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Duke’s Graham Barton Is An Elite Athlete At Center


Though he spent most of his time as a college tackle, Duke’s Graham Barton is likely ticketed to be an NFL center. It’s where he played as a freshman and where he’s spent much of his pre-draft time working out, including during last week’s Pro Day. Held out during the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine due to a lower body injury suffered late in the 2023 season, Barton’s Pro Day session was the first time to get numbers on him. He didn’t disappoint.

Measuring in at 6053, 313 pounds, he ran a sub 5.00 40 with a 4.55 short shuttle and 7.31 three cone. He did not attempt the broad jump or vert. Pittsburgh sent new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to watch him, a former lineman himself.

Though Pro Day numbers are unofficial, the results on Barton speak to a top-end player. According to Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score, plugging Barton’s testing at center produces a perfect score of 10.

Per Platte, plugging Barton in at guard gives him the third-highest RAS since 1987. Putting him at center ties with him with Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey for the top spot, who also produced a perfect ten. Pittsburgh passed on Humphrey twice in the 2021 NFL Draft for RB Najee Harris and TE Pat Freiermuth.

His workout led to some draft analysts to predict Barton may not even make it to No. 20 overall, a potential top-15 pick. But a deep draft class, especially along the offensive line, could push him down.

Graham Barton comes with projection. Over the course of his career, 34 of his 39 starts have come at left tackle. He logged five starts at center as a freshman after multiple injuries rocked the Blue Devils’ depth chart. Since, he kicked out to left tackle, excelling the last three years. But a lack of ideal length, sub-33 inch arms, are projecting him inside to guard, a similar situation as Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski last season, who became the 11th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans.

Though Pittsburgh made an error with Kendrick Green, Barton isn’t in the same bucket. He’s bigger, longer, tested better, and has more overall experience as an offensive lineman, starting a handful more games and playing o-line his whole life whereas Green switched from defensive tackle to offensive line during his Illinois career.

The Steelers are in a tricky spot at the position. They can take a center in round one or hope one falls to them in the second round and pick No. 51. Centers have a tendency to fall but there’s no guarantee any of the “big three” names, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson, West Virginia’s Zach Frazier, or Barton make it to No. 51. If they don’t, the Steelers will be left holding the bag.

Perhaps Pittsburgh’s best strategy would be to take an offensive tackle or wide receiver at No. 20 and trade up into the second round. But there’s no guarantee they’ll find a deal they like and trading more capital will hurt their ability to fill their other list of needs, still a large group despite being past the bulk of free agency. How the team handles center is their largest question of the draft and will dictate the rest of their moves. But if they choose Graham Barton, they’re getting a top-level athlete.

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