2011 NFL Draft: So You've Drafted Christian Ballard

Congratulations, Minnesota Vikings fans! You've made the wonderful decision to draft Christian Ballard! Like any responsible selector, you're no doubt filled with questions about your new draft pick. We here at Black Heart Gold Pants will try our best to answer any questions you might have.

Is this Christian Ballard guy any good? Well, sure! He's a legit 6'4", weighed 283 at the combine and played about 20 pounds heavier than that at Iowa (he's listed there at 297 but word had him at 310 at some points), and was a three-year starter on the defensive line. He ran a 4.70 at the combine, and if that sounds surprising, consider that he was an all-state track star in high school. He's probably going in the second round of the draft or so.

Cool, any highlights? Read 'em and weep! People read videos, right? And then cry?

Wait, that didn't convince me of a whole lot. Yeah, not really a great highlight video, plus those ISU highlights were from '09. Honestly, Ballard didn't have a great 2010. Nobody on the defensive line lived up to their expectations last season. 

That's not very reassuring either. Well, this and the positive drug test at the combine is why Ballard's probably going in the second or third round and not the late first (ED. NOTE: Or the, er, fourth round.), as had been the preliminary guess before the 2010 season. And as far as that drug test goes, look, it'd be worse if he'd shown up hung over, considering alcohol is more destructive than marijuana. Yeah, it'd be nice if he could have gone the three weeks before the combine without hitting the hippie lettuce, but this issue is probably less of a concern than his 43 tackles, 5 TFLs, and 3 sacks in 2010.

I don't like hearing this word "concern" over and over. Sure, but we're just bringing it up because from an athletic standpoint, frankly, Ballard should be getting drafted before Adrian Clayborn. He's a freak. He bulked up to the 300 mark to play defensive tackle for Iowa, but it seems pretty clear that three bills was probably a little over his optimal playing weight, and defensive end better suits him at the next level. He was basically playing out of position for a year and a half, in other words; sure, he moved back to DE for the last half of last year, but he was still built like a DT. If he gets back into DE shape (and his combine performance sure seems to indicate that he's there right now), he can absolutely make an impact at the next level.

Is Ballard more of a 3-4 or 4-3 end? Ballard did run a 4.7 flat, but watching the guy play, he's obviously not a speed rusher. His strength is keeping his blocker engaged and plugging the point of attack, so that's good news for a 3-4 defense who's looking for an end that can keep offensive linemen from getting to the next level and harassing the linebackers. At the same time, it's pretty difficult to get around Ballard and establish a seal block, plus he's got the speed to continue pursuit laterally and keep a tailback from turning the corner until secondary support arrives, so he'd probably be a good strongside 4-3 end too--so long as he wasn't being depended on for like 10 sacks a year or anything. That's not his strong suit at this point.

OK, but if he's strongside in a 4-3, all you have to do is line that tight end up on him and double-team with the tackle, then let the TE peel off and get to the linebacker. Ballard is strong. He's Iowa strong. There are some very good blocking TEs in the NFL and Ballard's not going to beat all of them, but if an offense needs to scheme a double-team and a blocking TE (see: a hint to the defense that a run is coming that way) just for Ballard, that's a lot of commitment to stopping him, and the defense is already in a better position. If he can beat the TE, even better.

So he's good! He's sure not bad, by any stretch. He's still got some learning to do, as he basically spent only a year and a half at Iowa as a defensive end. Perhaps your team doesn't have the luxury of having a defensive end spend a year or so easing into his role on the defense, but if they're looking for Week 1 impact from a Day 2 draft pick, that's their fault, not Ballard's.

So he's not great? Not yet, anyway. Ballard is less polished than most Iowa NFL products today, but what that really means is that his potential for success depends more on how your team develops him than if he were a Week 1 starter. He's got the physical tools to succeed; nobody doubts that. If your team gets that development into high gear, then absolutely one day you could look back and say this was a great draft pick. Sillier ifs have come true in the NFL. But it's still an if.

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