Chris Ballard Film Breakdown Of Colts 2019 Draft Picks
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INDIANAPOLIS – The door to the Colts draft room was opened up to some members of the media on Tuesday afternoon.
Chris Ballard, with clicker and pointer in hand, welcomed the media into his home away from home to give a behind the scenes look at what went into the 2019 Draft.
This piece will focus strictly on the draft picks, with another one coming on Wednesday with Ballard giving some more general thoughts on his roster moving forward.
Here is a run-down on the 6 picks that Ballard analyzed in great detail for the media:
CB-Rock Ya-Sin: “He’s a pit bull.”
Before the draft, Chris Ballard said he would feel good about taking 1 of 8 players that would realistically be in the mix at pick No. 26 in Round One.
When pick No. 34 rolled around, early in the second round, the Colts still had 3 of those guys on the board (5 of the 8 were available when they originally traded back at No. 26).
And Ya-Sin was one of them.
Ballard said if the Colts ‘got stuck’ in Round One, they would have been just fine with taking Ya-Sin at No. 26 overall.
“We think his skillset fits us,” Ballard said of the 6-0 corner who played mostly man coverage in college.
Ballard said as the 2018 season went along---Ya-Sin’s first at Temple---the buzz began to build around the corner’s projection to the NFL level.
“Kid played his butt off this year,” Ballard said of Ya-Sin’s 2018 campaign, after transferring up from Presbyterian.
On Tuesday, Ballard showed Senior Bowl film of Ya-Sin winning 1-on-1 reps against Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow and South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel. The Colts were big fans of what Ya-Sin showed at the Senior Bowl.
“There’s a little tightness with him, but he’s a powerful athlete,” Ballard said as he showed film of Ya-Sin’s Pro Day workout. “He’s not stiff. He’s got good movement. He’s got good feet. He’s explosive. His speed is good. It’s not special, but it’s good.”
The Colts liked that Ya-Sin improved some short-area quickness testing numbers from the Combine to his Pro Day, with Ballard calling that workout “exceptional.”
Ballard said Ya-Sin will need to learn how to play some more off coverage, but the Colts felt like this was a player that fit exactly what they want to stand for.
Ya-Sin’s impressive wrestling background, in such a ‘competitive, disciplined’ sport also stood out to Ballard and the Colts
LB-Ben Banogu: “The one area I think he could impact is on third down.”
A common theme throughout Ballard’s film session on Tuesday was how impressed he was by how his draft picks performed at the Senior Bowl.
Banogu might be atop that list.
“There weren’t many he didn’t make look bad this week,” Ballard said replaying Banogu clips from the Senior Bowl, with the athletic defender winning various pass rushing clips. “They couldn’t block him in practice.”
Ballard was surprised that there wasn’t more chatter surrounding Banogu after the Senior Bowl. It was there in Mobile where Banogu did a lot of work at linebacker, something he didn’t do at TCU, and still showed off a versatile pass rushing array, even as an inside defensive lineman.
The Colts like Banogu’s ability to bend, but also see some work in how he uses his hands.
Early in rookie minicamp and now Phase II, the Colts have moved Banogu around from some SAM linebacker work first, before drilling him in the rush stuff as well, more along the defensive line.
This is all part of the Colts’ unique plan for Banogu, a guy they want to play at linebacker and also at the line of scrimmage. How the depth and competition plays out along the d-line and at linebacker will also impact the exact role for Banogu come game day.
Ballard said to think about how Seattle used Bruce Irvin when picturing a role for Banogu with the Colts.
“He’s a very talented athlete who can affect the pass,” the Colts GM said of the 48th overall pick. “The one area I think he could impact is on third down.”
On Tuesday, Ballard showed a play Banogu had against Texas Tech this past season. On a read-option play, Banogu slides across the line of scrimmage laterally to run-down the QB trying to get to the opposite edge. Ballard said the play reminded him of how Darius Leonard looked at times last year in defending a guy like Deshaun Watson.
With the young dual-threat QBs in the Colts division or in the AFC (Watson, Marcus Mariota, Lamar Jackson), Ballard was eager to find some guys who can ‘run and strike’ from the linebacker position.
“He has all the explosive first step and movement that you want,” Ballard said while looking at Banogu Senior Bowl film. “Athletically, there’s a lot to like about this kid.”
WR-Parris Campbell: “Sometimes you just get lucky.”
At first, the Colts wanted to add a bigger body to their receiver group this offseason (and they did that with Devin Funchess).
However, they also wanted to improve their speed and give Andrew Luck an explosive weapon, but they knew the defense needed heavy draft attention as that unit evolves.
In their eyes though, they were still able to accomplish both by nabbing Parris Campbell with the 59th overall pick.
“One of the better workouts I’ve seen in a long time,” is how Ballard described Campbell at the Combine, when the Ohio State product ran 4.31 in the 40-yard dash.
Following that workout, Frank Reich went back to the Colts Complex and dove deeper into the studying of Campbell.
Ballard thought Campbell could have gone late in the first round. Limited high production for just one season at Ohio State probably played into that slide, Ballard said.
It might take some time, but Ballard and the Colts believe Campbell can become a more well-rounded, full route tree type of receiver.
“How long does it take for him to play outside?” Ballard asked on Tuesday. “We do think he can do it, no question.
“I do know we will have a role for him for where he can produce. Frank and Nick (Sirianni) do a great job of playing to what the strengths are of (their players)…so I think you will see Parris used in a way that gets him to have success early.”
Even if that development doesn’t happen here in 2019, the Colts still are prepared for a role to get Campbell the ball early, given his propensity to make plays after the catch.
“That was an area where we wanted to get better,” Ballard noted on Tuesday. “The guys we identified in the draft were all after catch guys so they can catch the short (routes) and create. You just look at the offense, the crossing routes and stuff that we do, that guy is going to be able to catch it and run. I think it all fits Parris very well.”
It sounds like the Colts will try Campbell at both return spots. Campbell was mostly a kick returner in college, but the Colts feel there’s a punt return skillset to tap into, as well.
Ballard made sure to show Campbell going untouched 78 yards against Michigan on a jet sweep where his speed popped against an elite defense.
LB-Bobby Okereke: “I want to show you Okereke because I’m really excited about him.”
Chris Ballard loves the length and speed that Bobby Okereke is bringing to the middle of the Colts defense.
“We fell in love with him right away,” Ballard said on Tuesday. “I think he’s going to be a heck of a pro.”
“He’s not Darius, but he’s going to be a good player for us.”
‘Hawking the QB’ was a popular phrase Ballard used to describe Okereke’s ability to run-down QBs trying to escape the pocket.
It was a clear goal for the Colts to build depth at inside linebacker this offseason, as Ballard pointed out some injuries that flared up late last season at that spot.
Ballard had plenty of high praise for returning starter Anthony Walker at the MIKE, but also acknowledged the position battle that will take place.
“It will be a heck of a battle,” Ballard said at MIKE.
“Anthony is brilliant smart, too. We are talking Northwestern vs. Stanford here, and two highly intelligent kids here. To be the starting MIKE right off the bat, make the calls, see everything that is going on, all the checks that you have to do, that’s what you have to be able to handle. And then you have to be able to beat out a pretty good football player in Anthony Walker, who played pretty good football for us last year.”
Ballard said Okereke will probably mostly play MIKE or SAM for the Colts.
And the GM showed a couple of unique plays that displayed the go-go gadget arms of Okereke.
Ballard showed a play Okereke made against Arizona State where he stripped a running back several yards downfield thanks to such a wide tackling range, due to having the longest wingspan of any linebacker at the Combine.
S-Khari Willis: “I think calling him just a traditional box safety is off the mark.”
On Tuesday, Ballard showed numerous plays of Willis and you hardly saw him as that ‘box safety’ many dubbed him as coming out of Michigan State.
The Colts clearly like the versatility Willis brings to their secondary and think he can play strong or free safety, along with some nickel.
Coming into the Draft, Ballard said the Colts really liked 3 or 4 safeties and he didn’t see a lot of differences between Willis and the top safeties in this year’s class.
Willis was the last one left when Day 3 started, hence the reason for the Colts trading up 20 spots, as Ballard said the drop was steep to the team’s next safety on its board.
Ballard acknowledged the injury history that’s been there with the safety position, saying that contributed to the need for a guy like Willis.
The Colts GM thought Willis was as good of a tackler as any safety in the draft.
“Is (Willis) exceptional anywhere?” Ballard asked to himself. “I would say he’s good everywhere,” Ballard said of Willis. “And his instincts are exceptional.”
CB-Marvell Tell III: “He’s a serious kid.”
The last player Ballard broke down in detail is a guy that impressed the GM at rookie minicamp.
But Ballard particularly likes the makeup of guys like Ben Banogu and Marvell Tell III to handle the ups and downs that come with such a move.
“You want to talk about a dialed in kid. He’s a serious guy,” Ballard said of Tell, who played safety at USC.
As the Colts started looking at Tell in the draft process, a scout threw out the idea of moving him to corner.
So the Colts sent out their cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon to work the 6-2 Tell out at USC. The Colts liked the movement from Tell going through corner drills and then saw good returns at the rookie minicamp.
Ballard compared the selection of Tell to what we’ve seen from Seattle over the past decade, as they have found success in drafting taller guys to play cornerback.
Similar to Banogu and Willis, the Colts like the versatility angle to Tell’s game at the next level.
Ballard ran down some injuries for guys currently limited/out: -Darius Leonard with a procedure on his nagging ankle last week (6-week recovery). — Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) May 14, 2019
-Eric Ebron procedure last month on his groin
-Anthony Walker rehabbing
-Jack Doyle, Deon Cain and Ross Travis remain on the mend
Ballard ran down some injuries for guys currently limited/out:
-Darius Leonard with a procedure on his nagging ankle last week (6-week recovery).
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) May 14, 2019