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

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Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.