Potential Patriots: Mark Barron

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Potential Patriots: Mark Barron

Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran and Mary Paoletti will look at some of the prospects that could be targets for the Patriots. Today's player: Mark Barron.

Mark Barron, 6-1, 213
SS, Alabama
The Skinny: A thumping hitter with a knack for coming downhill and supporting the run. Seen as the best safety on the board in a weak safety class. Was the leader of the Crimson Tide secondary, making all the defensive calls for Nick Saban's team which - by the end of their National Championship win - was one of the best college defenses in decades. A two-time captain who's seen as very smart and the owner of a solid personal makeup. In addition to being a pretty good hitter, has excellent body control and can make plays on the ball in the air. A good, long look at how he plays the position is here. Our friend Wes Bunting from National Football Post who we'll be leaning on said of Barron, "From a fit standpoint, he's a smart guy, very good instincts and a good football player. Junior to senior year, he really improved. He did a better job of balancing and being more sound. He's not explosively fast but he's instinctive in coverage and then will help against the deep pass. I don't think he's dynamic enough to be a big time, Pro Bowl ballhawker. But he's a good solid player.

Gotta Have Him: Clearly, the Patriots are in desperate need of a complete safety they can line up next to Patrick Chung and make the back end of the Patriots defense better than occasionally OK. Barron, because of the Bill Belichick-Nick Saban link, will be a prospect the Patriots know inside and out. He's been the quarterback of an NFL-style defense playing at the highest level. He can cover. He can hit. He is smart. He's got the ability and leadership skills to be a long-time fixture.

Earliest I heard was cowboys interested at 14, more than 14 players better than him.
Don't Need Him: He had double-hernia surgery after the season and didn't work out at the NFL Combine. Being that he's the top safety on the board, it's questionable as to whether he'll be on the board at 27 and 31. That means a trade-up is necessary and - if that's the case - how often do you see the Patriots go high for a safety? Right, not often.

Forecast: The Cowboys, Jets, Eagles and Bengals have all been seen as possible landing spots for Barron. This is a player who - aside from the hernia surgery - figures to be a very safe pick. Barron's a player a team can take comfort in knowing he'll be a capable pro. Very little risk. The need is there for New England. The talent and dependability of Barron is there. But the Patriots may also believe they can find a "good enough" answer somewhere else. I don't agree with that and believe they should move up to get him, especially if that means parting with one of their second-round picks and the 27th. Enough with the chaos at the back. Move up. Get a player. Chances are, if they wait for Barron at 27, he'll be gone. Said Bunting, "As a football player, he's a top 20 guy but there's questions on how athletic he is because of the hernia surgery and the fact he hasn't been able to do all the testing. If you get him late in the first round, that's a great spot. I've heard the Cowboys have interest at 14, if that were to happen, I'd say it's too high."

Patriots Draftability: 9

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Should the Patriots be Super Bowl favorites?

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Should the Patriots be Super Bowl favorites?

Jeff Howe joins Arbella Early Edition to discuss the New England Patriots still being Super Bowl favorites with Tom Brady being suspended four games.

Farrell: 'Strike-throwing is a priority' for Owens in Triple A

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Farrell: 'Strike-throwing is a priority' for Owens in Triple A

NEW YORK -- Following a six-walk effort Thursday in Chicago, Henry Owens found himself optioned back to Pawtucket Friday, removed from the Red Sox rotation after three sub-par starts.

Owens lasted just three-plus innings Thursday, and allowed two runs. In three starts since being promoted to replace Joe Kelly in the Red Sox rotation, Owens walked 13 in 12 1/3 innings while allowing 13 hits for a ghastly 2.108 WHIP and a 5.11 ERA.

"Henry needs to go back and learn to command his fastball with more consistency,'' said John Farrell. "He's got an outstanding changeup that can get him back in some counts and get him away from some damage. But the strike-throwing is a priority here.''

In addition to wildness, Owens saw his velocity dip, with his fastball topping out at 90 mph most times.

But Farrell insisted there isn't a physical issue with the lefty.

"One thing that we can for sure rule out is health,'' said Farrell. "There's no health issues at play here. I think when a pitcher's delivery is not in sync, he's not getting the most power out of it (in terms of velocity). And then, with the strike throwing, it becomes a confidence factor. I don't want to say he was tentative or it was a lack of aggressiveness, but I think when you're feeling for pitches to try to get them in the strike zone, there might be a tentativeness that takes over.''

Owens has a quality changeup that can throw off hitters' timing and get weak contact, as happened Thursday night. But that pitch is only effective when he can set it up more with his fastball.

"That creates a little more margin for error,'' said Farrell of the changeup as a weapon, "but you've got to be in the strike zone first.''

Owens seemed to regress some from last year, when he was 4-4 in 11 starts with a 4.57 ERA. He pitched into the eighth inning in three straight starts in September.

"It's the second time he's been in the big leagues with us,'' said Farrell. "When the opportunity presents, you take it and run with it. I felt last year, he pitched effectively. He pitched very good at times. There were a couple of starts where he didn't have his best stuff, but he found his way into the sixth or into the seventh inning. That was (what we were hoping for) last year. OK, he's battling but he's finding a way to get through it.

"As far as his opportunity, I'm sure he'll back to us at some point.''

Asked if the Red Sox had expected more from Owens, Farrell didn't mince words.

"Based on what he showed at this level last year, yes,'' said Farrell.

Owens was replaced on the roster by Sean O'Sullivan, who was with the club here Friday afternoon and in the bullpen, at least temporarily.

He could take Owens's spot in the rotation Tuesday.

"He's a candidates, yes,'' said Farrell.

O'Sullivan is with his fifth different organization, having pitched with the Angels, Royals, Padres and Phillies.

He signed with the Red Sox last winter as a free agent, in part attracted by the presence of pitching coordinator Brian Bannister, a one-time teammate of O'Sullivan with the Royals. Bannister has taken an innovative, analytical approach to pitching and has already helped O'Sullivan.

"When he was in (spring training) camp,'' said Farrell, "he showed more arm strength than anticipated. The strike-throwing has been above-average for him. A veteran guy who's pitched at this level for extended outings. We felt like that dependability and durability were also a factor in getting him here.''

Farrell credited an improved cutter and "more consistent location down in the strike one,'' accounting for O'Sullivan's improved results at Triple A.

O'Sullivan wasn't on the 40-man roster until Friday, when he was added. The Sox shifted third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the 60-day DL to make room.