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Patriots taking close look at top cornerbacks

It almost seems unfair. New England goes 18-1 last season, then holds the seventh overall pick in the draft.

To prepare for the pick that is enough to unnerve the rest of the league, New England appears to be getting defensive.

It hosted a visit Monday with USC linebacker Keith Rivers, who is viewed as a top 12 pick, as well as Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason, another first-day pick.

But the Patriots hardly stopped with Rivers and Cason. They were scheduled to host a visit Tuesday with Tennessee State cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, regarded as one of the draft's top defensive backs.

And that appears to be just the start of a cornerback investigation in an effort to help replace Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel, who defected to Philadelphia.

On Sunday, April 13, Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib, with his supreme ability but character questions, is scheduled to visit the Patriots for two days.

Once Talib leaves, Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin is scheduled to spend Tuesday and Wednesday with the Patriots. Many regard McKelvin as the draft's top-rated cornerback, and he brings the dimension of being a dynamic return man.

Mock drafts

</center> Who do's Vic Carucci and Pat Kirwan predict the 
Patriots to pick with their No. 9 overall selction in the upcoming 
NFL Draft? 

Carucci:Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy -- After losing Asante Samuel and Randall Gay, the Patriots have little choice but to rebuild themselves at cornerback.

Kirwan:Branden Albert, G, Virginia -- Don't be surprised to see the Patriots look at their offensive line for two reasons. One, they gave up a lot of sacks and pressures in the Super Bowl; and two, Belichick has taken many big offensive linemen with his first-round picks.

So all together, the Patriots could visit with at least four of the draft's top cornerbacks –- Cason, Rodgers-Cromartie, Talib and McKelvin.

Yet, they are not focusing strictly on defensive backs. On Thurday and Friday, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is scheduled to visit the Patriots.

And some of the wisest minds in the league expect New England to draft either a defensive lineman -– Dorsey? USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis? Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey? –- or an offensive lineman.

Should New England opt to upgrade its offensive line, a logical pick would be Virginia guard/tackle Branden Albert.

Whether the Patriots go with Albert or McKelvin or any other player is uncertain.

What is certain is that New England's top pick should improve the Patriots one year after they were unbeatable until the final Sunday of the season.

Add Albert

Albert's rise up the draft board this year is similar to the one that former Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown experienced last year.

At this time last year, Brown was viewed as a mid first-round pick, and he wound up going to the Arizona Cardinals with the fifth overall selection.

Albert once was viewed as a mid-round pick as well. But his schedule has been one of the busiest of any top college prospect. Last week Albert visited the Houston Texans, which was just a warmup.

He spent Sunday and Monday with the Chargers, Monday and Tuesday with the Buccaneers, and then was scheduled to go on to Atlanta for two days with the Falcons. From there, Albert is scheduled to spend Thursday and Friday with the Steelers, Sunday and Monday with the Jets, Monday and Tuesday with the Chiefs, Wednesday and Thursday with the Cowboys, and Thursday and Friday with the Redskins, amongst others.

How is a student/athlete supposed to study or work out or live a normal life when he has another job interview almost every day? Crazy. But the job interviews that Albert goes on are going to produce a higher-paying job than any of his Virginia classmates –- except defensive end Chris Long.

Not again ...

At some point, recently retired quarterback Brett Favre was going to weigh in with the hometown newspaper, the Biloxi Sun Herald. Tuesday he finally did.

Favre hardly ruled out the idea that his retirement was permanent. Asked if he would return to football if the Packers called because of team injuries, Favre said: "It would be hard to pass up, I guess. But three months from now, say that presents itself, I may say, you know what, I'm so glad I made that decision. I feel very comfortable in what I'm doing and my decision.

"Yeah, I can probably be up there doing that and playing, but again, I don't know. It's only speculating. I think the world of that team. I had a lot of fun, not only this year, but over my career. Those guys I played with this past year, a lot of young guys, a lot of fun.

"I think of that, when I think of now being retired, I think I won't be in the quarterback/receiver meeting on Thursdays joking around and having fun and game plan and all that stuff together. It was a fun year. That was fun throwing the ball around like we did. There's no reason to think that won't happen again. Aaron (Rodgers) has fallen into a great situation. And if that opportunity presented itself and they did call, it would be tempting. And I very well could be enticed to do it."

Never thought I'd say this, but the "will Favre return?" questions already have become more annoying than the "will Favre retire?" questions.

Oklahoma's pro day

The focus of Oklahoma's pro day on Wednesday has been squarely on wide receiver Malcom Kelly, who is scheduled to visit the Cincinnati Bengals after his workout.


It's a fast-paced, whirlwind tour for all involved in pro days, and the workouts are sometimes the final opportunity for players to leave a lasting impression.

For those involved -- players, coaches, scouts and other front-office types -- the pro-day workouts hold a variety of different meanings. Sometimes a potential career could hinge on the results. Other times, it's simply filling in some blanks.

Behind the clipboards, stopwatches, logos, laptops, and cameras are the people whose lives intersect at these crossroads. **More ...**

But Oklahoma also has another prospect that is drawing plenty of attention from the pros.

Defensive back Reggie Smith did not work out at the combine due to a broken big toe that he suffered in the Big 12 Championship. Teams are expecting the 6-foot, 200-pound Smith to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.5 area. But if Smith can clock the 40 in the high 4.3's or low 4.4's -- which he thinks possible -- his value could skyrocket.

Smith might be the most versatile defensive back in this year's draft. He can play safety, corner and even contribute as a returner. He also is a playmaker, having broken up 22 passes at Oklahoma and intercepted another eight.

This pro day is for Kelly. But it is just as big for Smith, who could dramatically improve his stock.

Oh, brother

St. Louis already has one Caldwell at wide receiver –- Reche, who signed with the Rams last month.

Now, this weekend, the Rams will take an extended look at another Caldwell. Reche's younger brother Andre, a wide receiver at Florida, is scheduled to visit the Rams this weekend.

Should St. Louis draft Caldwell, they would pair together the Brothers Caldwell. It would seem to make a great story. The only problem is, there are a finite number of roster spots available.

It's also conceivable that, if the Rams do draft the younger Caldwell, it could cost the older brother a roster spot. This could give new definition to a sibling rivalry.

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