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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

C Graham Barton Focused on 'Learning the Playbook' in Transition to NFL

Bucs’ rookie center Graham Barton is adjusting to life in the NFL by emphasizing technique and absorbing the offensive playbook at minicamp


Buccaneers' first-round draft pick Graham Barton is not only learning a new offensive playbook in his transition to the NFL but is also assuming a new position in the interior of the offensive line. At Duke, Barton solidified the line as a four-year starter at left tackle and accumulated 34 starts over the last three seasons manning the left side, earning All-America honors in 2023. The Blue Devil lined up at center in 2020 (430 snaps), which garnered freshman All-America recognition. At rookie minicamp, Barton is undergoing a position shift to center.

"Playing left tackle at Duke there was a communication aspect of it but when you are the center, it is more," said Barton. "You are setting the defense every time and [saying], 'Who is the MIKE? Who is the SAM? Where are we working to?' I think that is the biggest thing coming out of the huddle. Instead of coming out of the huddle and pretty much knowing exactly what I will do at tackle, now as the center, I have to read the defense and think I am fully capable of doing that. I have been improving even over the last 48 hours but that is the biggest difference. As soon as you turn around from the huddle, you are reading the defense, and you are making the calls and setting the play up."

In Tampa Bay, Barton will be responsible for making sure that all players in the trenches are on the same page. The center is responsible for setting protections (which may require sliding in a certain direction based on the defense), identifying the MIKE linebacker, eying the safety depth and coverage being displayed, and keying the quarterback's rhythm and snap count. On every play, the center triggers the other linemen's assignments and essentially deconstructs the chess match taking place. During the allotted training period for rookies and enhanced one-on-one training with positional coaches, Barton is focused on technique, communication and studying the playbook to foster production at the line of scrimmage.

"Learning the playbook is going to be the biggest thing for me, [which will] allow me to play free," noted Barton. "Right now, the first couple of days, you are out there, and you are thinking so much, 'What is this?' The more you learn and the more you get confident in the playbook and getting up to the line and knowing exactly what you are going to say, I think as you do that, you are focusing more on your play."

For the Blue Devils, Barton displayed his nimble feet, athleticism, high-effort play and stellar strength. He possesses elite second-level skills as a puller and is a smooth operator out of his stance. During the post-draft process, "finish" became the word used by the Bucs' brass to summarize the incoming 2024 class. Barton's play embodies that coined term as he strains and fights through the whistle. With a high ceiling and cerebral approach, Barton will vie for the team's starting center role.

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