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INDIANAPOLIS – How does Chris Ballard feel about DeForest Buckner?

Consider this:

  • Ballard just pulled off his first ‘draft pick for player’ trade in 4 years as general manger. Before Monday, Ballard had never traded a pick for a player in more than 15 deals.
  • Buckner, a defensive tackle, is now easily the highest paid Colts player.
  • Despite having zero set-in stone long-term answer at quarterback, Ballard was content with giving up the No. 13 overall pick AND around $20 million annually for a player who has made 1 Pro Bowl in 4 NFL seasons.

Yep, Chris Ballard really loves DeForest Buckner.

First, there’s definitely a ton to like about the 6-7, 300-pound defensive lineman.

The 26-year-old Buckner has been extremely productive, and durable, in his four NFL seasons.

Since entering the league in 2016, Buckner’s stats among defensive tackles are really impressive:

-262 tackles (2nd)

-171 solo tackles (3rd)

-28.5 sacks (5th)

-74 quarterback hits (5th)

-38 tackles for loss (7th)

-63 starts (3rd)

-3,547 defensive snaps (2nd)

Second, Buckner plays a position of massive need in the Colts 4-3 defense.

Ballard has long stressed the importance of finding key spots: a three-technique defensive tackle (DeForest Buckner), a WILL linebacker (Darius Leonard) and a nickel/slot cornerback (Kenny Moore).

It was the three-technique that was fresh on Ballard’s mind entering the 2020 offseason.

“We’ve got to be able to get some more interior pressure,” an adamant Ballard stated. “That helps your edge rushing when you have some interior rush. When you can rush the passer up the middle, the quarterback only has one place to go and that’s stepping out and he’s got to run. That should help your edge.”

Third, Ballard had to love the type of locker room presence Buckner appeared to have with San Francisco. Buckner, and not Nick Bosa or George Kittle, was voted Team MVP last season by the 49ers coaching staff. Buckner also was major first-hand part in a serious rebuild going from 2-14 to a Super Bowl appearance.

For the 49ers, this move they felt was worth it in trying to give them better draft capital (they have picks No. 13 and No. 31 next month, but nothing else until Round 5) and have them in a more ideal cap situation, knowing the issues they would have faced in trying to afford Buckner’s desired pay day next offseason.

Buckner was taken 7th overall in 2016 and made his biggest NFL impact in 2018.

He had 12 sacks in that third year, reaching the impactful play mark that many thought was possible when he left Oregon in 2016.

It’s that production many Colts fans will point to when wondering if Buckner can produce without an elite defensive line around him (Nick Bosa was still in college during that breakout ’18 season).

Numbers like that are what the Colts need to get out of Buckner to live up to the huge price tag they paid for him.

Bolstering the elite level of talent was a must for the Colts this offseason.

Chris Ballard told us on Monday if he thinks DeForest Buckner fits that label.