With the 197th pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Ohio State defensive back and former standout rugby player Nate Ebner.
Yeah, I really don't know anything about this guy, and I highly doubt many people do. He's a former rugby player who played a few snaps at Ohio State, was a standout special teams player, and turned some heads at his Pro Day. Cleveland.com has a recent article on Ebner, which details his pursuit of his NFL dream:
Nate Ebner is listed as a safety but played just a handful of defensive snaps as a Buckeye. But after opening eyes at the school's pro day in March, Ohio State's best special teams player from a year ago is completely focused on taking a shot at the NFL and making an international rugby career just a backup plan.
Ebner was timed as fast as a 4.48 in the 40 at the pro day, showed his agility with a fast time in the three-cone drill and did well in the broad and vertical jumps. He figured he might do well at the tests, and what he proved is that at about 215 pounds, he could be a raw athlete with a lot of room for growth. That should make him worth a look as an across-the-board special teams player, either in the draft or in free agency. He has continued to talk with NFL teams since pro day.
So, this seems like nothing more than a developmental special teams pick. Based on Ebner's playing experience, he will likely have to spend a couple of years on the practice squad, but who really knows? I thought there were some other players left on the board that could have helped the team fill out some depth in the more immediate future. However, the pick of Ebner... is... well... interesting, to say the least. I feel like the Patriots could have picked him up as a free agent, but if they feel he could be the next Stephen Neal (in terms of changing sports), then maybe they felt the 6th round was the right time to pull the trigger. Greg's Grade: C-