Buffalo’s busy pre-draft visit schedule continued on Thursday as a the second Big Ten defensive lineman in as many days toured One Bills Drive along with the third prospect from the University of North Carolina.
The Bills hosted Iowa defensive end Christian Ballard and North Carolina linebacker Bruce Carter. Both have been projected by draft prognosticators as second-round picks.
Due to the presence of top prospect Adrian Clayborn on Iowa’s defensive front, Ballard is a name that isn't nearly as recognizable by those that are not engrossed in Big Ten football. But in a class seemingly littered with versatile trench players, Ballard is yet another scheme diverse defensive lineman, and he knows it.
"I come to work every day and I've been tested by some of the best in the country. My versatility, my ability to play the defensive end or tackle spot is my strength,” said Ballard. “I'll play wherever they need me to play at. I'm looking to play defensive end. I have the ability to play defensive tackle."
Ballard put together a solid week at the Senior Bowl playing for the North team under Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals coaching staff.
A converted tight end, Ballard is still learning the nuances of defensive line play, but at almost 6’4” and 290 pounds, and a 40 time at his pro day of 4.7, most NFL scouts see a 3-4 defensive end with upside.
“I still have a long way to go,” said Ballard. “The guys I faced are good, but there are tougher offensive linemen in the NFL. You have to work hard. There are better guys in the NFL. You need to know what you need to do better."
A durable player that played in 39 straight games and accepted any role presented to him by his coaches, Ballard is the type of team player that would seemingly be a fit on Buffalo’s roster. He had a pre-draft visit last week with Baltimore.
Bruce Carter is the third North Carolina product to visit One Bills Drive during the pre-draft process. College teammates Robert Quinn and Quan Sturdivant both visited with the Buffalo coaching staff on Tuesday.
Carter was considered one of the best outside linebackers in the class heading into the 2010 season. His production did not improve much in terms of numbers over the last two years, but it was due in large part to opponents game planning specifically for him.
Unfortunately for Carter he suffered a torn ACL late in the season and underwent surgery in mid-December. As a result he hasn’t been able to work out for scouts during the entire pre-draft process as he’s not expected to be football ready until the fall.
“Injuries happen,” said Carter. “It’s going to heal one day. It’s not the end of the world for me so hopefully (NFL teams) see that.”
Carter’s visit to One Bills Drive is no doubt in part to get the latest medical update on Carter’s surgically repaired knee. Though Carter has moved past the initial shock of the injury, he admitted it was devastating at first.
“I was crushed,” he said. “It was very hard for me. I felt like I was at the top of my career so I was crushed, but I had a great family and support team behind me and they helped me get back on my feet.”
Carter had a pre-draft visit with Detroit last month.
Throughout the month of April, we are running 2011 NFL Draft prospect stories each week. In addition, Bills fans can vote in the Bills and M&T Bank Draft Day Challenge who they think will be the Bills first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and have the chance to win a Bills Game Day Experience to remember. Five grand prize winners will get sideline passes, M&T Bank Club tickets that include food and beverage, a Bills Alumni meet and greet and a Bills helmet. Click here to vote.