40: 4.85 (estimated)
Has a decent first step to get penetration and be a disruptive player in the backfield. Shows good range and ability in pursuit, with a strong motor to chase down backs. Shows a nice counter move and quickness off the corner, able to beat tackle with a swim move, as well as a developmental spin. Shows ability to get leverage vs. the run on the outside and can string out the run play. Flashes some potential as a bull rusher, able to jolt the guard with his first step. Also flashes quickness upfield to beat the guard to his inside shoulder. Works well on the stunts.
Undersized vs. the run, especially when he lines up inside. Gets pushed off the line, especially in short yardage. Will get engulfed at the point of attack and doesn't get off blocks well. Gets redirected a bit. Doesn't always do a great job setting the edge and keeping contain on the edge vs. the run. Lacks the ideal speed and burst to really challenge the edge consistently, and has a tendency to rely on that quickness which isn't anything special. Needs to do a better job using his hands.
Ballard is a solid player that flashes the intangibles that you think he can be a very good player down the road. But for the time being, he's a bit of a tweener that seems a bit more natural at this point as an end rather than tackle. Came to Iowa as a tight end, but was quickly converted to defense. Became the starting end as a sophomore, but moved inside to tackle as a junior where he started to put up his best production with 54 tackles, 9 for loss, and 5.5 sacks. As a senior, he split reps at end and tackle, starting 8 games at end and 5 at tackle, but in most he played both spots. He finished year with 43 tackles, 5 for loss, and 3 sacks.
Ballard is a guy that I think right now fits best as a 3-4 defensive end. He is just more natural and makes more impact playing outside where his quickness works better against a tackle. He just lacks the bulk to play inside and gets pushed around a bit too much when he's going up against those big, physical Big Ten guards. But I do see potential that down the road he could develop into a nice 4-3 under tackle because of his quickness and ability to be disruptive. The key with him is whether or not he's going to develop the sort of technique that will allow him to be a consistent disruptive force in the backfield. He seems to have the motor and toughness to develop it, but I have the feeling that early on his career, he'll just be a situational guy in that scheme. If you want him to impact immediately, you're probably better off playing him in a 3-4 scheme like the Arizona Cardinals that prefers its ends to get up the field more than stack and shed blocks. And it's an easy comparison to make because they hail from the same school, but Babineaux also wasn't a top player early in his career, but started to blossom until the latter half of his third and into his fourth season. I could see the same with Ballard, that at some point three or four years down the line he goes from being a decent No. 3 guy to being a really solid starter. That seems to be fairly common with Iowa defensive linemen, as Matt Roth, Colin Cole, and Aaron Kampman really didn't start to develop into impact starters until their third and fourth years as well. I think he's going to be a starter, but like those others it would not surprise if that doesn't really start to occur until late in his rookie contract. I think he can impact quicker in a 3-4 scheme, probably a year or so earlier, but his upside may ultimately be higher in a 4-3 scheme because he can be a Babineaux-like disruptor. He'll contributor in a rotation until that point because of his motor and ability to occasionally make a good disruptive play. Like Babineaux, I think ultimately what he does best is disrupt the run, make a bunch of tackles for losses, and puts pressure on the QB, but won't be a big time sack artist.
Ballard would be a nice developmental option for the Falcons down the road. POssibly immediateely he could get reps at defensive end on run downs, and as he gains weight and gets bigger he can start to get more opportunities inside on passing downs. But I'm not sure he's going to really emerge from the pack of the Falcons young defensive tackles early on. While I think he's ultimately a better player than Peters, I'm not sure he's going to do much than be an OK No. 4 guy his first year or two. He'll be a better disruptor than Vance Walker in the No. 4 role, but he definitely won't be as good a run defender, and overall isn't really going to add much to the lineup his first year or so. But once he starts to emerge in year three or four, he could really start to blossom as the heir apparent to Babineaux. Like Babs, he's not a wow guy, but he'll play hard, and be a solid complementary piece inside if the Falcons have good pressure on the outside.
Because of his longer length to impact, he's a nice solid second round pick because his upside down the road to be a solid to good starter.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 2.0
Pass Rush: 3.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.