NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Outside linebacker


NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Outside linebacker

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: Outside linebackers

An OK group in which you have to mix in the ability to stand up and drop in coverage and the ability to go after the quarterback from the occasional three-point stance (personal boycott of "hand in the dirt" is underway). There isn't any can't-miss outside linebacker that's a layup for the top 10. Most of the players are projections with flaws either in experience or build.
New England asks for versatility from their outside linebackers and right now, the best guy at the position is Rob Ninkovich. Markell Carter, Jermaine Cunningham, Jeff Tarpinian and Trevor Scott are the others in the mix. The Patriots could really use that edge playmaker and maybe Scott, acquired from the Raiders, can turn into that. Cunningham is edging toward disappointment. The team is encouraged by Carter, though, so he's a player who bears watching. The Patriots have been tire-kicking on some of the edge prospects, though, so this could be an early target area.

Melvin Ingram, 6-1, 264, South Carolina
Could be listed at a variety of positions because he plays all over the place - defensive tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. Very athletic with a variety of moves and also a decent ability to set the edge as well. Has very short arms and, at 6-1, is not an ideal height for an edge guy. A top-15 pick at the least.

Andre Branch, 6-4, 259, Clemson
Long, fast, disruptive pass rusher who had 10 sacks in his final year at Clemson. Projects best as an outside linebacker in the pros. His sudden speed and length are going to make him an attractive prospect. He's a late first-round pick.

Courtney Upshaw, 6-2, 272, AlabamaA tremendously strong, high-tempo player who pursues and brings a thud when he hits. Great toughness and a player that will no doubt get a high recommendation from Nick Saban for his on-field demeanor and production. Not a quick, fluid player in coverage and is a little bit of a run-around player. Mid-to-late first round pick.

Whitney Mercilus, 6-4, 254, Illinois
Exploded with a 16-sack season in 2011 after being mostly a bit player for the Illini in his first two seasons. Decided to strike while the iron is hot and enter the draft and the notion he should have stuck around for more finishing is a prevalent one. Still, he's got great size and length and explodes off the ball. A pass rush specialist more than a drop-and-cover outside linebacker. Late-first to early-second round pick.
Shea McClellin, 6-3, 260, Boise State
Good size, technically sound with a ton of want-to. Can play up or down and exhibits the ability to smoothly drop into coverage when necessary. A safe pick except for the fact he didn't play against top competition in college. Second-round pick.
McClellin. Seems like the kind of try-hard player with versatility and attitude the Patriots usually have success with as opposed to a guy like Cunningham who - despite his skill - hasn't found a way to get into the mix.

Upshaw. The size and power are very attractive as is his dogged pursuit when plays are run away from him. Difficulty setting the edge and funneling backs inside was a real issue for the Patriots in 2011 and Upshaw is the best of this group at doing that.

Mercilus. Aside from a terrific name, he also is a moldable player given he's just scratching the surface of his talent.

With Thomas drawing attention, Rozier rises to occasion to send Celtics to OT

With Thomas drawing attention, Rozier rises to occasion to send Celtics to OT

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

Stars, studs and duds: Lillard steps up in second half, overtime

BOSTON – Saturday was yet another night when the opposing team – this time it was the Portland Trail Blazers – that up the Boston Celtics with an avalanche of points that ended in a 127-123 overtime loss.

And yet through the rubble of all those lay-ups and put-back baskets and mid-range jumpers, Stevens saw something he has not seen in a while – hope that better days defensively were coming sooner rather than later.

“As crazy as it sounds with them scoring (127) … I actually thought we were a lot closer to defending the way we want to defend," said Stevens. "I thought we were really locked into those guards, and I thought we tried to make it as tough as possible. Those guys are really good players, obviously, but I thought, I thought we did a lot of good things in that regard.”

For the most part, Boston and Portland played a relatively even game that wasn’t decided until the final minute of overtime.

“They just made more plays down the stretch,” said Boston’s Al Horford.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday’s game.



C.J. McCollum

He tends to get second billing to Damian Lillard, but he was a first rate problem for the Celtics. He led the Blazers with 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting.

Damian Lillard

After a foul-troubled first half, Lillard stepped up like the All-Star he is in the second half to finish with 28 points and seven assists which included seven of Portland’s 14 points in overtime.

Isaiah Thomas

It was another dynamic scoring night for Thomas, finishing with a game-high 41 points which included 21 in the fourth quarter and overtime.


Terry Rozier

Making the most of his chance to play due to injuries and illnesses, Rozier came up with a number of big shots all night. He finished with 15 points which included a 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds in the fourth that forced overtime.

Mason Plumlee

In addition to doing a solid job protecting the rim, Plumlee also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds while dishing out a game-high eight assists.

Meyers Leonard

Easily the big X-factor of the game, Leonard had 17 points off the bench on 6-for-7 shooting.



Celtics Turnovers

This is the one area where the Celtics have been really good all season. Saturday? Not so much. Boston turned the ball over a season-high 21 times which accounted for 34 points for the Blazers.