INDIANAPOLIS – It’s Chris Ballard peeling back the curtain.
Each year, Ballard invites media members to the Colts facility for a film session going over his draft picks.
Thursday’s film breakdown lasted over two hours, with many topics off the record (including any video/photos). Not only did Ballard take a closer look at the picks, he also shared some tidbits on his roster.
Here are some highlights of what Ballard had to say:
When Chris Ballard started watching Kwity Paye this fall, he saw a talented player at a premium position. Then once Ballard spoke with the Michigan staff, he fell in love even more with Paye.
That’s why this made the Paye pick the ‘perfect Colt’ as Ballard put it on Thursday.
At 268 pounds, Paye impressed Ballard with his quick feet, very good get off and relentless style. You combine that with power, and Ballard sees a player with Denico Autry type effort, but more speed.
“We think he can play the run and hold up on 1st and 2nd down and then will develop into a good rusher,” Ballard says of Paye.
With the thought that Miami rusher Jaylen Phillips would go a few picks before the Colts at No. 21 overall, the Giants were the other team Ballard was worried about.
Ballard sees a similar body comparison to Dwight Freeney (“compact lower body), although Paye is taller.
Remember Paye’s reported heart issue which had teams scrambling the night before the draft? The Colts finally got clearance on that at 10:00 PM Wednesday night, with the draft starting Thursday.
In regards to Paye’s pedestrian sack numbers for a first rounder, Ballard didn’t fault Michigan’s usage of him. He pointed to the college game and quicker tempo offenses contributing to smaller sack numbers for guys.
The Colts want to see Paye finish better and develop an additional rush move (to go along with his power-to-speed move).
If you are looking for a potential NFL-comp for Paye, Ballard mentioned Eagles veteran Brandon Graham.
Simply, Chris Ballard LOVES Dayo Odeyingbo.
He sees special, special potential in the big man from Vanderbilt.
“Every time you talked to people in the SEC, this is the guy that would keep coming up,” Ballard said of Odeyingbo.
The GM loves the length of Odeyingbo and then the body control he is able to play with across the defensive line.
Ballard hears the Justin Tuck comparison, but really sees a very similar body type to DeForest Buckner.
The Colts like Odeyingbo at left defensive end, with the ability to move inside, a la Denico Autry.
Ballard does think Odeyingbo will play in 2021 (despite his torn Achilles from January), although the GM acknowledged that seeing the real version of him likely won’t come until 2022
“We were willing to wait, we think the reward is going to be great,” Ballard said.
As Ballard showed clips of Odeyingbo he dropped a thought on his offseason thinking in how to get this football team better.
“How can you disrupt the line of scrimmage?”
Ballard believes Odeyingbo and Paye will be big parts of re-setting that LOS.
Ballard showed a whole lot Kylen Granson detached and used all over the SMU offense.
During the draft process, Ballard contacted SMU head coach Sonny Dykes to get more insight into Granson.
Dykes reiterated to Ballard that Granson can more than handle it mentally, whenever Frank Reich is ready to move the young tight end around, which isn’t shocking considering Granson could have received admission into Harvard.
The Colts liked what Granson showed athletically at the Senior Bowl. Granson then backed that up with some strong route running during the team’s rookie minicamp last week.
Ballard was pretty adamant that the Colts see no issue in the hands of Granson.
Yes, Ballard acknowledged that Granson’s blocking has to get better, but he is an ‘ok blocker’ entering the NFL.
At 239 pounds, Granson has a frame that the Colts think can get up to 245-250 pounds.
The Colts view Granson similar to Trey Burton—with a higher ceiling—who is more equipped to make an early impact, because of his receiving background, whereas Burton was a college QB at times.
In today’s NFL with teams wanting to play more man, the Colts see Granson as a guy who can win against that from the slot. If teams are going to play base defense against Granson, he should have an advantage against a linebacker.
An NFL comp that Ballard mentioned for Granson is former Washington tight end Jordan Reed.
The Colts like the early returns they’ve received on Shawn Davis mentally.
Safeties coach Alan Williams has observed some Khari Willis-like classroom intellect from Davis.
That fits the Davis as the ‘quarterback of the secondary’ label you heard from Florida coaches.
From a floor standpoint, the Colts think Davis will be a 3rd safety, and involving that guy in some personnel packages is a plan for the staff in 2021.
Ballard said Davis is an interchangeable safety, but is more of in the strong safety mold.
The Colts like the ‘edgy’ attitude that Davis brings.
As you’d expect, Ballard continues to more than rave about the character of Ehlinger.
“He’s got real freaking rare character, rare,” Ballard says.
On the field, Ehlinger is probably looking at that third QB spot, with the chance to possibly compete for the backup job.
Ballard showed some clips from Texas coming back in the Red River Shootout, in which Ehlinger spurred things.
For those curious about Ehlinger’s running background being utilized, it sounds like that’s a possibility.
“Frank will be creative with him,” is something Ballard offered on Thursday.
As Ballard also noted on Thursday, until you are 100 percent sure know that you have the quarterback, taking some chances throughout the draft is something they will explore.
Other Roster Notes
-We didn’t have time to get to Mike Strachan or Will Fries film. Ballard did say that the early impression of Strachan at rookie minicamp is that he is not as raw as you’d think from a Division II school. “You notice his talent pretty quick,” Ballard said of Strachan.
-“Could we win big with the other tackles?” was a question Ballard posed in wanting to take the chance on Eric Fisher and his injury. The Colts still feel the 30-year-old Fisher has several more years left in him.
-Speaking of Achilles injuries, it sounds like Marlon Mack is doing pretty well. The Colts felt that Mack was ready to go about 7 months cleared from his tear, which occurred last September. And Ballard was surprised to see Mack not get as much action in free agency: “Still blown away nobody signed Marlon Mack,” was something Ballard mentioned.
-Adding that 17th game on the schedule has only further emphasized Chris Ballard’s focus on building proper depth in the trenches. “If you don’t’ have depth, you won’t survive,” Ballard said.
-FWIW, the Colts view Eric Fisher as just a little ahead of Dayo Odeyingbo in their respective Achilles rehabs.
-Random, but worth mentioning: Chris Ballard loves his head football coach, for much more than his Xs and Os intellect.
-A couple of notes from Ballard on his safeties. “Khari (Willis) is the most underrated guy on the defense.” “I think (Julian) Blackmon is special. He’s got All-Pro talent. We are expecting him to take another step.”
-The Colts are going to let Jacob Eason, and Sam Ehlinger, get the main QB reps behind Carson Wentz this offseason. The Colts are currently taking the approach that this will be the plan through the preseason. If they feel another move is needed after the preseason for a QB, they’ll make one.
-For Ballard, it was about 50/50 on whether or not T.Y. Hilton would return in free agency. But the GM gave major credit to Hilton for turning down more money/longer contract with Baltimore. Ballard calls Hilton ‘pound for pound as tough as any guy on this team.”
-Speaking of wideouts, here’s a couple notes on the second-year guys in that room. “We think (Michael) Pittman is going to be really good.” “(Dezmon) Patmon has really big upside as an outside the numbers guy.”
-As Ballard has stressed before, it’s a big year coming for Ben Banogu. “Ben has to come on. Come on. Let’s go.” The Colts like Banogu’s character and think he has more than enough talent. They feel he needs some confidence.