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Ballard's stock likely steady despite positive drug test

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | APRIL 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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A failed drug test is unlikely to drastically affect Christian Ballard's stock in this week's NFL Draft, the National Football Post's director of college scouting told The Daily Iowan on Tuesday.

The former Iowa defensive lineman tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine in February, sources told Fox Sports Tuesday.

"It's not going to cause him to fall too far down draft boards," the Football Post's Wes Bunting said. "He already did his tumbling because of it."

Teams have been aware of the failed drug test for weeks now, he said, and he expects the 6-4, 283-pounder to still be taken somewhere in the second or third round.

Ballard did not return a call and voice mail left Tuesday by the DI.

The DI asked him for his own "sales pitch" to NFL teams in a phone interview last week.

"Look at the program I came from. My work ethic. My potential at the next level," Ballard said. "… Whoever picks me up, I'm coming in ready to work and just be a part of the team."

Most experts have slotted Ballard as a second-round pick in the draft. CBS Sports and the Football Post currently list him as the No. 10 and the No. 11 defensive end in the 2011 class, respectively.

Bunting said he pegs Ballard as the first pick of the third round — owned by the Carolina Panthers — in his latest mock draft.

While a positive test raises a red flag — especially because players know beforehand they will be tested — certain positions have more leeway with such concerns, Bunting said. Defensive line is one of them.

"If he was a quarterback, it'd be a little more worrisome," Bunting said. "You can get away with a bit more character concerns as a defensive lineman."

"The quarterback — that's the leader, the face of the franchise. Defensive lineman, those are two completely different leadership roles."

One example of that in this year's class may be Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. He is 6-6, 238 pounds, and most consider his arm by far the strongest among the 2011 quarterback crop.

But despite all that, the general consensus is that he's a second-round pick — primarily because of character concerns.

The NFL Network's Paul Burmeister, a former Iowa quarterback, said on the network's "Path to the Draft" program on April 22 he talked to numerous general managers and offensive coordinators who have some concerns.

"What they have discovered is documented drug use, some real character issues, and they wonder if they want Mallett to be the face of their franchise," Burmeister said.

Bunting said Ballard has surely been asked about the test during meetings with team representatives. But those draft-day decision-makers are more likely to trust in what they hear from a player's college program rather than a drug test.

"The big thing is do they get a good recommendation from [Iowa head coach] Kirk [Ferentz] or not?

If Kirk's giving a guy the OK, then they trust him," Bunting said. "You still have to trust the people in the program … You do the background. You call the strength and conditioning coaches. The head coaches. They'll give you the opinion. That's kind of where you base it on."

Bunting said Ballard appears to have no other character concerns entering the draft, describing him as a "self-made" player. The Lawrence, Kan., native was listed as a four-star tight end out of high school by Rivals.com. He was successfully converted into a defensive lineman with the Hawkeyes and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in both his junior and senior seasons. In 2010 Ballard recorded 43 tackles, including three sacks, while also breaking up two passes and forcing a fumble.

The first round of the 2011 NFL draft will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday. Rounds two and three will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, and the draft will conclude with rounds four through seven beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. Each round will be televised live by ESPN.


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