Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL

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Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL

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."

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.