Potential Patriot: OLB Whitney Merciless


Potential Patriot: OLB Whitney Merciless

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: Whitney Mercilus.

Whitney Mercilus
OLB, Illinois

The Skinny: A 6-4, 254-pound junior from Illinois whose parents are originally from Haiti. After a pedestrian start to his college career with 26 tackles in his first two seasons, Mercilus exploded in 2011 with 57 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. He also forced nine fumbles and won the Hendricks Award as the nation's best defensive lineman.
Gotta Have Him: The kind of edge playmaker the Patriots have either swung and missed on or taken for called strike three. Mercilus is malleable. His youth and the fact he's still a developing player could be seen as a liability but the Patriots could look at him as a player they can form in the fashion they want. Given the age of Andre Carter, the ceiling that Rob Ninkovich has probably already reached, and the apparent bustiness of Jermaine Cunningham, the Patriots could be in the market for an edge guy. Mercilus is most often compared to Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, the most disruptive defender in the NFL in 2011 in my opinion. The Patriots need disruption.
Don't Need Him: The bustiness of Mercilus is pretty obvious as you have a player who did diddly for two seasons before emerging. And when we're talking "bust" we ain't talking Canton, Ohio! Additionally, it's unclear whether Mercilus has the ability to be a three-down player. While that's not a prerequisite, versatility is always a plus for the Patriots. Although Mark Anderson, who signed as a free agent with Buffalo, was a designated pass rusher and the Patriots really should do something to fill that void, Mercilus might be too big a risk.

Forecast: Pass rushers are at a premium and it will be an upset if Mercilus gets past the end of the first round. The teams interested in pass rush help include Jacksonville, the Jets and San Diego. Mercilus has been ticketed for all of them. Still, he could drop to New England which will then be faced with a choice that -- in the past -- they have passed on.
Patriots Draftability: 6

Buckets' Bracketology: The NCAA Tournament begins to take on a local flavor


Buckets' Bracketology: The NCAA Tournament begins to take on a local flavor

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at Comcast SportsNet -- will take a look at the world of college basketball. From now until Selection Sunday, he'll be picking brackets heading into the tournament:

1. Villanova
16. NC Central/Mt. Saint Mary’s

8. Dayton
9. Virginia Tech

5. Cincinnati
12. Middle Tennessee

4. Purdue
13. Valparaiso

6. Notre Dame
11. Marquette/TCU

3. Kentucky
14. Akron

7. Minnesota
10. Kansas State

2. Louisville
15. Furman

1. North Carolina
16. Sam Houston State

8. VCU
9. Iowa State

5. Creighton
12. Nevada

13. Belmont

6. Maryland
11. Syracuse/Providence

3. Florida
14. Princeton

7. South Carolina
10. USC

2. Oregon
15. North Dakota State

1. Kansas
16. Texas Southern

8. Wichita State
9. Miami

5. Wisconsin
12. Vermont

4. Butler
13. Monmouth

6. Saint Mary’s
11. California

3. Florida State
14. UNC-Asheville

7. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan

2. Duke
15. Florida Gulf Coast

1. Gonzaga
16. UC-Davis/North Dakota

8. Northwestern
9. Arkansas

5. Virginia
12. UNC-Wilmington

4. West Virginia
13. Bucknell

6. SMU
11. Michigan State

3. Arizona
14. Arkansas State

7. Xavier
10. Clemson

2. Baylor
15. Cal-Bakersfield


Seton Hall
Georgia Tech
Illinois State
Wake Forest


Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

Blakely: Celtics made the right choice in not pursuing Cousins

NEW ORLEANS -- There will be a significant faction of Celtics Nation who will see DeMarcus Cousins’ trade to New Orleans as a lost opportunity for the C's, who could have offered a much more enticing trade package than the one the Sacramento Kings accepted.
The Kings received nothing even remotely close to a king’s ransom for Cousins, acquiring him in exchange for rookie Buddy Hield, journeyman Langston Galloway and ex-Pelican Tyreke Evans (who has never been the same since his Rookie of the Year season in 2010), along with a protected first-round pick and a future second-round selection.


While the knee-jerk reaction is to focus on why Boston decided to not pursue a trade for Cousins, more important is what the non-decision means for the moment and going forward.
Think about what the Celtics have done in the last three-plus seasons.
They went from being a lottery team to one that has the second-best record in the East. They're holding the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft; at worst, the pick will be in the top four or five. They have three of the most team-friendly contracts (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder) in the NBA. They have promising prospects overseas as well as in the D-League. And they're led by a coach who has improved his coaching acumen -- and the team’s win total -- every year he's been on the job.
And it's all enveloped by a culture with a high level of selflessness, which has created a locker-room environment that has been more about fighting for each other than fighting one another or others off the court.
Do you really think Cousins’ talent would have trumped the baggage he'd be bringing to the Celtics if they'd acquired him?
For him to have fit in with this team would have required him to make the kind of changes that, frankly, I just don’t see him being capable of making at this point.
On more than one occasion, “not fitting in” with the Celtics culture was given to me as the reason why a Cousins-to-Boston trade never gained any traction with the team’s brass. Or coaching staff, for that matter.
While there's no denying that he's arguably the best center in the NBA, Cousins is a high-risk, high-reward talent that makes sense to pursue if you're a franchise which has nothing to lose by adding him to the mix. Like, say, New Orleans.
The Pelicans are 11th in the Western Conference despite having Anthony Davis, who has been asked to carry the weight of a franchise that has yet to figure out the best combination of talent to surround him with and find success.
The addition of Cousins not only provides Davis some major help, but serves as a reminder of just how desperate the Pelicans are.
While there are mixed reports on whether the package of assets the Kings agreed to was the best they could have received for Cousins, there was no way they were going to get anything close to comparable talent in exchange for him.
And that was solely due to the risk that any team was willing to take on in order to acquire him.
At some point, the Celtics need to take advantage of an opportunity to go all-in for a superstar player. But this was not that time, or that player.