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Build-A-Ballard: Who the Colts may target at defensive end in the 2019 NFL Draft

Which defensive ends in the 2019 draft fit Ballard’s preferred mold?

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

At Stampede Blue, we will do our best investigative work to determine how Chris Ballard might approach free agency and the draft. In this series, we will look back at Ballard’s past drafts with the Colts and with the Chiefs— where he was the Director of Player Personnel or Director of Football Operations from 2013 to 2016— and try to find common themes or traits that he may look for.

We already know Ballard covets athleticism and leadership on and off the field but this series hopes to shed more light on traits he is looking for and help to uncover some of the players he may target in the draft.

The focus today will be on what Ballard has called the greatest need heading into the offseason, pass rusher. What types of defensive ends will Ballard look for in the 2019 draft?


Past Drafted Players

During Ballard’s tenure in Indianapolis and Kansas City, his organizations have drafted six edge rushers in six drafts. Although pass rusher hasn’t been the core need in each of those years, Ballard has still elected to use four picks from the first two days of the draft. The top pick used to address the position was a first round selection in 2014.

We will examine five of the six prospects to find common traits. The sixth player that we will not be including is Mike Catapano, a defensive end taken in the 7th round out of Princeton in 2013. He only lasted four seasons in the NFL and made little to no impact.


Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (2014)— 1st Round Pick

Size:

6’2” 250 pounds

Measureables (Pro Day):

40 Time: 4.59 seconds / 10-yard Split: 1.67 seconds / Bench Press: 29 reps / Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches / Broad Jump: 124 inches / 3-Cone: 7.07 seconds

Career Stats:

93 total tackles, 27.5 tackles for a loss, 20.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles

Overview of Pick:

Ford was one of the better pass rushers in the draft and solidified a spot in the first round with a strong Senior Bowl performance. Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com stated that Ford has “very good acceleration and burst to beat blockers off the ball” along with having “outstanding energy and work ethic.” His major concerns were trouble disengaging from blockers, bend around the corner, and injury history.

Ford was one of the better pass rushers in football last season and is looking to get a huge contract in free agency.


Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech (2016)— 6th Round

Size:

6’3” 235 pounds

Measureables:

40 Time: 4.74 seconds / 10-yard Split: 1.70 seconds / Bench Press: 14 reps / Vertical Jump: 41 inches / Broad Jump: 116 inches / 3-Cone: 7.04 seconds

Career Stats:

165 total tackles, 35.5 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles

Overview of Pick:

Nicolas was one of the twitchiest, most athletic pass rushers in the draft and he displayed that ability at the Senior Bowl in 2016. Lance Zielein of NFL.com talked about how he “has lightning quick inside moves,­ including spin,­ that can catch slow­-footed tackles sleeping” and “plays with desired upfield burst.” His major concerns were lack of strength (especially in run defense) and inability to disengage from blockers.

Nicolas was waived by multiple teams and is now a member of the Washington Redskins.


Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio (2017)— 3rd Round

Size:

6’4” 269 pounds

Measureables:

40 Time: 4.70 seconds / 10-yard Split: 1.68 seconds / Bench Press: 15 reps / Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches / Broad Jump: 119 inches

Career Stats:

152 total tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 27 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles.

Overview of Pick:

Basham was a productive, athletic small school player who performed well at the Senior Bowl. Lance Zierlein mentioned how Basham “shows flashes of explosive twitch in his attack upfield” and how he “plays with good short area burst to close out running backs and scrambling quarterbacks.” His major concerns coming out were lack of pass rush development and poor bend around the corner.

The Basham pick did not work out as he was cut halfway through his sophomore season and claimed by the Jets.


Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers (2018)— 2nd Round

Size:

6’5” 253 pounds

Measureables:

40 Time: 4.65 seconds / 10-yard Split: 1.62 seconds / Bench Press: 18 reps / Vertical Jump: 34 inches / Broad Jump: 119 inches / 3-Cone: 6.84 seconds

Career Stats:

96 total tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks, and 4 pass deflections

Overview of Pick:

Turay was perhaps the most athletic edge rusher in the draft and those traits were on display at the Senior Bowl. Lance Zierlein praised the type of athlete he is by stating that he “plays with good closing burst to the ball”, “moves easily and naturally in space”, and is “rangy with good pursuit motor.” His main issues were raw abilities as a pass rusher, struggles as a run defender, and injury concerns.

Turay had a productive first half of his rookie season before injuries and playing time issues limited his second half production.


Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State (2018)— 2nd Round

Size:

6’3” 269 pounds

Measureables (Pro Day):

40 Time: 4.69 seconds / 10-yard Split: 1.57 seconds / Bench Press: N/A / Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches / Broad Jump: 127 inches / 3-Cone: 7.2 seconds

Career Stats:

112 total tackles, 37 tackles for a loss, 23.5 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles

Overview of Pick:

Lewis was one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the draft and he destroyed the Senior Bowl. Lance Zierlein stated that Lewis has “knee bend (that) helps him flatten to the quarterback sharply once he gets around the edge” and “plays with good hand strength and quickness.” The main issues with his game were that he was not a “force against the run” and he was a bit inconsistent with his rushes on a play to play basis.

He played very well in limited snaps in his rookie season with the Colts.


Common Traits

Here are the common traits that can help us build a rough mold of what Ballard might look for in rookie defensive ends:

  • Senior edge rusher— preferably players who played in the Senior Bowl
  • Excellent burst and explosion— every player had a 10 yard split under 1.7 seconds
  • Strengths: Overall athleticism, great tackling, and burst
  • Weaknesses: Run defense, bend, and raw pass rush move set
  • Motor and tenacity— each player had a knack for playing until the whistle
  • Bonus-> Length as a rusher

2019 Draft Players Who Fit


1.) Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas

Size:

6’6” 275 pounds

Career Stats:

115 total tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles

Why He Fits:

If any player fits the mold that Ballard likes in his defensive ends, its Charles Omenihu. Mostly a sub-rusher for Texas, Omenihu was very disruptive with a quick burst off of the line and a lengthy frame. He was a standout at the Senior Bowl where he put together a couple good practices. Omenihu also excels at tackling and has a relentless motor. His weaknesses are his lack of bend on the edge and inconsistent run defense.


2.) Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Size:

6’6” 252 pounds

Career Stats:

105 total tackles, 30.5 tackles for a loss, 23.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble

Why He Fits:

If Ballard decides to address defensive end in the first round, Sweat would be an excellent fit for what he looks for. The talk of the week at the Senior Bowl, Sweat was insanely hard to block due to his large frame and relentless play style. His other strengths include an excellent burst off of the line of scrimmage and a motor that never runs out. He is also pretty stout as a run defender for a player with his slimmer frame. His biggest weaknesses are his lack of bend around the corner and his occasional struggle to shed blocks.


3.) Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan

Size:

6’3” 255 pounds

Career Stats:

166 total tackles, 43 tackles for a loss, 18.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles

Why He Fits:

This may seem like an odd fit but I think Winovich makes a lot of sense with what Ballard likes in his players. Winovich was slated to appear in the Senior Bowl but had to withdraw due to an injury suffered in Michigan’s bowl game. His has strengths at the point of attack, above average athleticism, and relentless motor in both run and pass defense. His weaknesses are struggles with bend and shedding blocks. He was a two time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, recipient of team MVP honors in 2018, and was awarded his team’s first ever “Blue Collar Award.”


Honorable Mentions:

Jaylon Ferguson (LA Tech), Joe Jackson (Miami), Shareef Miller (Penn State)


Conclusion

With GM Chris Ballard’s track record for drafting edge players, these prospects stand out as possible targets in the draft. He likes athletic players with great burst who are a bit unrefined as pass rushers. He places a heavy emphasis on motor and effort while not worrying as much about bend or run defense.

It is important to note that this analysis could be entirely wrong as it relies heavily on his time in Kansas City. It is entirely possible that Ballard disagreed with much of the decisions made during his time with the Chiefs’ organization. Ballard could take a bendy edge rusher in round one. Who knows? However, this series should give some kind of insight into who Chris Ballard may want to target based on his past.