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

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Bart Scott: Falcons have 'the better quarterback' in Super Bowl

Former Ravens and Jets linebacker - now an "NFL Today" analyst for CBS - Bart Scott usually "can't wait" to make his disdain for Tom Brady and the Patriots known. 

He was back at it Tuesday in an interview with CBS Radio's Damon Amendolara, in which he said the Falcons have the better quarterback heading into Super Bowl LI.

“We know they’re the better offense, and right now, you could say they got the better quarterback because they have the MVP of the league,” Scott said. Ryan is the favorite to win the NFL MVP, which will be announced the night before the Super Bowl at the "NFL Honors" show.

“Now that’s a debate, but Matt Ryan has earned the right for his name to be put up there with the upper-echelon quarterbacks," Scott said. "He’s always been elite in the regular season, but now he’s taken this show into the postseason and he’s won the hard battles against the elite quarterbacks and now you have to give him his due.”

More from Scott: “I can’t see the Patriots stopping this offense. So, that means that these receivers are going to have to [keep] pace. It’s all going to come down to what it always comes down to. It’s going to come down to who makes the turnovers, who gets up early and puts the pressure on the other team. Matt Ryan and that offense showed me a lot when they went behind [in the divisional round against the Seahawks]. Seattle came and busted them in the face, and [Atlanta] went right back down and answered immediately.

"The Patriots always find a way, but I think it makes it more close of a game than what people think.”

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Crosby, Matthews top coaches' poll

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while rooting for “Manchester By the Sea” to upset some favorites at the Oscars.

*Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews top the annual NHL coaches' poll produced by TSN Insider Bob McKenzie.

*The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck used for the NHL during their run with the league is an entertaining one.

*Mike Babcock gives pep talks to the reporters along with his own players while running the show in Toronto.

*The Vegas Golden Knights are moving forward with their timetable toward hiring a coach with some good candidates out there now, and some other ones potentially available soon. I’ve wondered if Claude Julien would be interested in that spot if he’s let go by the Bruins this season, but the one sure thing is that he wouldn’t be out of work long if he is relieved of his duties.

*Claude Giroux needs to start playing a little more fearlessly and without dwelling on mistakes, according to his general manager.

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill doesn’t believe that fancy stats and analytics have had a major impact on the way the Wings do things.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the rundown on a Millenial’s dream of performers at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game: Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony and Carly Rae Jepsen.

*For something completely different: keeping an eye on the notion that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is going to run for President.