‘Will Become Good Starter Within Two Years’)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Combative and versatile offensive lineman with unequally distributed power. Active. Alert. Maintains a nice wide base and balance in pass protection. Sound technique. Battles and remains competitive from snap to whistle. Inconsistent run blocking. Good speed and flexibility. Best with leverage or positioning advantage. Pancakes whenever possible. Capable of getting to the second level. Nice combo blocks at times. Susceptible to being overly aggressive or losing balance and control in space (got flat-out knocked over vs. Virginia). Better run blocking than pass pro.

Final words

Barton is an ideal swing sixth offensive lineman.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. Follow on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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