Did you project Demario Ballard to be drafted? I didn’t, I never even got to watch film of him. But Ballard may turn out to be the gem of the UDFA class if he continues to impress at Lions training camp. Ballard has impressed coaches, fans and reporters alike at Lions camp. Partly because of his sheer size and athletic ability (Ballard stands at an impressive 6’6″, 220 pounds and ran a 4.50 40 yard dash according to CBS Sports and NFL Draft Scout’s profiles on him) and partly because he has been making impressive catches and using his size to turn potential into production in camp. Doing a little research on him revealed his impressive measurables, and that he went to Western Oregon and had 35 receptions, 620 yards and 5 touchdowns as a senior. Not exactly all-world production, but his athleticism projects to the NFL.
Here is a scouting report courtesy of Chad Reuter, one of the best sources for draft information on the internet and someone I have been reading since the first day I became interested in learning about the NFL Draft:
Positives: Tall deep threat with some thickness who is a handful for Division II corners. Effective on vertical routes with strides and surprising agility. Strong hands, goes up to high-point jump balls over smaller corners (in red zone, down sideline, over the middle). Good release off the line for his size. Tracks ball over his shoulder, finds passes when turned around. Used on short routes, shows some agility and toughness to gain a few extra yards after contact. Uses his length to create separation downfield just before the ball arrives. Has size, arm length to effectively block for the run and to open up lanes downfield.
Negatives: Strider who must rely on size to separate from NFL cornerbacks. Not practiced at beating the jam. Dances after the catch too much, takes time to accelerate and must prove he can make defenders miss at the next level. Gets taken down quickly after the catch. Consistency as a blocker is lacking, needs to ramp up intensity more often. Adequate adjusting to low throws, may struggle with fastballs from veteran passers. Gets caught from behind on longer runs.
Not surprisingly Ballard relies on his long strides to cover ground quickly, but isn’t a very good route runner and needs technique work as a route runner and as a blocker. But his athleticism, ball skills and overall ability check out, he just needs some quality coaching. If he has the right attitude and work ethic his route running and blocking could be easily rectified, and there would be little standing in his way of making a NFL roster and being a significant contributor.
Without being able to see him in person it’s hard to make this claim, but I have to say reading about him and looking over the information I found on him, it’s hard to say that he doesn’t have the potential to be the undrafted version of Marques Colston. There, I said it!
I can’t wait to see him in preseason action, and it will be interesting to see if he sticks on the Lions roster… I have a gut feeling that he will. I am going to pursue an interview with him, if I land it I will obviously post it!
Thanks for reading!