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Ballard’s Draft Class Demonstrates How Athleticism, Production, and Character Can Meet

NCAA Football: Southern at Texas Christian Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a week since the Indianapolis Colts were first on the clock in the 2019 NFL Draft, and in the aftermath, we now have a better idea of what general manager Chris Ballard continues to covet: athleticism, production, and character.

It’s often hard enough to find elite athletes for the NFL, let alone athletes who were very productive and have the right kind of head on their shoulders.

For the purposes of this analysis, we’ll be looking at SPARQ, which is a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism. SPARQ’s pro football scoring system takes into account five categories: a player’s weight, 40-yard dash time, the equivalent of a 20-yard shuttle, kneeling powerball toss, and vertical jump to formulate an NFL percentile—where 50% is the average NFL Athlete at the position. Anything above that mark is well, above average and beyond.

NFL Combine - Day 5 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Rock Ya-Sin, Cornerback, Temple (34th overall)

•SPARQ: 36th among 2019 cornerback prospects (58.5%)

•2018 Production: 47 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 12 starts for the Owls defense.

•2018 Honors: First-Team All-AAC; Single Digit Jersey Number- Only worn by Temple’s toughest players.

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

Ben Banogu, Linebacker, TCU (49th overall)

•SPARQ: 1st among 2019 edge prospects (97.1%)

•2018 Production: 57 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries (1 touchdown return) in 13 starts.

•2018 Honors: First-Team All-Big 12, Honorable Mention Big-12 Defensive Lineman of Year

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Ohio State vs Washington Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Parris Campbell, Wide Receiver, Ohio State (59th overall)

•SPARQ: 3rd among 2019 wide receiver prospects (99.3%)

•2018 Production: 90 receptions for 1,063 receiving yards (11.8 ypr avg.) and 12 touchdown receptions in 14 starts.

•2018 Honors: First-Team All-Big Ten

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Pittsburgh vs Stanford Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Okereke, Linebacker, Stanford (89th overall)

•SPARQ: 30th among 2019 linebacker prospects (64.8%)

•2018 Production: 94 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery in 13 starts.

•2018 Honors: Pac-12 honorable mention, team captain

NCAA Football: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Khari Willis, Safety, Michigan State (109th overall)

•SPARQ: 58th among 2019 safety prospects (27.6%)

•2018 Production: 77 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, 1 interception, and a forced fumble in 13 starts.

•2018 Honors: Academic All-Big Ten, team captain

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Marvell Tell, Safety/Cornerback, USC (144th overall)

•SPARQ: 2nd among 2019 safety prospects (99.4%)

•2018 Production: 56 tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, 5 passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble in 10 starts.

•2018 Honors: Honorable mention All-Pac 12

EJ Speed, Linebacker, Tarleton State (164th overall)

•SPARQ: 41st among 2019 linebacker prospects (55.5%)

•2018 Production: 106 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception in 12 starts.

•2018 Honors: LSC All-Conference

Auburn v Mississippi State Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Gerri Green, Edge, Mississippi State (199th overall)

•SPARQ: 21st among 2019 edge prospects (46.6%)

•2018 Production: 31 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and a pass defensed in 12 starts.

•2018 Honors: SEC Community Service Team, SEC Football Leadership Council, team captain

San Jose State v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Jackson Barton, Offensive Tackle, Utah (240th overall)

•SPARQ: 68th among 2019 offensive lineman prospects (31.9%)

•2018 Production: Started all 14 games at left tackle, led Utes’ offensive line with 779 plays.

•Honors: First-Team All-Pac 12

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Javon Patterson, Center, Ole Miss (246th overall)

•SPARQ: 106th among 2019 offensive lineman (20.3%)

•2018 Production: Started all 12 games

•2018 Honors: 2018 Wuerffel Trophy Watch List

Notice a common theme?

With the exception of Willis, Green, and the late round offensive linemen, the Colts placed a heavy emphasis on athleticism—as their remaining draft class was either above average or even the ‘cream of the crop’ at their position group respectively.

However, all of their prospects were highly productive and key members of their college football team last season.

Additionally, all of their prospects, with the exception of Speed, who was charged with 2 counts of organized criminal activity (but the case was later dismissed by a grand jury) had spotless track records and were highly regarded by their football teams as leaders. [By all accounts too, Speed has reportedly matured and separated himself from that troubled crowd he once associated with. The Colts wouldn’t have selected him otherwise.]

What we have is the rare occasion where athleticism meets production with a character ‘cherry on top’.

That’s rare to find in an NFL Draft class, where at least one of the three is often sacrificed.

At first glance, it appears Chris Ballard did very well for himself and the Colts with some potential key building blocks for the future going forward.