Bottom of the Barrel?
A Look at New England's Last Four Picks
The last two rounds of the 2007 NFL Draft was grueling, if only because the first round took so long -- more than 6 hours, an average of more than 10 minutes per pick. It was brutal for New England Patriots fans, whose team had two-thirds of their nine picks in those two rounds.
The casual viewer had long by then moved on to more interesting and profitable endeavors, such as whittling pinewood derby cars or counting pedestrians or conversing with pigeons. And if you were one of those casual fans, you missed Jacksonville taking nearly 10 minutes to make the 251st and 252nd picks (third and fourth before Mr. Irrelevant).
But if you did tune in, you received a demonstration in the definition of patience, and you also got to ask yourself questions like "Why am I watching this?" and "Who the heck is Justise Hairston?"
Hairston, for those of you who didn't watch -- and probably for a lot you who did, was the Patriots third pick in the 6th round (No. 208). Hairston hails from New Britain, Conn., and played for Division I-AA Central Connecticut State University. Hairston transferred to CCSU after three years at Rutgers University where he shared snaps with running back Ray Rice and 2nd-round pick FB/RB Brian Leonard (No. 52 overall).
Hairston left the crowded backfield of Rutgers to showcase himself as a starter at CCSU. He excelled there, but Division I-AAers are often overlooked.
Evidently, he attracted enough attention. Prior to the draft, he had workouts with several times, including New England. In a mostly empty interview Hairston dropped a couple nuggets, including that part of his "interview" was watching (and, presumably, analyzing) game film. I have a feeling that some scouts (like New England's) put a lot of stock into potential draftees that know how to break down film. It very well possibly earned Hairston a shot in the pros.
Otherwise, there's not much else to say about the 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back. It's apparent that he's resilient. There's no mention anywhere of injuries. He could be one of those 6th-round gems you talk about years later as the steal of the draft, or you never hear from him again. Obviously, the Patriots saw something in him that they like.
Immediately after Hairston, New England nabbed another offensive lineman at No. 209 with tackle Corey Hilliard of Oklahoma State.
Hilliard spent significant time at both tackle positions during his college career, forced to change by injuries to offensive line teammates. He was a team captain and started the last 35 of his 42 games. He's durable if he's anything.
Like Oldenburg, he needs work on his technique. He often stands too tall on blocks and gets pushed back or swept aside by faster linemen. Like Oldenburg, he may be a better guard than tackle. However, he's an above average trap blocker and he's solid on rushing plays. At 6-5, 318, he has room to bulk up a bit, and with a little coaching, he could be a solid contributor.
Hilliard will have an uphill battle. New England has a pretty solid offensive line with hardly a roster spot available, and he'll have to compete with Oldenburg. And with several anticipated early-round picks in 2008, the Patriots will almost assuredly attempt to land a Logan Mankins-styled anchor.
Lua, selected at No. 211, is another puzzling pick. On the surface, he's someone they probably could have snatched Monday morning as an undrafted free agent.
His junior year at USC, Lua, 6-1, 245, replaced Lofa Tatupu who had moved on to success in the NFL. After a solid junior season, Lua struggled with injuries and eventually ended up watching most of the action. Worse, his injuries revolved around his knees (torn ligaments in right knee in 2002, re-injured in 2003, sprained left knee in 2005).
Not surprisingly, he's noted for lacking speed, and that's a problem New England already has on the inside. Unless the Patriots know something no one else knows, Lua's tenure should be short.
With their final pick (No. 247), the Patriots took another offensive lineman, guard/center Mike Elgin of the University of Iowa. I'm starting to think Gene Mruczkowski's or Russ Hochstein's days are numbered.
Elgin is the prototypical utility lineman who can play most positions along the line, but he's not exactly physically prototypical. He's big, but not particularly solid, and without the muscle, he's likely to get pushed around a bit.
The good news is he's virtually injury-free, and he's intelligent: he sees defensive stunts and blitzes before they develop. Elgin is also pretty quick over short spans and is good on pulls and traps, and does a nice job getting to the linebackers on running plays.
Nine picks from the end of the draft, Elgin has his work cut out for him.