Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL

Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL
May 9, 2012, 2:17 pm
Share This Post

When the Patriots used a sixth-round draft pick on Ohio State's Nate Ebner -- he of the 23 tackles in three college seasons -- eyebrows arched.

But the high regard given Bill Belichick's football acumen (grudgingly in some circles) ensured that while eyebrows moved, tongues didn't wag.

Belichick gets the benefit of the doubt.

Belichick noted when he took Ebner that this wasn't a lark. He had OSU references, most prominently Mike Vrabel. The former Patriot joined the Buckeyes coaching staff last year and he gave a stamp of approval to Ebner, a former rugby player.

Whether Ebner turns into an every-down safety or is used almost exclusively on special teams will be borne out in the next few years. But Vrabel says there's a chance Ebner will flourish in the NFL.

"Hes got the ability to run at a high rate of speed and move and bend without slowing down," said Vrabel. "He can run through traffic without losing speed. Guys that cover kicks and maintain their speed in traffic are what you're looking for."

Vrabel sees Ebner's rugby background as a plus. "Whether you play rugby or wrestle as in Stephen Neal's case, you develop good balance, good body control. When you are a national caliber athlete in a sport, chances are there will be carryover."

The immersion of Ebner will begin Friday when rookie minicamp opens providing the first glimpse into what Ebner can become.

"Time is what hes gong to be afforded now and (the development of his skills) is what they hope happens," said Vrabel. "(At Ohio State) you dont have as much time with a player, just a few hours a day. So the ceiling may be what it was at OSU but with eight to 10 hours a day of work, he now has the ability to grow as a player. The tools are there. In college, there's only so much time you can give individual guys. That's going to change. And he's a great kid, I hope nothing but the best for him."