NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Outside linebacker

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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

POSITION OVERVIEW
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.
PATRIOTS PREDICAMENT
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.

TOP OF THE CLASS
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.
BEST PATRIOTS FITS
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.

Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

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Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

Like the rest of the baseball world, the Red Sox expressed shock and sadness over the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident in Miami. 

David Ortiz tweeted his thoughts before the game Sunday in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays.

There was a moment of silence for Fernandez - who attended high school in the Tampa area after defecting from Cuba at 15 - before the game at Tropicana Field, and before all major league games on Sunday. 

There was to be on-field ceremony for Ortiz before his last game at the Trop, part of his retirement farewell tour, but it was canceled at Ortiz's request. A video tribute to Ortiz was shown during the game and the Rays gave Ortiz his retirement gifts privately.

Ortiz wiped away tears during the moment of silence. He wrote "RIP Jose" on his cap.

Fernandez had joked about how he wanted to give up a home run to Ortiz when he faced him as an N.L. pitcher in the All-Star Game this past July. 

"I told him yesterday that I am going to throw him three fastballs down the middle. I want to watch him hit a home run," Fernandez had said. 

Ortiz ended up walking against Fernandez, prompting this response from Big Papi:

First baseman Hanley Ramirez, who played for the Marlins, as well as other Red Sox players, also tweeted their reactions after hearing the news of Fernandez's death Sunday morning. 

https://twitter.com/mookiebetts/status/780057024344256512
 

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Bill Belichick says Brad Stevens has given him 'a lot of insight' on coaching

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters last week that spending time with Bill Belichick can make you "feel pretty inadequate as a coach."

But Belichick raved about Stevens during a conference call on Sunday. The two spent time together on Friday night for the Hall of Fame Huddle fundraiser to benefit Belichick's foundation, and the Patriots coach explained that he's learned a lot from the Celtics boss.

"Got to know Brad ove the last couple of years," Belichick said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done, taking a young team, a team that we barely knew some of the players on the team, and in a couple of years has built them into a strong team last year and played very competitively in the playoffs. Fun to go over there and watch them.

"Brad and I have talked about a lot of things that are just coaching-related. Obviously the sports are different. I don't know anything about basketball, and he says he doesn't know much about football. It's really not about Xs and Os and that kind of thing. It's more the other parts of coaching: Prepartion, training, team work, team-building, confidence, communication, players and coaches relationships and so forth.

"Obviously we're in the same business in taking more people to training camp than we can keep on a roster, then managing a roster and dealing with things that happen during the year with that roster, whether it's bringing other guys onto the team, trades and so forth. We've chatted about a lot of those things. He's given me a lot of insight.

"I'd say some of the players they get are a little younger than the guys we get on average. Kids that are coming out of college after one year, we get them after three years or four. Just the trans from college to pro which he obviously has a lot of experience with. Coming to the New England area for most players, that's an adjustment, we don't get too many guys from this area. All of those things like that."