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.

Kraft on possible Patriots reunion with Revis: 'I would love it'

Kraft on possible Patriots reunion with Revis: 'I would love it'

It was reported last week that multiple NFL executives are convinced that Darrelle Revis will return to the New England Patriots next season.

Talking with the New York Daily News, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he’d be open to a reunion with the 31-year-old cornerback.

“I would love it,” Kraft said. “Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

Asked if the team has had discussions with Revis, Kraft said “ask my boy,” in reference to coach Bill Belichick.

Revis spent the 2014 season with the Patriots, helping them win Super Bowl XLIX. He bolted back to the New York Jets the next season, signing a five-year, $70 million contract ($39 million guaranteed).

The Jets released Revis earlier this month after the incident in Pittsburgh. A judge dismissed the charges.

Kraft says intention is not to trade Butler: 'We hope he's with us'

Kraft says intention is not to trade Butler: 'We hope he's with us'

PHOENIX -- The idea that Malcolm Butler could be traded by the Patriots before the start of the 2017 season has been floated for weeks. But if Robert Kraft had his way, he'd like for the hero of Super Bowl XLIX to stick around. 

At the Biltmore hotel on Day 2 of the league's annual meetings, Kraft was asked if he anticipated having Butler back in New England for next season.

"I sure hope so," he said. "We have [a first-round tender] out to him, and I know he has the ability to go out in the market and get someone to sign him, and then we either match it or get the first-round draft pick.

"I'm rooting, I hope, he's with us and signs his offer sheet and plays for us. I have a great affection for him. He was part of probably the greatest play in the history of our team, but there are a lot of people involved in that."

The Patriots can't trade any player who isn't under contract, and they can't talk about a trade for a player not on their roster. Therefore, even if the Patriots hoped to deal Butler and get something in return for the Pro Bowl-caliber corner before he hits unrestricted free agency in 2018, it's not something that the owner of the team would be at liberty to discuss with dozens of microphones in front of his face. 

The tender offer of $3.91 million for one season is still out there for Butler. He could sign it and play in New England. He could sign it and be traded. For now, Kraft says he's hoping for the former -- and insists that the Patriots didn't have designs on the latter all along.

"I don't want to, in any way, take away from his rights [as a restricted free agent]," he said, adding, "I want to be clear. I hope he's with us."