First, know that it’s January. The NFL draft is in April. So impressions of draft-eligible players will bob up and down.
That said, strong stuff was coming from pundits at Monday’s first day of practice for Saturday’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. For instance:
Jeff Risdon of RealGM Football (first time I’d heard of it, I admit) offered this about Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard in his Monday report:
I talked with a college coach for a few minutes about some of the players he faced off against and coached here. He raved about Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue, says he is the most well-versed pass rusher he’s faced in years. … The coach was not real kind on Christian Ballard or Ross Homan, calling the latter “too easy to block”, a death punch for a small guy like Homan that must stay out of the trash to make plays.
Wes Bunting of the National Football Post, an Iowa-friendly site, didn’t have Wes Bunting pull any punches about Ballard Monday. Bunting wrote:
Another defensive lineman who seemed to have a rough go as a pass rusher was Iowa’s Christian Ballard. He’s a tall, long armed kid with a good initial first step, extend his arms well and can create some leverage for himself off the snap. However, if his initial bull rush is stalled he allows his pad level to pop up quickly, gets hung up too easily through contact and doesn’t use his hands well enough to cleanly disengage. He looks more like a DE only who has the length and anchor strength to play the run with some consistency as well as the range to track the football in pursuit. But overall he’s not a real natural pass rusher at this stage.
Russ Lande of The Sporting News had this about Hawkeye quarterback Ricky Stanzi:
Stanzi (6-4 1/8, 221) had a bad day and definitely looked the worst of the North quarterbacks. His passes showed no zip, and he did not show the arm strength to make deep throws. The biggest problem Monday was his terrible accuracy. Yes, he was working with new receivers, but his passes were all over the place. If he plays like this the rest of the week, he is certain to free-fall down draft boards.
I wonder if he passed any more poorly than any of the three Chicago Bears quarterbacks in the NFC title game Sunday.
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com had this summation of Stanzi’s practice performance Monday:
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi doesn’t possess (Washington’s Jake) Locker’s athletic upside or (Nevada’s Colin) Kaepernick’s arm strength. His instincts and consistency make him one of the better “second tier” quarterbacks in this class. Stanzi, wearing a bright yellow helmet Monday, chose to pepper the defense with underneath passes too often for scouts’ liking, but that can hardly be considered a surprise considering the ball-control offense he ran at Iowa.
On to Day 2.
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