INDIANAPOLIS — Not much was known about Nate Hairston when the Indianapolis Colts selected him in the fifth round with the 158th-overall pick in the 2017 draft.
After trying to carve out a role as a wide receiver at Temple during his first three years, he switched to cornerback for his final two seasons. Hairston started there during his senior year.
The Colts took a chance on someone who very well could've been considered a developmental prospect, but Hairston earned a significant role by the time his first training camp broke.
He played 40 snaps in Week 1 and then collected his first-career sack the following week at home against the Arizona Cardinals. That wouldn't be the last time we would see Hairston in the backfield, however.
Hairston got to the quarterback again just two weeks later, bringing down ever-elusive Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for a safety:
Overall in 2017, Hairston was able to pressure the quarterback three times, got one hit and the two sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, no cornerback in the NFL was more effective at getting to the quarterback than Hairston:
"18 cornerbacks rushed the passer at least 19 times in 2017. Indianapolis Colts cornerback Nate Hairston and Chargers' Desmond King – both rookies – recorded pass-rush productivity ratings above 20.0 on limited pass-rush snaps. Hairston totaled six pressures (three hurries, one hit and two sacks) on 20 pass-rush snaps, while King totaled seven (two hurries, two hits and three sacks) on 25 pass-rush snaps.
Mathieu may have ranked fourth in the metric, but he rushed the passer at least 30 more times than the three qualifying cornerbacks ahead of him. Mathieu recorded 12 total pressures (10 hurries, one hit and one sack) on 55 pass-rush snaps in 2017."
Although he headed into his rookie season with few expectations — at least from outsiders — Hairston quickly made a name for himself and became one of the Colts' most impactful rookies.
This summer, Hairston should find himself in the middle of one of the more interesting camp battles at cornerback. Although he played primarily in the nickel as a rookie, he saw reps at nickel and on the boundary at outside cornerback this spring.