Indianapolis Colts: Nate Hairston has future in secondary

Getting to know the fourth round draft selection of the Indianapolis Colts: Nate Hairston.

With the second fewest interceptions last year, it is easy to see why the Indianapolis Colts have added a pair of defensive backs via the NFL Draft. The first being second round selection, Quincy Wilson. The second, and the focus here, being Nate Hairston, a 6-0, 196-pound cornerback out of Temple.

Hairston was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in Round 5 of the 2017 NFL Draft with the 158th overall pick. Having switched from receiver to cornerback for his junior year, Nate Hairston enters the NFL with much to learn at the position.

After his relocation to cornerback, he started two games as a junior before taking the gig full-time as a senior. With only 36 passes thrown his way in that time, his experience is minimal. Of those 36 passes, he snagged two interceptions and broke up three more. He made 27 tackles, three of which went for a loss. He did not allow any touchdowns.

Hairston is an instinctive grinder with uncapped potential. He has desirable size and physical traits as well as the drive and mentality to be very good. He sheds blockers quickly and plays well against the run. In coverage, he has shown good instincts and is aggressive playing the ball. Hairston is an intriguing prospect. Considering his limited experience, he could make tremendous strides with more playing time and additional coaching.

At the 2017 NFL Combine, Hairston was not among the elite, but he did not disappoint either. His time of 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash was near the middle of this year’s draft class at his position. His bench press mark of 14 reps of 225 pounds, and his 35.5-inch vertical jump, also placed him among the middle of his peers.

With Vontae Davis and Quincy Wilson likely claiming the starting roles in the 2017 campaign, Hairston will see the bulk of his playing time on special teams. He should also see some action in nickel and dime situations and will be valued as a solid back-up option in the case of injury.

He has been criticized for lacking long-speed, but has rarely been beaten over the top. Best described as a work in progress, he must improve his man-coverage skills and footwork. He also needs to work on his backpedal, which is understandable given his recent change of position from receiver. These fundamental aspects of his game will require time and training.

Here is an analysis of Nate Hairston via Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:

Raw but very moldable prospect. Hairston shows good awareness from zone and his physical style and willingness to come tackle make him an immediate fit for primarily zone cover teams. However he may have the tools to eventually become a solid bump-and-run cornerback as he becomes more experienced at the position. Hairston is a projection-based talent who should become a much better player in two years than he is today.

And another, courtesy of Fox59.com:

Another developmental player, Hairston switched to corner in 2015 and is still learning the nuances of the position. The former receiver has good size and quickness and brings plenty of physicality against the run. Though he lacks elite long speed, the one-year starter has the tools to be molded into a solid slot corner with time.

I like this pick. It may be a year or two before his value is truly known, but in the later rounds of the draft that is often the case. He is a solid developmental guy who can contribute, to some degree, almost immediately and he could progress into a solid and reliable starting cornerback.

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