In one of the more bizarre sports traditions out there, the title of Mr. Irrelevant changed hands Saturday at the 2014 NFL draft and Lonnie Ballentine is new owner of that illustrious title.
Ballentine, a free safety out of Memphis, was chosen with the 256th and final pick in the draft by the Houston Texans. In doing so, he was given the annually given title of Mr. Irrelevant—"awarded" to the final player chosen in the NFL draft.
NFL Network captured the moment:
Being drafted is a life-changing moment for players, and Ballentine himself was overcome with excitement after being picked with selection No. 256:
Although he's been slapped with a less-than-flattering title after Saturday, Ballentine has all of the intangibles necessary to make the Texans roster and make an impact if he's able to find solid playing time.
The former Memphis Tiger stands a tall 6'3" and with a 219-pound frame, making him an ideal physical specimen to battle for those tough deep balls against tall receivers.
But size doesn't mean anything in the NFL without speed to go along with it, and that's only amplified in the secondary.
Well, Ballentine has that covered, too. He runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and boasts some of the best wheels of any secondary player despite his big size.
An impact player at Memphis, Ballentine closes in on the ball exceptionally well and hawks toward the ball aggressively like NFL safeties must. He's still a work in progress in terms of physicality, but his build suggests that those adjustments can come with a few years in the pro system.
His potential had NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt impressed after Memphis' pro day, saying Ballentine "has the ability to make an NFL team."
Being pegged as the next Mr. Irrelevant typically comes with an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster come the start of the regular season, as seventh-round picks have a hard time making rosters.
But it's actually worked out quite well for the last two. Ballentine's predecessor, tight end Justice Cunningham, made the Rams roster in November of last season and caught one pass for four yards in his rookie season.
2012 Mr. Irrelevant Chandler Harnish has spent two seasons on the Colts' practice squad, but was re-signed by Indianapolis over the offseason and figures to be in the mix for one of Indy's roster spots at QB.
Ballentine certainly has his work cut out for him, but that's not against the norm of any player drafted in Day 3. Obviously, Houston saw something in him to believe that he can compete for a roster spot right away.
But given his unnerving, 253-pick wait of hoping hear his phone ring, being selected at pick No. 254 and being given the title of Mr. Irrelevant will be the least of Ballentine's worries.
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