6'5, 297 pounds | Defensive tackle | Iowa
Pass rush: Ballard is an superb athlete with an excellent first step. He can get up to full speed in a hurry which allows him to rush pass potential blockers. Ballard uses his suddenness to slip pass the line on his way to the quarterback. He also possesses good upper and lower body coordination which allows him to employ several different counter moves. Ballard struggles to get adequate push when he is employing a bull rush. He looks more to avoid the blocker rather than use his hands to control. The athletic ability is present for Ballard to develop into a good pass rusher but he needs to refine some technique.
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.