The Patriots selected Justise Hairston with their second pick in the sixth round (208th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft. Known for using his bruising style to run over would-be tacklers on his way to setting school and league rushing records, Hairston caught the attention of Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears. Something about him, made Fears want him on the roster. That something was what Fears envisioned as a potential diamond in the rough -- a possible successor to Corey Dillon.
The Patriots ended up cutting Hairston who had to fight back from a lingering hamstring issue in camp. He was promptly picked up by the rival Colts where he remains on their roster to this day. Hairston was one of a number of backs in Patriots training camp in 2007, including names like Quinton Smith and Quadtrine Hill.
If Fears wants another back to compete for playing time, and to supplement Laurence Maroney, there's a good chance one of the ones below could be on his list.
Speeding Up The Boards:
Quiet, yet charismatic, Eddie Royal is one of the risers in this draft class as scouts see more of him in person through his appearances at the Senior Bowl and the Combine.
While the speedy returns specialist doesn't have prototypical height for an NFL wideout at 5-foot-9 and may be stereotyped as a slot receiver, he opened some eyes at the Combine when he placed sixth in the vertical jump with a 36.0-inch leap.
"They want a guy who can go up there and get the ball, so it was very important for me to do well in the vertical jump," Royal said during an exclusive interview with Scout.com that will be published this week.
Expected to be a first-day selection that only includes two rounds this April, Royal is a playmaker as a returns specialist, and it's helping him tremendously as teams sort through the talent in this year's draft class.
"Instead of having two or three guys on the roster for a slot receiver, punt returner, and kick returner; they can use me for all three," he said. "That's definitely helping me out a lot.
"[Bears wide receiver] Devin Hester is certainly helping me out a lot. He's showing how important a dangerous return man can be."
Royal's talent warranted eighteen formal interviews with coaches and GMs while he was at the Combine. He told Scout.com that he met with the Cowboys, Cardinals, Dolphins, Broncos, Titans, Colts, 49ers, Browns, Texans, Falcons, Buccaneers, Packers, Jets, Jaguars, Saints, Bengals, Steelers, and the Rams.
Xavier Omon leaps over defenders during the 2007 NCAA Division II Championship Game.
AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Tough to tackle:
Xavier Omon was the top running back in Div II football in 2007 with 2,337 rushing yards while scoring an incredible 27 touchdowns for Northwest Missouri State. A tough, physical runner who's hard to stop, Omon's the first running back in NCAA history to run for more than 1,500 yards in four seasons. And he proved he can take a pounding by carrying the ball more than 1,000 times over the span of his last three collegiate seasons.
While he doesn't have the speed of some of the other backs in this draft class, Omon should be catching the eye of NFL teams with an immediate need for a back who can get the tough yards for his team, shedding would-be tacklers or dragging them along while he fights for a few more yards.
Following his performance at the Texas vs. The Nation Game, the Steelers and the Buccaneers showed the strongest interest in him. And at the Combine, he talked with the Buccaneers again, along with the Packers, 49ers, and Seahawks.
Another step closer:
Toledo offensive tackle John Greco &mdash a likely third-round selection &mdash just finished performing at his pro day and now awaits his opportunities for private workouts with NFL teams prior to the NFL Draft. "To be honest with you, it's a little bit of a relief," he told Scout.com during an exclusive interview. "Because everything I've been working so hard for is in the books now."
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound tackle, who moved from right to left tackle when current New England Patriots lineman Nick Kaczur graduated from Toledo, was obviously pleased with his Pro Day results that improved on many of his marks from a solid showing at the Combine.
"My 40 was better, both of my agility tests were better, my vertical was better," he said. "I was just grateful that I was healthy so that I could show the scouts that were there what I was really made of."
Greco met with the Chargers, Dolphins, Cowboys, Cardinals, Rams, Lions and Colts at the Combine. Two of those teams &mdash the Colts and the Dolphins &mdash were also at his pro day.
Choice rushed for 100 yards or more in nine games during the 2006 season, setting a school record. And he finished tied for first place in career 100-yard rushing games at Georgia Tech with 18. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound punishing, inside runner is expected to be drafted in the early rounds of Day Two of the NFL Draft after claiming the ACC rushing title for two consecutive seasons.