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2024 NFL Draft prospect profile: Graham Barton, OL, Duke

Is the Duke tackle’s future on the offensive interior?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Virginia Tech at Duke Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are some prospects who make it easy to envision them at the NFL level, with all the tools and skills necessary to succeed at the next level. And even those who don’t have a polished skill set yet, might least have directly translatable traits.

But what about the inverse? What about players who don’t quite have the desirable traits but have an NFL skill set?

That describes Duke left tackle Graham Barton, who was a very solid offensive tackle for the Blue Devils but doesn’t quite have all the requisite physical and athletic traits that NFL evaluators look for. The good news is that there have been multiple collegiate tackles who have found success after moving inside to an interior offensive line position as pros. Players like Justin Pugh, Zack Martin, and Joel Bitonio have all had long and successful careers as guards.

Could Barton follow in the footsteps of Pugh, move from undersized collegiate left tackle and be an answer at guard for the New York Giants in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Prospect: Graham Barton (62)
Games Watched: vs. Clemson (2023), vs. Notre Dame (2023), vs. Florida State (2023), vs. North Carolina (2023)

Measurables

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 315 pounds

Strengths

  • Competitive toughness
  • Play strength
  • Run blocking

Barton is versatile, powerful, and tenacious.

Barton primarily played left tackle for the Blue Devils, where he showed off good foot quickness and was able to mirror most rushers off the edge. He was a relatively dependable pass protector for Duke who would fight to sustain his blocks for as long as necessary. He wasn’t perfect as a pass protecting tackle, but would endeavor to “win ugly” if he was initially beaten.

Barton has great grip strength once latched on to defenders, and would routinely sustain his blocks for as long as necessary. He also has very good core strength, allowing him to control defenders, torque them out of gaps, or toss them to the ground outright.

He’s at his best as a run blocker and shows good schematic versatility in the run game. He’s able to execute man and zone blocking schemes well. Likewise, he’s a capable blocker on the move as a puller or working off combo blocks at the second level. Barton uses his quickness to get defenders flowing on outside zone runs, has enough foot speed to get (and stay) ahead of plays in space, and his play strength shows up when blocking downhill.

Competitive toughness is the defining trait of Barton’s game. He looks to sustain blocks through the echo of the whistle. Likewise, he makes a concerted effort to anchor – or re-anchor – when faced with power. He also consistently looks to finish every block and end plays with the defender on the ground. Barton has unremarkable size for an offensive lineman, but his tenacity and willingness to fight for every inch makes up for it.

Weaknesses

  • Lower body fluidity
  • Hand placement

Barton isn’t a fluid blocker. He’s often forced to flail his arms to keep balance and click (or even cross) his feet when moving laterally. That seems to stem from ankle stiffness, which impacts his game in multiple areas.

His wild arms when kick-sliding force him to engage defenders with his hands low and wide, leading to him “hugging” them. That not only forces him to surrender inside leverage (allowing defenders into his chest plate), it can open him up to holding calls given his grip and tendency to torque. Likewise, Barton’s hands can force him to play shorter than he measures, giving up valuable distance to defenders. It can also make him vulnerable to pass rushing moves from savvy edge players. Barton can also allow his base to narrow when moving laterally, sacrificing his pad level and compromising his ability to anchor against power.

He can also have concerning issues with his awareness. Barton can miss defenders who come on delayed blitzes as well as be slow to recognize loopers.

Game tape

(Barton is LT number 62)

Projection

Barton has starting upside in the NFL, but will likely need to transition to an interior offensive line position.

Moving inside would maximize his play strength and leverage advantages, and he certainly has the temperament to mix it up on the interior. And while a move to the interior would limit the amount of lateral movement Barton would be asked to do (and therefore help his hands), he would also be a very athletic blocker for an interior lineman.

Barton is a better run blocker than pass protector, but a move inside to guard, or perhaps even center, could help him raise his game in all areas. There’s always an added risk when asking a player to transition to a new position at the NFL level, however the potential reward (far) outweighs the risk here.

Does he fit the Giants?
Yes, though he’ll need to move inside.

Final Word: A Day 2 value (at guard)