Mel Kiper has high praise for Tampa Bay’s Graham Barton

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper had words of encouragement for Graham Barton.

Barton had to wait a while, but the Duke offensive tackle was selected in the first round with the No. 26 pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2024 NFL Draft Thursday.

Kiper, who said he thought Barton could reach No. 20, said the former Ravenwood High star could play 12 seasons in the league and “be a Pro Bowler for half of those years.”

He is the first Nashville-area player drafted in the first round since former Brentwood Academy star Derek Barnett went to Philadelphia at No. 14 in 2017, and is the ninth Nashville-area player to be picked in the first round .

The 6-foot-4, 313-pound Barton is a four-year starter at Duke and spent the previous three seasons as a left tackle. He played center as a freshman and is a strong candidate to play that position for Tampa. Barton, who skipped the NFL combine, participated in Duke’s pro day on March 28. He gave up just one sack in 465 snaps in 2023.

Barton, who highlighted his versatility playing different positions on the line, could be slotted in as a guard for the Bucs looking to bolster their interior line.

Reach sportswriter George Robinson at and on the X Platform (formerly Twitter) @Cville_Sports.