Colts 2019 Draft Class Filled With Elite Athletes, High Character Individuals
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INDIANAPOLIS – If you want a peek inside the war room of Chris Ballard, he’s letting everyone know what he is looking for in building the Colts.
If you are a prospect who is a high-level athlete at your position, which includes height, weight and length baselines, and you also possess a strong character element, there’s a really good chance the Colts are going to be interested.
“We wanted to get athletic, fast players that fit our mold from a talent perspective, which I think we accomplished, but also has the makeup that we want in our locker room,” Ballard said of his 2019 draft goal, after assembling the 10-man draft class.
The athletic trait is rather obvious.
Of course, NFL teams want to get more athletic, but the Colts do put a very strong emphasis on the testing workout numbers during the draft process.
It’s the character element of things that separates the Colts a bit more from other teams.
“I don’t think either one of us can emphasize enough how important that is to us,” Ballard said, when sitting next to head coach Frank Reich, at the conclusion of the 2019 Draft.
“Y’all have been in (the locker room) – it’s a special group of men. You don’t want to upset the apple cart in terms of who you bring into the building. They have to stand for the same things you stand for. Does it mean that we won’t at some point take some shots? No, it doesn’t. Because once that locker room is the way it is you hope you can absorb somebody. Right now, adding this group of men that we added, we think that it’s going to enhance it even more.”
From a premier athlete standpoint, the Colts did not hesitate in keeping that a constant throughout the 2019 Draft:
-Ben Banogu set a Combine record for defensive linemen in the broad jump (11-2). He also jumped higher than any other defensive lineman in the vertical (40 inches). The Colts will now try to tap into those traits at linebacker, as Banogu undergoes a position switch
-No wide receiver ran faster at the Combine than Parris Campbell, with the Ohio State wideout posting a blistering 4.31 40-yard dash.
-Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke had the longest arms of any linebacker at the Combine.
-Day Three picks in Marvin Tell III, EJ Speed and Gerri Green were also in the upper echelon of testing numbers at their respective positions.
And from a character standpoint, ‘team captain’ seemed to appear on just about every bio of the 10 draft picks:
-Rock Ya-Sin was a captain in just one season at Temple and was awarded a single-digit jersey for the Owls, which are handed out to their ‘toughest’ players.
-Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke has a decorated resume that includes interning for Condoleezza Rice and performing at Carnegie Hall.
-Colts area scout Chad Henry said among the 300 or so prospects he evaluated this year, safety Khari Willis was in the top 3 or 4 for character. Willis gave the keynote speaker at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon last summer.
Even though it’s hard to specifically measure or compare character from prospect to prospect, the Colts still put that near the top of their pre-requisite list.
“The character piece is so important because they are going to fail,” Ballard says. “They are going to have crappy moments and they’ve got to be able to overcome it. That’s why the character is so critical for these guys. It gets hard during the season. There are times when it’s not going to go the way you want it to go. Well, who digs out of those? People that have the right makeup to get you out of the hole. I really believe last year that was a reason why. Frank and his staff did an unbelievable job of coaching, one. Then two, you had a locker room of men who weren’t going to be denied. So, to me, it is important.
“Look, I am realistic enough that we aren’t going to have a locker room full of choir boys and it’s not always going to be perfect,” Ballard admits. “They’ve got to have talent. I mean, talent wins in this league.
“We say it all the time, when they’ve got talent and character, that’s a homerun. And there might be somebody on the board that has a little more talent than they do, but this guy’s character sticks out so strong that we are taking that guy. We are taking the guy with the character. We have bottom lines. You can just look at the guys we drafted. They’ve got bottom lines from a height, weight and speed standpoint. I mean, we want to be athletic and fast when we play.”
When the 2020 Draft rolls around, make sure you are keeping an eye on the strong testing athletes and those guys who wear the ‘C’ on their chests, as well.