Two cornerbacks who are tied atop the New England Patriots' all-time list for career interceptions and the coach who helped revive the franchise and invigorate a region's passion for football are this year's finalists for the team's Hall of Fame.

The Patriots announced Wednesday that Raymond Clayborn, Ty Law and Bill Parcells have made the cut, as voted on by a panel of 20 members of the team's Hall of Fame committee.

One of the three will be inducted into the Hall later this year based on a month-long fan vote on the team's official website.

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowl (1983, 1985, 1986) player for the Patriots from 1977 through 1989. His 36 career interceptions tie with Law as the best mark in team history. This is the first time Clayborn has been named a finalist.

Law spent 10 seasons with the Patriots (1995-2004), was a three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Pro Bowl player (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003) and a two-time All-Pro (1998, 2003) during his tenure with the club. This is his first year of eligibility for the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Parcells served as head coach from 1993-96, inheriting a team that had finished 14-50 in the previous four years, including an NFL worst 2-14 season in 1992. He led the team to the playoffs twice, including a trip to the Super Bowl. He was previously a finalist in 2011 and 2012, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

With just three finalists in a stocked field making the cut, some franchise greats such as safety Rodney Harrison and defensive end Willie McGinest will have to wait another year for consideration. Both Harrison and McGinest were in their second year of eligibility.

C.J. Fiedorowicz to visit Patriots

April, 16, 2014
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We've made the case that the Patriots' biggest need entering the 2014 NFL draft is tight end, and they'll spent part of Wednesday getting a close look at a highly regarded prospect, as Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is taking a visit to Gillette Stadium, a source confirmed.

NFL Network first reported the news.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder was a first-team All-Big Ten selection during his final college season, hauling in 30 passes, including six for touchdowns. He was a standout during the week of the Senior Bowl and ran a respectable 4.76 40-yard dash at the combine while also putting up 25 reps on the bench press.

Washington State safety Deone Bucannon will also be in Foxborough, Mass., for a visit on Wednesday, as we noted on Tuesday evening.

Fiedorowicz is the fifth-ranked tight end and 76th-rated prospect overall by ESPN's Scouts Inc.

Beyond the 1st round: Defensive end

April, 16, 2014
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Each day over the next 10 days, this space will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Patriots. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, "Beyond the first round" focuses on lesser-publicized options beyond the first 32 picks.

Second round: Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
A "traits" prospect at 6-foot-5 1/4 and 304 pounds who runs well, has big hands (10") and long arms (34 3/4). He enters the draft after his junior season and had a better year in 2012 than 2013. The team selecting him will be banking on harnessing his traits into a more productive and consistent player. Seems to have some scheme flexibility.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIDefensive end Stephon Tuitt had 21.5 sacks in three years at Notre Dame.
Third round: Ed Stinson (Alabama)
The 6-foot-3 1/4, 287-pound Stinson figures to appeal to New England because he's shown a knack for executing some of the two-gap, edge-setting techniques employed by the Patriots. He's more likely to win with power than a speed rush.

Fourth round: Taylor Hart (Oregon)
He has NFL size at 6-foot-6 1/8 and 281 pounds, runs well for his size, and is a power rusher. Some project him more as a 3-4 defensive end, but he also might have some scheme flexibility.

Fifth round: Jeoffrey Pagan (Alabama)
At 6-foot-3 1/2 and 310 pounds, he enters the draft after his junior season, appears to have some scheme versatility with experience playing multiple techniques, and comes out of a pro-style program well respected by Bill Belichick.

Sixth round: Jamil Merrell (Rutgers)
The Rutgers-to-Patriots pipeline has been well-tapped and the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Merrell is one candidate to watch to add to it. His high-motor approach and solid tackling skills figure to be to the Patriots' liking.

Seventh round: Josh Mauro (Stanford)
By the final round of the draft, many teams are focusing on one standout trait and Mauro's build (6-6, 271) and upside could be appealing. He could potentially offer some scheme versatility as well.

(Round projections aided by Scouts Inc., NFL.com and independent analysis.)

Previous entries:
1. Defensive tackles
2. Tight ends

Source: Bucannon to visit with Patriots

April, 15, 2014
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The Patriots are hosting former Washington State safety Deone Bucannon on a pre-draft visit, a league source confirmed.

Aaron Wilson of National Football Post first reported the news.

Bucannon was named an Associated Press first-team All-American during his final college season, leading the Pac-12 with 109 tackles, while also tallying six interceptions.

What also stands out about Bucannon is his size, as he is 6-1 and 211 pounds, as noted here by colleague Mike Reiss.

The Patriots may well consider adding safety depth during the draft, as they are thin in terms of experience beyond Devin McCourty.

Second-year player Duron Harmon temporarily can be penciled in as a projected starter, with Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis and the recently re-signed Patrick Chung also on the depth chart.

Bucannon had an impressive showing at the combine, running a 4.49 40 and jumping 36.5 inches in the vertical leap. He is the third-ranked safety and 45th-best prospect overall according to ESPN's Scouts, Inc.
video

Former Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi joins Bob Ley to explain why he will be running this year's marathon with his team, Tedy's Team, and the importance of the marathon to the city of Boston.

Richburg among centers eyed by Pats

April, 15, 2014
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The New England Patriots hold private workouts with hundreds of prospects leading into the NFL draft, so there is reluctance to read too much into those workouts.

The most accurate analysis would be that the workouts indicate that the team is still seeking more information on a prospect; sometimes it can lead to genuine interest or to confirm interest, while other times it can lead the team in another direction.

Along these lines, Colorado State center Weston Richburg popped up on the radar late last week after it was learned the Patriots put him through one of their many private workouts, this one coming in Fort Collins, Colo.

Richburg, at 6-foot-3 3/8 and 298 pounds, is one of the higher-rated centers in the draft, according to Scouts Inc. He's projected as a second-to-third-round pick.

A closer look at Richburg reveals a few things that are sure to appeal to the Patriots:

1. He made the line calls and has good football intelligence.

2. Has played games at center, guard and tackle, highlighting his athleticism and versatility.

3. He appears to fit best in a zone-blocking scheme, which is what the Patriots primarily utilize.

4. He played 49 career games.

5. He is a two-time team captain.

The Patriots re-signed their starting center from the last two seasons, Ryan Wendell, to a two-year deal in March. But the expectation has been that Wendell can expect competition, and perhaps it will come in the form of Richburg.

At the least, the Patriots wanted to get a closer look to consider the possibility.
video

The San Francisco 49ers' search for another wide receiver this offseason led them to a former player.

The 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd to a one-year contract Tuesday.

A 2003 fourth-round pick of the 49ers, Lloyd spent his first three seasons with the team. He has been well traveled since and is joining his sixth team since 2007.

Lloyd, 33, did not play in the NFL last year, a season after he had 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns with New England. He led Denver with 1,448 receiving yards in 2010.

The 49ers considered several receivers this offseason, including Julian Edelman, Emmanuel Sanders, Hakeem Nicks and DeSean Jackson.

Even with Lloyd having a chance to be the No. 3 receiver, the 49ers still are expected to address the position in the draft.



(Read full post)


Weekly Patriots mail is delivered

April, 15, 2014
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Every Tuesday on ESPNBoston.com, questions from New England Patriots followers are answered as part of a weekly mailbag. Today's mailbag has been posted and includes some of the following topics:

1. Preparing for a possible trade in the NFL draft.

2. Re-setting the team's top needs list.

3. Would top center Marcus Martin of Southern Cal be good value at No. 29?

4. Shining the spotlight on the defensive end and defensive tackle positions.

5. Could Boston College running back Andre Williams be a good fit?

Salary survey from Patriots' view

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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ESPN The Magazine, with Sportingintelligence, identified the highest paying professional sports teams in the world as well as the highest paid players in the world.

A few thoughts from a Patriots/football perspective:

1. Football's salary cap sparks its success. The Minnesota Vikings ranked as the top football team, but landed at No. 115 on the overall list. Just another reminder of how the salary-cap system continues to be a big key to the league's business success. Owner Robert Kraft previously said the implementation of the cap was a big factor in his family purchasing the Patriots in 1994 because it leveled the playing field and rewarded those clubs that were well-managed. The Patriots placed 149th on the list.

2. Brady's place on the list. With the survey using 2013 data, Tom Brady's large signing bonus as part of his contract extension landed him at No. 7 on the list of highest paid athletes ($31 million). But if the same survey took place this year, Brady wouldn't register because his base salary is just $2 million. Brady for $2 million? That is one of the NFL's best bargains if we're looking solely at base salary.

Scout's notebook: Tight end

April, 15, 2014
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(Following up this morning's "beyond the second round" post on tight ends, let's revisit the scout's notebook from the position.)

OVERVIEW: Tight ends were at one time more closely associated as an extra layer of protection on the offensive line with the ability to be a receiving outlet when needed; today, players like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have altered the way teams build their defenses. The role of a tight end remains multifaceted, as they will be called upon to both block and catch on a consistent basis, which requires a diverse skill set and an aptitude to understand many angles of the game plan.

DESIRED TRAITS: The ideal tight end can both block at a level that resembles an offensive lineman and catch at a level that resembles a receiver. Finding such a player is a rarity, although the Patriots happen to have one in Rob Gronkowski.

On the blocking front, tight ends aim to get off the ball, engage defenders with a square, balanced base, and explode upon contact. Scouts looks for quickness in blocking, strength, footwork and a willingness to take on bigger, more powerful defenders. Gronkowski shows terrific strength, hand placement, power through his hips to drive forward, and a nastiness to finish his blocks as well.

The important traits to examine in tight ends as receivers are separation ability and catching skills. Tight ends are typically not as athletic as receivers, so separation often comes from using their size to leverage defenders.

The “F” or “move” tight end varies from a traditional “Y” tight end. The "F" is a player who is used all over the offensive formation, and is an adept receiver. A "Y", by comparison, is responsible to be an effective blocker, while often owning a less prominent receiving role. Gronkowski bucks the trend, as he can both block and catch.

SPECIAL TEAMS ANGLE: Tight end is another position that teams often look to for core special teams contributions, as well as blockers on the field goal/PAT team. If a team opts to keep a third and potentially fourth tight end, they must be able to contribute in the kicking game.

Beyond the 1st round: Tight end

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
5:00
AM ET
Each day over the next 10 days, this space will focus on one position in the NFL draft by highlighting a prospect in Rounds 2-7 who might fit for the Patriots. With so much attention placed on the first round in mock drafts, "Beyond the first round" focuses on lesser-publicized options beyond the first 32 picks.

[+] EnlargeTroy Niklas
AP Photo/Michael ConroyTroy Niklas looks to be a pure tight end, with the potential to really grow into the position.
Second round: Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, he is a pure tight end when compared to others at the position who might be viewed more as bigger receivers. He has good size, strength and upside to develop into a solid combination tight end as he's only played the position for two years.

Third round: Marcel Jensen (Fresno State)
Some physical traits stand out -- 6-foot-6, 259 pounds with 34 7/8 arm length for a wide catch radius. Looks like he has some combination potential to be a factor in-line and split wide.

Fourth round: Trey Burton (Florida)
While much of the pre-draft buzz has centered on Texas Tech's Jace Amaro as an early-round option as a "move" tight end, the Patriots might view Burton as a better fit from a value perspective. He's undersized (6-2, 224) but his excellent 3-cone drill (7.14) and solid intangibles are among the things that caught our eye.

Fifth round: Richard Rodgers (California)
Even at 6-foot-4 and 257 pounds, he likely projects more as a "move" tight end as he played more of an inside receiver role last year. Rodgers enters the draft after his junior season, and his father Richard currently serves as Carolina's special-teams coach.

Sixth round: Crockett Gillmore (Colorado State)
At 6-foot-5 7/8 and 260 pounds, Gillmore has NFL-type size, with long arms (33 3/4) and big hands (10 3/8), which are traits that figure to appeal to clubs. He is similar to Fresno State's Marcel Jensen in that he has ideal physical measureables with room to grow.

Seventh round: Rob Blanchflower (UMass)/Arthur Lynch (Georgia)
Two local products are paired together, as Blanchflower played in high school at St. John's-Shrewsbury (Mass.) and Lynch is from Dartmouth, Mass. They are both hard-nosed, team-first players with room to grow.

(Round projections aided by Scouts Inc., NFL.com and independent analysis.)

Some Patriots items on the agenda

April, 14, 2014
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A few items ahead on the New England Patriots' agenda:

Wednesday, April 16: Three finalists for Patriots Hall of Fame announced (originally scheduled for April 15).

Thursday, April 17: Logan Mankins media availability (11 a.m. ET).

Tuesday, April 22: Matthew Slater media availability.

Tuesday, April 29: Nick Caserio pre-draft news conference.

Thursday, May 8 to Saturday May 10: NFL Draft, availability from team headquarters.

Draft, quarterbacks & the Patriots

April, 14, 2014
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After all the discussion about top quarterbacks in the NFL draft in recent months, is it possible that more signal-callers end up being selected in the second round than the first?

That scenario was offered up by Peter King of TheMMQB.com in his widely-read "Monday Morning Quarterback" piece.

From a Patriots perspective, that scenario wouldn't be ideal.

As ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi noted on Sunday during the fifth-annual ESPNBoston draft preview event, the more quarterbacks picked early, the better it is for New England because it pushes other players down the board.

I'd add receivers, in what is considered a deep class but an unlikely position for the Patriots to address, into that mix as well.

That's why the projection of NFL.com's Gil Brandt, also part of "Monday Morning Quarterback", would be a better turn of events for New England: "Four quarterbacks and six wideouts in the top 32 for Brandt, if he had to pick it today."

This highlights one of the challenges for teams picking late in the first round, like the Patriots are at No. 29. It's hard to know what will unfold with many of the picks that will be made before that selection, so preparing for all scenarios is smart business.

As is often the case, quarterbacks (and to a lesser degree receivers) hold part of the key.

Picked-up Patriots pieces

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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A few picked-up pieces on the New England Patriots' trail:

Schefter on Patriots' draft strategy. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter files his weekly mailbag and analyzes the Patriots' draft strategy. At quarterback, Schefter writes, "How much value does Ryan Mallett really have right now? Not as much as the Patriots or their fans would like, though that always could change this summer."

Tom Brady scheduled for another Kentucky Derby. We remember how excited quarterback Brady was last year at the Kentucky Derby when Orb won. The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Brady is scheduled to attend this year's Derby as well. Brady was also busy on Saturday, shooting a commercial in Beverly, Mass.

C.J. Mosley in the mix at 29? Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com matches up the Patriots' needs with possible prospects, and he explains how linebacker C.J. Mosley, an extension of Alabama coach Nick Saban on the field, could surprisingly be available.

Patriots free-agent perspective. When analyzing the Patriots' free-agent activity from a salary-cap perspective, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com gives the Patriots a "B" grade.

New England's 2014 NFL draft strategy 

April, 14, 2014
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Bill BelichickAP Photo/Michael ConroyBill Belichick has been known to move around in the draft.
Adam Schefter answers readers' questions in his mailbag once a week during the NFL preseason and regular season and sporadically during the playoffs and offseason. Have a query of your own? Submit it here.

Q: I think the New Orleans Saints should draft LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr., even if they have to trade up. He fills a need at WR, and in the return game. Should they go for more weapons or go for depth on "D"? -- Rod (Louisiana)

A: They can’t go wrong either way, Rod. There’s no question New Orleans does need to add another wide receiver in this draft and Beckham’s stock is rising. I don’t see Beckham lasting until New Orleans’ scheduled turn at No. 27 in the first round. Now odder things have happened, but my sense is he’s gone somewhere between 15 and 25. If he’s gone, New Orleans can’t go wrong adding any type of defensive playmaker. I know the Saints were active adding to their secondary during free agency, including safety Jairus Byrd, but another cornerback wouldn’t be the worst thing for that defense.

Q: The New England Patriots have the 29th overall pick. What chances do you give them moving up in the draft to get a Mike Evans or Beckham Jr.? Could they trade Ryan Mallett to move up? -- David (Massachusetts)

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