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Patriots go outside the box for Nate Ebner

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It was an unusual draft for Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

They traded up twice in the first round after years of dealing down and they didn’t make a trade with the Eagles. Things got back to normal later in the process, though, as the Pats dealt down to stock up on more picks and then took a flier on a player with an unusual background.

In the sixth round they took Ohio State safety Nate Ebner, a walk-on who played all of three plays from scrimmage in his college football career. Ebner played a lot of special teams, but his real athletic interest was rugby. Ebner starred on teams in high school and harbored notions of a career as a professional rugby player before deciding to try his hand at football. He ran well at the Buckeyes Pro Day and caught Belichick’s eye.

“We think he has a lot of good football in front of him,” Belichick said, via the Providence Journal. “Of course, we had good connections at Ohio State. Obviously, that played a part in it.”

That connection is former Patriot Mike Vrabel, who was an assistant coach at his alma mater last season. His recommendation helped Ebner land in New England as one of the unlikeliest picks in this or any draft.

As mentioned up top, there’s a precedent for this in New England. They’ve drafted special teamers like Matthew Slater in the past and this isn’t their first time taking a chance on an athlete from another sport. Stephen Neal was a wrestler in college, but the Patriots gave him a shot as an undrafted free agent in 2001 anyway. He got cut, went to the Eagles for a spell and then returned to the Patriots in time to pick up three Super Bowl rings while starting 81 games at guard over 10 seasons.

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49 Responses to “Patriots go outside the box for Nate Ebner”
  1. jtchernak says: Apr 29, 2012 10:40 AM

    I like his guy and I loved the dennard pick low risk high reward

  2. yankeemofo says: Apr 29, 2012 10:46 AM

    Good draft, Pats! Let’s keep this train rollin’!

  3. jacobslatter says: Apr 29, 2012 10:48 AM

    Nate “The Great” Ebner will be another precious stone removed from the BB tumbler. Smooch them rings.

  4. capesquad says: Apr 29, 2012 10:54 AM

    I figured Mike Vrabel had a hand in this pick… such a classic Pats move. LOVE it.

  5. rje49 says: Apr 29, 2012 11:00 AM

    So why would the Pats use a draft pick for a guy nobody else would have taken? Couldn’t they have just signed him as a free agent after the draft?

  6. chadmurdigan says: Apr 29, 2012 11:02 AM

    Watching the Patriots draft players is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Talk about outside the box thinking.

  7. cometkazie says: Apr 29, 2012 11:02 AM

    It’s nice to have articles like this.

    Of course it will give the Patriot haters something to rant about, but what else is new?

  8. erniecohen says: Apr 29, 2012 11:06 AM

    The obvious question is why they picked him in the 6th round – were they afraid that somebody else would snap him up?

  9. seanmmartin says: Apr 29, 2012 11:19 AM

    Other notable Patriots from other sports:

    Merriweather (flag football)
    Sergio Brown (flag football)

  10. ampats says: Apr 29, 2012 11:20 AM

    Must be one tough SOB.Rugby does not have any Roger Goodell rules on player safety.
    As history also shows the Pats will have at least one of their FA’s make the roster.

  11. barnold1993 says: Apr 29, 2012 11:33 AM

    Eagles and Pats traded. Pats switched picks 140 and 149. Pats to 140 and Eagles to 149.

  12. doctorfootball says: Apr 29, 2012 11:37 AM

    For such a “genius”, Belichick makes a lot of dumb moves. Nobody had this kid on the radar. Draft a player that is on he radar and sign Ebner as a free agent. A great coach, but not great when it comes to drafting.

  13. cincybert says: Apr 29, 2012 11:40 AM

    Brilliant…genius….out of the box thinking. Like when the Patriots signed Haynesworth?

  14. realitypolice says: Apr 29, 2012 11:42 AM

    As a rugby player/coach of over 25 years, I love this idea.

    Couple things:

    -I agree with rj49e. Doesn’t sound like anyone else even knew much about this guy. Why use a draft pick on him?

    -To Ampats: Actually, rugby has very strict rules about tackling. Nothing near the end, and you absolutely have to wrap your arms. That’s why rugby, while being extremely tough, has much fewer serious injuries than football.

    One thing Belichick will NOT have to teach this guy is how to make tackles in the open field.

  15. realitypolice says: Apr 29, 2012 11:43 AM

    *nothing near the HEAD* I obviously meant.

    Funny how one poorly placed type can change the whole meaning of a sentence.

    *sigh*

  16. jwreck says: Apr 29, 2012 11:43 AM

    cometkazie says: Apr 29, 2012 11:02 AM

    It’s nice to have articles like this.

    Of course it will give the Patriot haters something to rant about, but what else is new?
    ___________________
    I’ll start off by saying I hate New England: I hate the Patriots, I hate the Bruins, I hate the Celtics, I hate the accents, I hate the entire region (Do love Clam Chowder and Scorsese’s The Departed). So The last thing I want to do is feed New England fans’ egos, but as I’m sure most of you understand, the haterism you’re talking about isn’t actual hatred, it’s jealousy.

    You write “It’s nice to have articles like this.” But the rest of the country feels like the Pats get articles like this all the time. What’s even worse for fans of the other 31 teams is the feeling that “articles like this” are just set-ups for a punch line later in the year where we get articles like “Nate Ebner makes Pro Bowl: is he the greatest safety in the history of the game?” and ESPN headlines reading “Pope declares Belichick to be the second coming of Jesus”. Those who hate on out-of-the-box New England moves are simply sick of the press growing a chubby whenever Belichick does something unusual and the follow-up mediagasm if/when that move works out well.

    So in summary, Patriots fans: don’t gloat. The media already gloats for you, and that’s what creates bitterness and resentment from fans of other teams. You want to hear great things about your team? Just turn on ESPN or PFT anytime Belichick does something “out-of-the-box”, which happens about as regularly as his trips to the can.

  17. crazybeardedjack says: Apr 29, 2012 11:53 AM

    Stephen Neal was not just a college wrestler. He won the Pan-Am Games and a World Championship in 1999 and was a couple of points away from representing the USA at the Athens Olympics in 2000. His loss in at the Olympics Trials in 2000 is what ended his wrestling career and opened him up for an opportunity to play football. The guy was a world class talent in wrestling.

  18. mullman7675 says: Apr 29, 2012 11:53 AM

    jacobslatter says:
    Apr 29, 2012 10:48 AM
    Nate “The Great” Ebner will be another precious stone removed from the BB tumbler. Smooch them rings.
    ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    Give me a break. Pats can’t win rings unless they are filming hand signals. False dynasty founded on a BS call, rooted in cheating. These are the facts, they can not be disputed. Bunch of chowder loving honks…

  19. CKL says: Apr 29, 2012 11:56 AM

    chadmurdigan says: Apr 29, 2012 11:02 AM

    Watching the Patriots draft players is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Talk about outside the box thinking.
    _______________________________
    I’m a Pats fan and can safely say that sometimes they are outside even the factory that makes the boxes!

    When this team won rings, it had a lot more tough nasty physical guys on it. They are adding more of those guys again starting in about 2010 (Chung, Spikes, Gronk). That started paying dividends right away and the 2011 Pats don’t make the SB without that mental and physical toughness starting to re-appear. This crop looks like they are physically and mentally tough also. We’ll see.

  20. rushmatic says: Apr 29, 2012 12:07 PM

    erniecohen says:
    Apr 29, 2012 11:06 AM
    The obvious question is why they picked him in the 6th round – were they afraid that somebody else would snap him up?

    ___________________

    The Pats don’t use Kiper or Mayock to make draft decisions. They don’t use any national experts, for that matter. They use their own team and always have. One of the few, I think.

  21. pondbridge says: Apr 29, 2012 12:25 PM

    Dennard is the steal of the draft. From 7th round to Day 1 starter at CB for NE.

  22. mornelithe says: Apr 29, 2012 12:53 PM

    @JWReck: Not that I don’t agree with you that the Pats get a ton of coverage….but, they do have the best win% of the last 11 (134-42|.761)years in the NFL and are the reigning AFC Champs….so media attention is to be expected.

    The media aren’t loyal though, give the Pats a few down years (presumably the first couple after Brady retires…if they don’t have some magic in their pocket ala Brady taking over for Cassel), and it’ll be another team in the limelight, and then the majority of fans will be pissed/jealous over them, instead heh.

  23. mac3333 says: Apr 29, 2012 12:54 PM

    Nate’s a beast. Not sure he wouldn’t have been an UFA but he’s a beast nonetheless.

  24. dbtime says: Apr 29, 2012 12:54 PM

    It is funny how everyone always slurps Belichick

  25. olcap says: Apr 29, 2012 1:04 PM

    Uh, can someone say why anyone with a functioning brain, would use a draft pick on someone they could have signed as a free agent? Why is the tone of your article a suggestion that this was somehow a cunning, intellectually deceptive and mysterious reach into the unknown, that has a good chance of becoming the stuff of legend?

    The slip-sliding down, of the coach who owes his entire success to one player he luckily acquired through the draft as a matter of happenstance, is now going through all kinds of crazy gyrations, trying to look like he’s keen and on the cutting edge. He’s neither, and, he’s a dork.

  26. infectorman says: Apr 29, 2012 1:33 PM

    jwreck says:
    I’ll start off by saying I hate New England: I hate the Patriots, I hate the Bruins, I hate the Celtics, I hate the accents, I hate the entire region
    _____

    Sounds to anyone reading your post that what you really have is simply just A LOT of HATE, period.

    sad

  27. rcali says: Apr 29, 2012 1:34 PM

    Nate Ebner is a winner.

  28. sschmiggles says: Apr 29, 2012 1:41 PM

    rje49 says:
    Apr 29, 2012 11:00 AM
    So why would the Pats use a draft pick for a guy nobody else would have taken? Couldn’t they have just signed him as a free agent after the draft?
    _______________________

    Because any team could’ve signed him as a free agent, and probably would have tried since they all had your mentality. By drafting him, they make sure he’s a Patriot.

    I don’t get why people struggle with this concept. The 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds are for drafting the players you don’t want to get away from you in free agency.

  29. infectorman says: Apr 29, 2012 1:42 PM

    @ olcap

    >>>

    Here’s an idea olcap;

    When you decide to post idiotic comments that advertise your ignorance of NFL football, don’t exacerbate them by advertising your ignorance of basic grammar.

  30. tedmurph says: Apr 29, 2012 1:55 PM

    None of you have any idea if the Pats could have signed this guy as a free agent. Teams don’t even know who’s on each other’s boards. In these late rnds most of these guys are borderline draftable/UFA. He came on Vrabel’s recommendation, so they took him. That’s good enough for me. He’s a longshot to make the team anyway, maybe they strike gold. If not, so what.

    They probably looked dumb drafting Cassel in the 7th rnd when he had 33 PA in college and was the 40th ranked QB. Then they flipped him for the 34th pick.

  31. realitypolice says: Apr 29, 2012 2:10 PM

    sschmiggles says:
    Apr 29, 2012 1:41 PM
    rje49 says:
    Apr 29, 2012 11:00 AM
    So why would the Pats use a draft pick for a guy nobody else would have taken? Couldn’t they have just signed him as a free agent after the draft?
    _______________________

    Because any team could’ve signed him as a free agent, and probably would have tried since they all had your mentality. By drafting him, they make sure he’s a Patriot.

    I don’t get why people struggle with this concept. The 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds are for drafting the players you don’t want to get away from you in free agency.
    ===========

    By your logic, they should have drafted him in the 7th round, not the 6th.

  32. zackattack006 says: Apr 29, 2012 2:14 PM

    OMG fire Belicheat already… another dumb move by him.. why would you waste a pick for a non-football player… you’re supposed to sign them as FAs… wow! As always, Belicheat trying to cheat the system.

  33. mornelithe says: Apr 29, 2012 2:22 PM

    @olcap: He luckily acquired? Brady was a 6th round pick, 199th overall (A compensatory pick, no less). That wasn’t luck, that was just plain stupidity on the part of 31 other NFL teams.

    I guess you could give BB some credit there, but…I’d really only do so if it would’ve been a 1st or 2nd rounder. Remember, Brady wasn’t a shot in the dark QB, he was one of the most storied QB’s in Michigan State history.

  34. 6ball says: Apr 29, 2012 2:29 PM

    .

    @oldcap

    “why waste a pick on somebody who wasn’t going to be drafted”?

    Perhaps….but some of these other organizations are pretty smart also. I wouldn’t want to try to earn a living outsmarting Ted Thompson,Jerry Reese, Ozzie Newsombe et al on a regular basis.

    .

  35. dynaco says: Apr 29, 2012 3:12 PM

    The Jets signed a rugby player two weeks ago, Guess the copypats wanted not to be outdone?
    It will be fun to see what happens to both.

  36. latenightroach says: Apr 29, 2012 5:10 PM

    So they take a 5th rounder in the 2nd and a FA in the 6th, yet they get a grade A for their draft?

    Enough of the Pats Kool Aide already.

  37. TheWizard says: Apr 29, 2012 5:12 PM

    But the rest of the country feels like the Pats get articles like this all the time

    Win more games.

    That’s how to overcome it.

  38. hypnocoach183 says: Apr 29, 2012 5:47 PM

    Amazes me how lazy and silly some people make themselves look by not doing a little homework before opening their mouths. Ever hear of google folks?
    Here’s some insight as to why BB drafted this guy, he’s one of the best athletes for his size in the draft as evidenced by his Ohio State Pro Day numbers. Maybe football experience light,but you can’t teach athleticism.
    He only bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times and ran the 60-yard shuttle in 10.99 seconds, illustrating his conditioning level. Also recorded surprising athletic numbers, including a 39-inch vertical leap, broad jump of 10 feet 8 inches, short-shuttle time of 4.04 seconds and a 3-cone time of 6.59 seconds. And did a 4.45 forty.
    Now compare his numbers against others pro days or combine measurements for athletes who are approximately 6 feet and 215 pounds and you’ll see that Mr. Ebner compares very favorably.

  39. backindasaddle says: Apr 29, 2012 7:10 PM

    ‘jwreck’ says:

    “I’ll start off by saying I hate New England: I hate the Patriots, I hate the Bruins, I hate the Celtics, I hate the accents, I hate the entire region”
    _____________________________________________________

    You forgot the Red Sox.

  40. backindasaddle says: Apr 29, 2012 7:25 PM

    cincybert says:
    Apr 29, 2012 11:40 AM
    Brilliant…genius….out of the box thinking. Like when the Patriots signed Haynesworth?
    ________________________________________________________

    Actually, they signed him to a no risk deal. His contract monies were contingent on performance and they gave up nothing to get him. When Haynesworth proved that he was going to continue being a lazy bum… the Pats dumped him. No harm/No foul. The upside was that the lazy bum actually could be a beast if only he would try. He didn’t so they cut him immediately when it became obvious. The Redskins are the ones that really took it on the chin with Fat Albert….. 100 million contract. Yikes!

  41. dynaco says: Apr 29, 2012 7:58 PM

    Kraft wouldn’t let Parcells do the grocery shopping but he lets Billy Belli do them???
    WTF is in the water up there?

  42. jwreck says: Apr 29, 2012 10:38 PM

    mornelithe says: Apr 29, 2012 12:53 PM

    @JWReck: Not that I don’t agree with you that the Pats get a ton of coverage….but, they do have the best win% of the last 11 (134-42|.761)years in the NFL and are the reigning AFC Champs….so media attention is to be expected.

    The media aren’t loyal though, give the Pats a few down years (presumably the first couple after Brady retires…if they don’t have some magic in their pocket ala Brady taking over for Cassel), and it’ll be another team in the limelight, and then the majority of fans will be pissed/jealous over them, instead heh.
    ______________
    True that, public relations drive the world. Yeah, just pray that the decline in on-the-field success doesn’t coincide with the the Kraft family selling the team off to a diminutive real estate mogul with control issues and no people skills(trust me, the results aren’t pretty).

  43. backindasaddle says: Apr 30, 2012 2:17 AM

    dynaco says:
    Apr 29, 2012 7:58 PM
    Kraft wouldn’t let Parcells do the grocery shopping but he lets Billy Belli do them???
    WTF is in the water up there?
    _______________________________________________________

    WTF is in the water up there?

    Three Super Bowl wins and the highest winning % of any team over the last decade. I’d say…. success…. that is what’s in the water up here….. success.

  44. bensawyer says: Apr 30, 2012 9:37 AM

    Isn’t the reason you spend a 6th or any low pick on a guy you really want but also might be a FA because ultimately you don’t want to sign all your picks if you’re the patriots? So why have 7-9 picks then 3-4 FA and have to pay bonuses, etc. Also once you leave a guy to FA you need to negotiate against any other team, and that time spent is time spent going after other FAs that might be even more in demand and you could lose if you’re busy with another guy.

    The way I see it is the Pats really wanted him, and putting lots of good special teamers where they can then move them into dime, etc. is a great strategy.

    It’s really just a case of resource allocation and we all assume that just because a guy is left to FA means we’ll get him. That’s a risk no matter what. They chose to not take those risks and that seems a good idea to me.

  45. dynaco says: Apr 30, 2012 10:59 AM

    backindasaddle says:
    Apr 30, 2012 2:17 AM
    dynaco says:
    Apr 29, 2012 7:58 PM
    Kraft wouldn’t let Parcells do the grocery shopping but he lets Billy Belli do them???
    WTF is in the water up there?
    _______________________________________________________

    WTF is in the water up there?

    Three Super Bowl wins and the highest winning % of any team over the last decade. I’d say…. success…. that is what’s in the water up here….. success.

    ————————————————–
    For clarity purposes only, do SB losses count as success??? If so thumbs up to 18-1.

  46. dirtierwater says: Apr 30, 2012 11:18 AM

    Heh, does Belichick even need the draft? He apparently looks at players differently than just about every other personnel guy so why conduct this charade every year?

    At this point I’m pretty convinced the guy could build a roster of UFA’s and still win.

  47. dynaco says: Apr 30, 2012 11:40 AM

    I agree, Billy doesn’t need the draft. Winning is not a problem for him. As of late It’s the losses in the post season that’s absolutely KILLING him.

  48. olcap says: Apr 30, 2012 5:40 PM

    mornelithe says:
    Apr 29, 2012 2:22 PM

    @olcap: He luckily acquired? Brady was a 6th round pick, 199th overall (A compensatory pick, no less). That wasn’t luck, that was just plain stupidity on the part of 31 other NFL teams.
    —————–

    Oh, I see. So what you’re saying then, is that the great genius also was plenty stupid for bypassing him 5 times before finally spending a draft pick on him. He took an awful big chance of never having his meal ticket, and was, as you said, plain stupid 5 times before he was a genius.

  49. backindasaddle says: Apr 30, 2012 8:06 PM

    dynaco says:
    Apr 30, 2012 10:59 AM
    backindasaddle says:
    Apr 30, 2012 2:17 AM
    dynaco says:
    Apr 29, 2012 7:58 PM
    Kraft wouldn’t let Parcells do the grocery shopping but he lets Billy Belli do them???
    WTF is in the water up there?
    _______________________________________________________

    WTF is in the water up there?

    Three Super Bowl wins and the highest winning % of any team over the last decade. I’d say…. success…. that is what’s in the water up here….. success.

    ————————————————–
    For clarity purposes only, do SB losses count as success??? If so thumbs up to 18-1.
    _______________________________________________________

    While it is certainly disappointing to lose in the Super Bowl, it is certainly an accomplishment just to get there. It is also another indicator of a highly successful organization. Let’s see…. 5 SB appearances in 10 years with 3 SB wins and the highest winning percentage in the league over the past decade. The facts don’t lie whether people such as yourself want to acknowledge it or not.

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