Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round (106 overall) on Saturday at the NFL draft.
Ballard, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 298 pounds, started his last 39 games at Iowa and played in 49 games. He issues considered one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the draft and able to play either defensive tackle or defensive end in the 4-3 or defensive end in a 3-4 defense.
Minnesota’s solid defensive line may have two defections this year. Defensive end Ray Edwards likely will leave via free agency. Defensive tackle Pat Williams could retire this year. That could allow Ballard to challenge at either spot.
“Christian Ballard, with the concerns at tackle, also the concerns at end, where does he fit?” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis asked. “That’s my quesiton about Christian Ballard.
“He’s probably going to play inside also he’s got edge abilities outside,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “Let me tell you one thing about Christian Ballard: he had second-round grades from the entire league. The reason he slid was for a recent off-the-field issue. That’s why the slide.”
Ballard was considered either a late first-round or early second-round pick. But he may have slipped in the draft because of a report this week that he failed a drug at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Ballard started 21 games at left defensive end and 18 games at defensive tackle. Ballard split his team at both positions last season, starting eight at defensive end and five at tackle.
“He’s a total player,” Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac said on the team’s Website. “He comes from a program that plays good defense and produces a lot of NFL players and we’re excited about getting him.”
Ballard finished his career with with 21.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 153 tackles. Ballard was an honorable mention all-Big Ten defensive lineman last season.
HERE’S BALLARD’S TRANSCRIPT
Vikings Fourth-Round Pick Christian Ballard
Q: Were the Vikings one of the teams you thought would pick you?
A: I thought that was a possibility. You never know when you’re going to get taken, but I’m proud to be a Viking. I was honored, and I can’t wait to get to work.
Q: Did you have much contact with the Vikings before the draft?
A: I talked to them down at the Senior Bowl and talked to them a little at the combine. We knew that was going to be a pretty good pick (of a team).
Q: You played both defensive end and defensive tackle in college, which do you see as your more natural position?
A: Right now I think they want me at defensive tackle, and I’m just willing to play wherever they need me to play. Just playing both (positions) will give me the opportunity so that I can really take my game to the next level. Wherever they put me at is where I’ll (be).
Q: Are you disappointed that you dropped to the fourth round, or is this where you expected to go?
A: I just was waiting to get the opportunity, to get a phone call. I probably would have liked to go a little higher, but that’s okay. I’m with a great program with a great coach, and I just thank them for picking me up. And I’m just ready to get to work.
Q: There were reports that you failed a drug test at the combine, do you think that caused you to slide in the draft?
A: I’m not really sure what caused that. I’ve made mistakes in the past, but I’m going to look to the future. I’m a Viking now. Whatever happened in the past is behind me. Now all that’s on my mind right now is trying to make the Vikings a Super Bowl team.
Q: Were those reports accurate, that you tested positive for marijuana at the combine?
A: That’s confidential. I’m just not willing to speak on that right now.
Q: Was that something that teams did ask you about that when you were at the combine?
A: Once again, that is a confidential matter, I don’t really want to speak about it.
Q: Have you looked at the Vikings situation at defensive tackle with Pat Williams possibly leaving via free agency and Kevin Williams possibly facing a four-game suspension?
A: I just got picked up by them, and I’m trying to take the phone calls and trying to figure out what I’m doing right now, so not really. Wherever it is I still got to earn a spot; I got to get better every day. I’m going to get up there, work, learn from the veterans. Fortunately, Chad Greenway is from Iowa, so I can learn from him and be the best I can be.
Q: With the uncertainty of the lockout, how are you approaching these next few days? Do you know when you will be in Minnesota?
A: I have no idea. The only thing I can control is what I do. That’s just working out, making sure I’m in the best shape of my life before I get up there. I know that the team is counting on me, so I just have to do what I need to do so I can play and help the team out.
Q: Your uncle is a musician, can you talk more about that?
A: My great uncle is Hank Ballard, a musician. He wrote ‘The Twist.’ Hank Ballard and the Midnighters; I know a lot of older people have probably heard of him. That’s something our family really takes pride in and we still try to carry that on.
Q: Do you have a musical background?
A: I play the cello and the bass, I do a little bit of the music and arts, so that part of my family definitely got passed down to me.
Q: How did you get started playing those instruments?
A: My mother actually put me on to the cello, and I was kind of just a natural at it. I’ve really loved it ever since. I stopped of course when I was in college because I was playing football, but it still was a hobby that I want to continue.
Q: He passed away in 2003, correct?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you get the opportunity to get to know your uncle before then?
A: I met him a couple times. One time at my grandfather’s funeral and he sent us a couple tapes of his music. He kept in touch as much as he could. I knew him well but of course everyone wants to spend more time with their loved ones but it just happened that he passed and he was a great guy.
Q: What do you see as the as the parts of your game that you need to work on to be effective at the next level?
A: Probably just keeping my pad level down and work with my hands a little more. It’s really not just one part of my game. I can get better at every part of my game and that’s what I’m going to try to do but definitely my pad level and improve my awareness and all that stuff is just going to come with the coaching staff they have with the Vikings. It’s going to be easy. I’m excited to get there.
Q: You played half the season at end and half the season at tackle correct?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you move inside because of need or because they felt that was a better spot for you?
A: I moved inside because that’s what the team needed. They wanted me to play both so I played both. It’s just kind of a thing that I’ve done, always helping the team out and they put me in a great position that I could excel at either one. I’m definitely grateful for that and I have to thank the Iowa coaching staff for that. I’m just excited to go.
Q: What’s the strength of your game right now?
A: Probably my athleticism. I never played defensive line prior to college and the coaches put me in a position so I could succeed in the Big Ten. My fundamentals are good and I have a good base and I excel in that but I definitely think my athletic ability has definitely helped me out and I’m just looking to refine my techniques.
Q: What position did you play before you got converted?
A: Tight end.
Q: Is that what you were recruited as?
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