Celtics

NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Safety

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NFL Draft 2012 positional breakdowns: Safety

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: Safeties

POSITION OVERVIEW
The safety class in the 2012 NFL Draft is very shallow. And, as recent history suggests, it's just not a priority position for teams, especially at the top of the draft. In 2010, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas were the fifth and 14th selections respectively (Chiefs, Seahawks). Other than that, very few over the past few seasons. The Patriots have drafted two safeties early in the past five drafts - Patrick Chung in the second round in 2009 and Brandon Meriweather in the first round in 2007. Alabama's Mark Barron is the only player with a shot to be taken in the first round this year at the safety position. Behind him is Notre Dame's Harrison Smith, a well-regarded free safety, and South Carolina's Antonio Allen.

PATRIOTS PREDICAMENTSafety is a position of need for the Patriots. Chung is a very good player and - if he can stay healthy - is a borderline Pro Bowler. But the safety position alongside him was a revolving door in 2011 and nobody who went through it was a show-stopper. Josh Barrett - a big, 6-2, 226-pounder - wound up on IR. Sergio Brown didn't get it done in his absence. And James Ihedigbo - an in-season pickup - did the best job back there. Chung is interchangeable in the free and strong safety roles and the Patriots like versatility back there; they also want a big special teams role filled by their safeties. Barron may be off the board before the Patriots pick at 27. But he's a guy who has the requisite pedigree to attract New England - two-time team captain in a big-time program who is smart, works hard and can come with a recommendation from Bill Belichick buddy Nick Saban.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Mark Barron, 6-1, 213, Alabama
A solid hitter who is excellent in run support but also can make athletic plays in pass defense downfield. An excellent leader (two-time captain) who is more of an in-the-box safety than a coverage guy. Had a double-hernia surgery after the season.
Harrison Smith, 6-2, 213, Notre Dame
A free safety with excellent quickness and instinctiveness. A four-year starter who commands respect and is an on-field leader. Has versatility between the safety positions and is solid in special teams coverage.
Antonio Allen, 6-2, 210, South CarolinaHad 88 tackles and three picks last year for the Gamecocks. Makes plays, forcing 10 turnovers his last two seasons. Solid tackler. Good worker and leader but not at the same level as Smith or Barron in terms of polish.

Jordan Bernstine, 5-10, 212, Iowa
Under-the-radar prospect the Patriots have been snooping around. He didn't go to the NFL Combine, but at Iowa's Pro Day he ran a 4.4 40 and had a 41-inch vertical. As a senior, he had 89 tackles and has terrific special teams ability in coverage and as a returner.
Brandon Taylor, 5-10, 210, LSU
Started 14 games at strong safety in his fourth and final season at LSU. Needs to become more fundamentally sound as a tackler but is highly respected as a leader and was one of Les Miles' favorite players at LSU.
BEST PATRIOTS FITS
Barron as a late first-rounder. He won't last until the Patriots' pick at 48.

Smith in the second round.

Bernstine anytime after the fourth round.

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

0:41 - With Kyrie Irving out with shoulder soreness the Celtics looked like a shell of themselves, losing to the 76ers, 89-80. A. Sherrod Blakely joins Michael Holley and D.J. Bean from the TD Garden to break down the loss.

7:43 - Tom Brady is injured! This is not a drill! Brady missed practice on Thursday and remains a question mark for the AFC Championship Game. Tom Giles, Jeff Howe, D.J. Bean and Tom Curran discuss the severity of the injury.

15:09 - Dave Dombrowski’s plan for the upcoming season - or lack of one - has continued to confuse everyone, though he made it clear that he’s not waiting for next year’s huge free agent class. Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Tom Curran react to Dealin’ Dave’s comments on the situation.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving has long since understood the balancing act he must walk between embracing the moment while being mindful of the big picture. 

That’s why the decision to sit out Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia was one that, while certainly didn’t do Boston any favors against the Sixers on Thursday, it does provide him some much-needed downtime to rest his sore left shoulder.

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Sixers

The good news is that tests taken on the shoulder show no structural damage. And with the way the schedule is shaping up now, Irving will have plenty of time to rest and be ready to play when the Celtics return to the floor on Sunday to host the Orlando Magic. 

“Just precautionary stuff, making sure everything's alright from a strength perspective,” was how Irving described the injury. “Obviously a few days will put me where I need to be. And we'll just see what goes on for Sunday's game, but you know it's nothing too crazy, just giving me a little discomfort over the last few weeks and I've just been playing through it doing what's best in terms of preparing best for every single game. I thought it was best just to get a few tests and make sure everything's alright so, everything's cool.”

Irving said the tests came back negative which is a huge positive for the Celtics and Irving who was selected as an NBA all-star starter for next month’s game. 

As far as how it happened, Irving said there was no specific event or play in which he suffered a blow to the shoulder or anything like that. 

“Gradual soreness” is how Irving described the injury.  “You know, kinda going into my shot, driving left, just not feeling as confident as I would like to be and just thought it would be best just to take a day or two to get it evaluated, meet with our medical staff, meet with our strength conditioning coach and strengthen it up and then hopefully go on Sunday.”

The Celtics (34-12) have now lost two of the three games they played this season without Irving. It is a small sample size, but there’s no denying the impact that a healthy Irving has on this roster when it comes to impacting winning. 

“First off, I just had to make sure some of the major parts of my shoulder just weren't damaged,” said Irving who added, “And then at this point it's just a strength program and doing what's best with that.” 

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