Showcases a good motor inside and even when his initial get off burst is stalled, he’s very coordinated fighting his way toward the football. Loves to spin away from blocks and just exhibits a real powerful element to his game in everything he does. Rarely stays blocked for long. However, needs to do a better job getting his hands up initially into blocks vs. the run game. Too often allows opposing lineman to get into his frame off the snap. Now, has the kind of power to begin to start extending his arms and play off the block. But, can easily be knocked off balance vs. any kind of double inside when run at and get cleared away from the play. Possesses only average anchor strength at the point of attack and can be pushed past the play when he doesn’t locate the football quickly off the snap.
Impression: He’s a long, explosive defensive lineman who has the ability to line up all over an NFL defensive line. Certainly looks like a capable three-technique guy and could also be kicked outside to DE on run downs. Could also be one of the draft’s better potential five-technique prospects. However, his ability to shoot gaps and rush the passer might be too much to overlook for 4-3 defenses."
Run Defense: Solid run defender capable of penetrating to stop plays and offer anchor inside despite his tall frame. Uses his length and strong hands to keep distance from blockers. Moves well while engaged, which forces backs to take inside lanes. Chases down plays, keeping his balance even when knocked backward by double-teams. Can track down ballcarriers on the outside with good straight-line speed. Inconsistent leverage, stands his ground at times to clog up the middle but also get washed out of plays. Must improve his hand play to disengage more consistently, as he gets into position to make tackles but does not attack the ball in his area. Loses the ball in the backfield while engaged.
Explosion: Explosive enough off the snap to be a pass-rush force inside using a quick first step and excellent length. Also flashes a great initial punch to stand up his man, or even push him into the backfield, but doesn't get off to make plays often enough.
Strength: Miscast when lining up on the nose or at the one-technique position but takes on the challenge and holds his ground adequately well despite his height. Can stack and shed when one-on-one inside. Pounds blocker with violent hands to get off blocks but could be more consistent. Does not have an elite anchor and needs to keep his pads low to get leverage when eating up blocks.
Tackling: Has the length, closing speed and size to wrap up defenders in space. Agile enough to get at least a piece of ballcarrier before they escape outside, but his lack of flexibility allows running backs to elude. Good chase to the outside if plays get stretched. Leaves his feet too quickly instead of driving into the midsection."
Intangibles: Team player, durable and willing to line up wherever coaches feel the defense needs him to be. Has worked hard in the weight room to add strength since arriving in Iowa City. No known character issues.
Pursuit: Ballard has the willingness and quickness to effectively pursue a ball carrier. He takes good angles to the football. Ballard quickly gets down the line of scrimmage when closing the backdoor. Ballard is a quick and athletic defensive lineman. He has the speed to close the back door and get to the ball carrier. The first thing you will notice about Ballard is his drive and determination. He has the type of motor that you look for in a defensive lineman. He will chase a play to the very end sometimes even ending up 30-40 yards down the field.
Quickness: He has a quick first step to penetrate the pocket but his poor snap awareness limits his ability to create pressure. With time and coaching he can improve his awareness which will significantly impact his ability to make plays.
Run defend: Ballard quickly identifies the play and disengages the blocker. However, he plays high which allows the blocker to get inside leverage and seal him from the play. For Ballard to improve his run defense he needs to keep leverage throughout the play. What works in Ballard's favor is his heavy hands which allow him to quickly disengage from the blocker.
Strength: Ballard doesn't drive blockers back but delivers a nice initial jolt. He is often stood up at the line of scrimmage. He does a good job coiling his hips and exploding into to the blocker and delivering a jolt. However, he doesn't get much of a push in the pocket. After his initial steps off the ball he gets very upright and unbalanced allowing the blocker to hold strong at the point of attack. I feel that Ballard has good playing strength and but his lack of balance allows the offensive line to control him. Where Ballard's playing strength is evident is the way he can quickly disengage a blocker with this hands.
Tackling: He is a sure tackler and breaks down nicely in the hole. He delivers violent blows to the ball carrier.
Technique: Ballard struggles with this snap recognition which results in a delayed start to the play. He fires off the ball low but as the play develops his pad level raises. He needs to work to become more comfortable using his hands rather than avoiding blockers. He possesses heavy hands but just needs to work on getting inside and locking out the blocker. His high pad level doesn't help him anchor after contact and typically results in the lineman pushing him off the football.
Games Viewed: Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State
Final word: Ballard is an intriguing prospect with a ton of upside. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can penetrate the pocket and create pressure. When watching him play, I feel that his best position might be as a 3 technique. I don't see him as a great fit as a 5 technique due to his struggles playing 2 gap football. The potential is present but some technique refining is required for him to be really effective."
Ballard could be a gem in this year's draft.
Ballard has been a gem for the Hawkeyes, as he’s been a three year starter on the defensive line, playing both defensive tackle and defensive end. He lined up at both positions frequently during the game time. While he hasn’t seemed to make the impact that fellow defensive end Adrian Clayborn has made, he hasn’t exactly been quiet either, but he is quietly rising on 2011 NFL Draft boards.
Ballard has a nice big frame. Coming out of high school he was already around 265-270 pounds, and only needed to add about 15-20 pounds to fully fill out. His versatility is a big plus, as he’s able to line up as an under tackle, as well as a defensive end in certain situations. In 2010, he played more defensive end, and was huge against the run, always keeping contain, and moving extremely well laterally in order to make a play all along the line of scrimmage. He’s a very hard worker who never gives up, always running to the football regardless of how far away from the play he is. He has made a name for himself coming off of the backside and tracking even the quicker running backs down. He’s an above average pass rusher, but even more dominant against the run. Ballard does a great job of eating space and taking up blockers which also suggests that he’ll be able to play the five technique in a 34 defense.
Many scouts aren’t crazy about Ballard’s lack of a mean streak. He doesn’t get extremely aggressive consistently, and sometimes it seems like he’s playing in slow motion. His foot speed is just mediocre, and he needs to get more explosive off of the snap. At times he’s struggled with leverage, getting too high in his rush. He’s not a natural penetrator and won’t get many tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He’s more of a space eating defensive lineman who doesn’t get pushed back easily. For a big guy, he’s not as strong as we’d like to see, but that will improve. He doesn’t have much room to grow, as he’s pretty much filled out from a physical perspective.
I like Ballard a lot, and his Senior Bowl work has certainly helped him. He’s been a lot more aggressive in one on one drills, and he holds the point of attack very well. I think he’s going to be a guy looked at in the latter part of the first round. He’ll be able to find a home in either a 3-4 defense or 4-3, as his versatility will only open up the options for him to be drafted. Teams like New Orleans, New York (Jets), Baltimore, and Pittsburgh will target him at the end of the first. If he slides to the second round, he’ll be hard to pass up by New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Cleveland, and Dallas.
NFL Comparison: Ty Warren"
Positive: Explosive and athletic player with ability at a number of positions on the defensive line. Forceful up the field, quickly changes direction, and can pursue the action from every area. Easily moves about the field, possesses terrific playing speed, and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Displays good punch and jolt at the point of attack, works his hands throughout the action, and flashes power. Pushes blockers off the line, plays with good knee bend, and forceful up the field. Beats blocks to make plays on the ball despite the extra attention he receives. Rarely off his feet.
Negative: Does not consistently play with a sense of urgency. Just average first-step quickness. Average upper body strength.
Analysis: Ballard is a terrific defensive lineman and is one of the more underrated players at his position in this draft. He possesses the explosiveness and size to be used as a traditional defensive tackle or line up as a two-gap end in a 3-4 alignment. Ballard possesses enormous upside and has the potential to be a productive starter in the NFL if he puts the pieces together and continues to improve his game."
Negatives: High pad level... Can be pushed out of plays... Have not seen a rip move... Average anchor... Can be slow to diagnose run plays and linemen can win the battle for leverage off the snap... Will miss some arm tackles in traffic."
Weaknesses: Struggled to live up to expectations in his senior year (partially because of injuries) despite much of the attention being placed on teammate Adrian Clayborn. Lacks the sand in the pants needed to stand up at the POA and will need to add some functional strength in his lower body at the next level. As a pass rusher, he relies solely on his athleticism and quickness and needs to develop an arsenal of pass-rush moves to succeed at the next level. Ballard often faces double teams and, if he doesn't immediately split them double, he doesn't fight the double team off hard enough. Is prone to rushing too deep and can be pushed past the pocket. Will often play too upright and can be controlled when he loses leverage. Needs to do a better job at diagnosing plays and locating the football.
Projection: Ballard is an intriguing player who flashes outstanding potential at times. He's going to wow some folks with physical skills and workouts, but will turn some off with very inconsistent film. Someone could fall in love with him and take him in the latter stages of round 1, but it would be hard to imagine he'll slide much past the middle of round 2."
He lacks brute strength and instead relies on quickness and good pass-rushing fundamentals. He deploys a well-balanced arsenal of pass-rushing techniques and uses his hands well in space. Though he struggles making tackles in traffic, he does have great tackling technique in wrapping his man. Ballard gets off the line very quickly and attacks his blocker, always pushing to move upfield. Although he is physically imposing, he relies too heavily on athleticism and will need to strengthen his upper and lower body in order to beat out bigger NFL offensive linemen (especially in the run game). This lack of strength could be trouble for him if employed as a DE in a 3-4 defense.
Ballard projects as a late 2nd to 3rd round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft."
However, his instincts do not match his athletic ability, he too often is late to locate the ball, and he has underachieved throughout his career. He plays outside for the Hawkeyes, and some evaluators believe he is too stiff and upright to kick inside, but he has the tools to play anywhere on the line, and his versatility is a big plus.
Coaches who grade his flashes could come away very impressed, and there were times, such as against Penn State, when he dominated. But overall, he has been too inconsistent and may not have enough of a trench temperament to ever be great."
Christian Ballard is an explosive play maker, a tremendous athlete who could play for any Defensive Scheme, but I believe his best bet would be in the 40, where he could play the Rush End. He's got a powerfull Burst, tremendous Fluidity, and exceptional Lateral Agility. He's a threat to hit the Quarter Back every single time.
He can use some work against the Run, and he plays too high, too often. But as a projected 2nd Rounder, this guy is an awfully good Value.
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