Colts’ Chris Ballard: these guys will help take us to another level

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Justin Hobbs #29 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane cannot make the catch against Rock Ya-Sin #6 of the Temple Owls in the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 20, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Temple defeated Tulsa 31-17. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s a universal theme as 32 teams rehash their haul from the NFL Draft.

We got better.

Some do. Some don’t.

Chris Ballard steadfastly believes his Indianapolis Colts are better today than they were prior to the start of this year’s draft.

They added four players during rounds 2-3 Friday evening, including three to a still-evolving defense and the fastest wideout at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“Hey, excited,’’ Ballard said as Friday night gave way to early Saturday morning. “Excited about what we added to our team. The theme is pretty consistent with the top-level athletes and the speed that we added, especially defensively, and with Parris Campbell.

“I think we got good football players. Think it’s going to help us win games.’’

Friday night’s additions:

  • Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin with the second pick of round 2, No. 34 overall.
  • TCU linebacker/defensive end Ben Banogu with the 49th overall pick. That was the result of another Ballard trade-back, this time with Cleveland. The Colts slid back from No. 46 and picked up the Browns’ fifth-rounder (No. 144) in the process.
  • Ohio State wideout Parrish Campbell with the third second-rounder, No. 59.
  • Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke in round 3 with the 89th overall selection.

“It couldn’t have gone any better for us,’’ Ballard insisted. “These are players we had targeted, that we coveted and wanted to acquire. Bill Walsh had a great saying: It doesn’t matter where you pick ‘em, it’s how they play at the end of the day.’’

Ballard’s third draft with the Colts is in stark contrast to his first. In 2017, he inherited a threadbare roster. His first two drafts have remade the roster and left few, if any, glaring holes. Of the 19 picks from the 2017-18 drafts, 17 players remain.

Instead of desperately looking for a starter at this position or that position, Ballard and his scouting staff have more flexibility. While they’re hoping they’ll find the next Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard, they’re confident they’re reinforcing the top-to-bottom strength of the roster.

Remember, last season the Colts ended a three-year playoff drought. They finished 10-6 and won a first-round playoff game at Houston.

“These guys will help take us to another level,’’ Ballard said. “If they play at the levels we think they’re going to play at, they’re going to help us ascend.

“I just look back at ’17, where we were at from a roster composition standpoint and now being able to add the high-level athletes with character on top of what we have.

“I always talk about competition. There’s nothing that makes you better than having people compete for spots and we’re starting to get that.’’

A couple of takeaways from Ballard and coach Frank Reich:

Bangou’s versatility: “Ben’s an intriguing athlete,’’ Ballard said. “We’ll probably start him at Sam, but saying that, we also think he’s got a lot of (pass) rush in him. We think he’s got a lot of versatility. His speed and athleticism and ability to run down quarterbacks is important in this league.’’

Banogu played two years at Louisiana-Monroe before transferring to TCU. In two seasons at TCU, he generated 17 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss.

Campbell’s first impression: That would have been with Reich at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

“His combine workout was incredible,’’ Ballard said. “I know Frank just got intoxicated just watching him run around our turf.’’

Reich didn’t argue the point.

“There were several guys,’’ he said, “but Parris was the one guy that really jumped off the tape to me. Just his explosiveness. Playing in the slot you can see all the things he can do in the slot, but I really saw some abilities in him that I thought translate to make him not just a slot receiver. You can do different things with him.’’

Campbell’s 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash was the fastest by a wideout and the third-fastest overall. In 48 games at Ohio State, he finished with 143 receptions, 1,768 yards and 15 touchdowns. Campbell’s stock soared after his senior season: 90 catches, 1,063 yards, 12 TDs.

Staying put for Ya-Sin: The Colts sat in a coveted seat as round 2 began. They held the second pick in the round, and there were teams interested in trading up for that spot.

“We had action. We had a chance,’’ Ballard said. “That was a really good discussion. Man, Rock was outstanding at the Senior Bowl. He was great all year. Then you stack on his character, his competitiveness, his will to win. It just fit us.

“I kept telling our guys, ‘Look, we move down and we pass this guy that we love – if we don’t get him – we’re going to be regretting it.’’

Ya-Sin spent three years at Presbyterian College before the school discontinued the sport. He transferred to Temple and was awarded a single-digit jersey which is given to the nine toughest players on the team.

“You can’t coach guy’s will to be great,’’ Ballard said of Ya-Sin. “You can’t do it. We put a premium on that.

“Gil Brandt said something to me the other night. He said, ‘I always liked guys who transferred up. Why do they do it? Because they believe. No. 1, they know they’re good and they believe they belong. Ben did the same thing.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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