NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Cornerback

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NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Cornerback

Each weekday, from now until the week of the draft, we'll take a position-by-position look at the Patriots' draft needs and which players they may be looking at. Today: Cornerbacks

POSITION OVERVIEW
The 2012 cornerback class has a nice group of varied talents. The small waterbug type, the rangier cornersafety hybrids. But while every team values coverage skills and is often willing to pay for it in free agency, the same urgency isn't seen on draft day. A couple of reasons for that. There's a glut of guys between 5-9 and 6-1 who run really fast, have great short-area quickness and can jump. There are far fewer 6-4, 330-pound offense wreckers or 6-7, 310-pound backside protectors or 6-5, 265-pound pass rushers who can run a 4.7. And college level success is not a precursor to NFL level success as it may be with other positions. At the head of the 2012 draft class, all by himself is LSU's Morris Claiborne. He's sticky as hell and a top-10 pick. After Claiborne, there are 10 corners seen as deserving of consideration in the first three rounds.
PATRIOTS PREDICAMENT

This is a tough position to handicap for the Patriots because there's a fair amount of forecasting that needs to be done. For instance, which Devin McCourty shows up in 2012, the one that played so well as a rookie or the one who was one of the worst starting corners in the NFL in 2011? What can one expect from 2011 second-rounder Ras-I Dowling after he lost the 2011 season to injury? Kyle Arrington is pretty well established now as a strong little player. Sterling Moore flashed enough ball skills and smarts to be intriguing even if he isn't as fast as you'd like a corner to be. With where they draft, the Patriots are going to have cracks at talented players. The chore for them will be determining which ones they can wait on - if there are a few - or figuring out how high they have to get to draft the one they want.

TOP OF THE CLASS
Morris Claiborne, 5-11, 188, LSU
The best corner in the draft by a lot. Incredibly quick and able to shadow. Ridiculously long arms (33 inches, two inches longer than ballyhooed pass rusher Melvin Ingram). Pulled an impossibly low Wonderlic score (reportedly a 4). He'll be long gone before the Patriots select.
Stephon Gilmore, 6-1, 190, South Carolina
Comes from a program that's been churning out solid cover men. Tremendous sub-4.4 speed with length and body control. More instinctive than schooled at this point and will need to refine his technique. Probably a top-20 pick.

Dre Kirkpatrick, 6-2, 186, AlabamaConfident with good length and excellent athleticism. Will play physically and jam but his lean build could cause him to be overpowered a little by bigger, stronger receivers. Not as fast as Gilmore and Claiborne and there are some maturity concerns. Might fit nicely as a "star" corner covering the slot for the Patriots but would probably not be a tremendous fit based on reviews.

Janoris Jenkins, 5-10, 193, North Alabama
One of the draft's most intriguing players because he's got first-round skills but a red flag history of irresponsible behavior that got him kicked out of Florida. Can play all techniques and is willing to be physical. Has excellent ball skills and is slippery when he gets it in his hands. Also has four children by three different women and, while he's pledged he's going to be responsible and dependable, he needs a cocoon of support. The Patriots may be a team that can afford him that if they feel the risk-reward is there.
Trumaine Johnson, 6-2, 204, Montana
His size and range make him an interesting prospect because he could play safety or corner and versatility has become such a valued trait among defensive backs. Plays the ball very well and was dominant as a four-year starter, albeit against lesser competition than the other highly-rated corners. Needs some personal direction.
BEST PATRIOTS FITS
Jenkins. If he's on the board in the second round when the Patriots pick at 48, he could be a tough player to pass on. But he has to check out with their personnel people.

Brandon Boykins. A Georgia product with excellent return skills, he's not seen as one of the top prospects but he's seen as a guy who can come in and cover the slot right away and brings special teams ability. A tempting guy in the late-second or early-third.

Ron Brooks. A sleeper who can absolutely fly (4.39 40) and has great special teams ability. Can play all over the place in the secondary and is a very good tackler. The kind of player the Patriots may value ahead of other teams.

Terry Rozier believes he can build off his postseason opportunity

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Terry Rozier believes he can build off his postseason opportunity

BOSTON – If you look at Terry Rozier’s basketball odyssey, it is filled with moments in which the 6-foot-2 guard got a shot to make an impact and more often than not, he did.

During Boston’s first-round playoff series against Atlanta, Rozier went from a seldom-used reserve into a viable option off the bench that head coach Brad Stevens turned to a lot.

In fact, Rozier’s playing time in the playoffs more than doubled (19.8 minutes) from the minutes he logged per game (8.0) during the regular season.

“With this business, how it works, it’s all about opportunity,” Rozier said. “And my opportunity just happened to come (in the playoffs).”

And Rozier for the most part made the most of it.

It was an opportunity Rozier believes he can build on during the offseason with a goal being to cement a spot for himself in the team’s regular rotation.

He understands all too well that his opportunity to play more was due in large part to Avery Bradley suffering a right hamstring injury of the fourth quarter of Boston’s Game 1 loss at Atlanta.

The increased playing time naturally brought about a bump in his overall stats as his scoring (4.8 points versus 1.8), rebounding (3.4 versus 1.6) and effective shooting percentage (.478 versus .302) all underwent a significant increase.

“I try to take advantage of it as much as I can,” Rozier said of his increased role. “Whether it was rebounding, whatever the coach needed me to do. Like I said, I was happy to be out there just to enjoy the time with a lot of my teammates. It’s been a great year. I had a lot of fun.”

But as Rozier will soon find out, past success doesn’t necessarily correlate with improved play going forward.

In addition to putting in the necessary work to improve physically, Rozier knows he has to step his game up mentally, too.

The best players in the league have a certain swagger, an elite level of confidence about them that often separates them from the masses.

Rozier isn’t quite there yet, but having been given an opportunity to see his most action in the postseason can only help.

“I’m gonna feel more confident,” he said. “Not too many rookies can say they played in the playoffs. It’s definitely going to give me a boost for summer league. I’ll have the ball in my hands a lot. It’s definitely going to be a confidence booster.”

Among the areas that Rozier sees as an absolute-must for him next season is being more vocal with his teammates.

“This year was more learning, watching it and all the veterans,” he said. “Next year, I think I can take on a bigger role.”

Boston’s Evan Turner agrees.

“He’s going to be a good player in this league,” Turner told CSNNE.com. “He already defends at an NBA-level, a high level, so that’s half the battle right there. He just has to get more comfortable with his game, with his teammates and he’ll be fine.”

One thing that hasn’t been a problem for Rozier thus far in the NBA is rebounding.

This past season, he averaged 9.7 rebounds per 48 minutes which ranked 8th in the NBA. And his offensive rebound average per 48 minutes (3.7) was tops among players who logged at least 300 minutes this past season.

“It goes back to me just the way I grew up,” Rozier said. “Rebounding was always my thing. It’s something you can’t teach; it’s part of toughness. That’s something, I don’t think it’s ever going to leave me.”

Rozier said his goal next season is to average at least five rebounds per game which would put him in some pretty exclusive company.

This past season, only 12 guards averaged at least five rebounds who logged more than 300 minutes per game.

But as Rozier has shown us thus far, he can be an impactful player when given an opportunity – something he believes he will get more of next season.

“I can’t wait until next season,” Rozier said. “I felt (our season) was cut a little short. But unfortunately, things come to an end. We’ll be back next season. We’ll be better; I’ll be better. That’s the most important thing.”

Tonight's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

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Tonight's lineups: Red Sox vs. Yankees

Rick Porcello attempts to increase his record to 6-0 as he starts tonight for the Red Sox against the Yankees in the opener of their three-game series in New York.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DB
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Travis Shaw 3B
Brock Holt LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Christian Vazquez C
---
Rick Porcello P

YANKEES
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Starlin Castro 2B
Aaron Hicks RF
Didi Gregorius SS
Ronnie Torreyes 3B
---
Michael Pineda P

 

Friday, May 6: Boudreau excited at prospect of coaching Senators

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Friday, May 6: Boudreau excited at prospect of coaching Senators

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fairly certain I’ll never be buying Tom Brady’s $200 cookbook:

-- Good piece on NBC’s Inside the Glass man Pierre McGuire, who is once again doing yeoman’s work during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

-- Bruce Boudreau is excited at the prospect of coaching the Senators as he readies for an interview with Ottawa. Boudreau would be a good fit there, given his past history with offensively talented teams.

-- Down Goes Brown lists their top-10 old guys without a Stanley Cup whose playoff hopes are still alive in this current postseason.

-- You’ve got to love the fancy stats crew that, when their team is down 3-1 in a playoff series, contends it’s all based on luck. No, it’s based on the other team scoring more goals than your team rather than which team is winning the puck-possession battle.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer ripping the goalie interference replay system, saying it’s been “clear as mud” all season after it cost the Sharks in their triple-overtime loss to Nashville. It feels like he’s got a point: I thought the Joe Pavelski goal should have been a game-winner too rather than be waved off for goalie interference.

-- It looks like the mighty have fallen quite: Stephane Da Costa isn’t on France’s World Championships roster after being in the NHL a couple of years ago. Or maybe the mighty are just hurt after playing last season in the KHL. It’s tough to tell at this point for the former Merrimack hockey star.

-- The massive nation of China is becoming a growing incubator for budding young hockey players and could become a new resource for the NHL.

-- For something completely different: For a Lego commercial for Star Wars movies that still don’t come out for almost a year, this is pretty great.