From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#79 Josh Ball/OT/Marshall — 6073, 308 lbs.
– Above average athlete in terms of speed and explosiveness at the position
– Has great arm length (35”) and hand size (10”) to latch onto defenders at the LOS and keep them from getting into his frame
– Has the lateral foot quickness to mirror defenders and keep them from crossing his face inside
– Length and size make it difficult for defenders to bend and turn the corner against him on their pass rush
– Has good quickness out of his stance and plays with good knee and hip bend for a player of his height
– Has the athleticism to get out in space and pick up blocks on screens and when working to the second level
– Fairly flexible, being able to sit in and anchor well against power rushers
– High-caliber recruit that has played both tackle spots and is still growing into his frame
– Can stand to add more mass to his frame and more functional strength
– Lacks the lower body strength to move defenders consistently off of their spot as a run blocker
– Can stand to improve his initial punch in pass protection or as a run blocker to better displace and neutralize defenders given his size
– Hand placement can be off at times, leading to defenders falling off of his blocks
– Has a tendency to lean forward and overset on quick sets, leading to whiffs or getting beat on counter rushes
– Will resort to cut blocking defenders at the line when gassed, having inconsistent snap in his vertical pass set
– Was dismissed from Florida State due to character concerns, and has a history of personal foul penalties
– Redshirt Senior prospect from Fredericksburg, VA
– Four-star recruit at Stafford High School in Virginia before signing with Florida State in 2016
– Redshirted his first season on campus and then proceeded to start the last nine games in the 2017 season at LT and RT for the Seminoles
– Was suspended in May 2018 by FSU for dating violence
– Woman Ball was dating filed for legal protection, stating on three separate occasions that Ball had slapped her, shoved her into a closet, and shoved her to the floor
– A joint resolution was reached in court for an entry for final judgment in the injunction that will last four years in the form of a restraining order
– Eventually left the team to play at Butler Community College as a redshirt sophomore
– Transferred to Marshall as a redshirt junior, starting one of 13 games at RT
– Started eight games at left tackle as a redshirt senior
– Was ejected from the Conference USA Championship Game against UAB for getting two personal foul penalties
– 2020 first team All-Conference USA
Josh Ball is a tackle prospect that has taken quite the road in lead up to the 2021 NFL Draft. Originally a highly-touted recruit to Florida State, Ball enjoyed getting some starting experience right after his redshirt season for the Seminoles, starting the final nine games to end out the season at both tackle spots. Alas, Ball got himself into trouble the following spring in the form of a violent altercation with his then-girlfriend. He was suspended by the team during spring camp, and was later dismissed from the team for his actions.
Up to that point, Ball showed signs of a raw, yet talented project on the offensive line. He had his ups and downs as any redshirt freshman tackle would expect to have. His arm length and height are great traits to have as a blindside protector, having the reach and wide base to be difficult to get around on the edge. Here on this rep against the Clemson Tigers, we see Ball at LT get out of his stance quickly in his pass set, getting his hands on #99 Clelin Ferrell coming on the rush, showing decent hip and knee bend to sit in and neutralize the rush to give his QB a clean pocket to throw.
Ball’s length and size are also great assets in the run game, having the traits and demeanor to be a presence for a team looking for a physical identity. He is extremely effective on down blocks, running his feet on contact and driving defenders back into the turf, looking to finish them to the ground as he does here on this play against the Tigers.
While Ball normally has a quick step out of his stance on pass protection, his consistency on his footwork needs work. He can get tired throughout the game and lose that initial snap off of the ball, relying on his reach and length to try and overextend with his weight leaning forward rather than running his feet. We see that here as Ferrell gets a good burst off the ball with Ball slow out of his stance, shooting his hands and leaning forward as Ferrell gets the corner, getting the strip sack on #1 James Blackman in the end zone.
After getting kicked off of the team, Ball transferred to community college to play for a season as he looked to clear his name and get into the good graces of the NCAA. After the season concluded, he was cleared of his wrongs and transferred to Marshall to play mostly a reserve role at RT his first season on campus, before becoming the full-time starter at LT his senior season. While with the Thundering Herd, Ball was able to show more development with the athletic specimen he is.
He has fairly quick feet for the position, being able to mirror defenders at the LOS and pick up counter rushes on the inside and create a seal in the run game by quickly turning his shoulders to kick a defender out from the play. We see that here against Appalachian St., as Ball sees the defender shooting upfield and flips his shoulders and hips to run him upfield, clearing the way for the back on the big outside run.
He has the nasty mindset you want to see in the run game, and that was only showcased going down a step in competition, taking advantage of players from a smaller conference. Here against UAB, we see Ball come down the line on the option play, blowing up the defensive lineman and tossing him to the turf on the down block.
Ball’s athleticism is on full display when he is detached from the LOS, as well. He is a fluid mover in space, being able to get out in front on screens and climb to the second level of the defense to pick up linebackers and defensive backs. Here we see Ball leak out to the left side of the field on the reverse, picking up the defensive back coming downhill and clearing him out to the sideline and out of bounds, creating a large running lane for a nice gain on the play.
He is normally pretty quick out of his stance on his pass set, playing with active hands and feet to set the arc of the pocket to keep edge rushers from getting the corner. Here against App St., we see a good rep from Ball, getting into his pass set quickly, having his hands ready to punch and lock on to the rusher, not giving away the edge and keeping his QB clean to deliver a good pass downfield.
Ball does a good job running his feet on contact as a run blocker, looking to drive his man back downfield. However, he lacks that needed mass and functional strength for his frame to sustain his blocks throughout the play, being shed by defenders with strength and power relatively easily. He also likes to lean into his blocks, losing his center of gravity and allowing the defender to rip off of the block to pursue the ball. We see this here on this rep, where Ball does a great job driving his man back on the run play, but gets overextended, being easily shed to the side by the defensive end.
We see the same thing here against UAB, where he shoots off the line into his block but is caught leaning too far forward and fails to sustain his block, having the defender shed him and make a play on the back, nearly getting the safety.
Because Ball likes to lean forward instead of playing with clean footwork, we often see missed punches on the defender and irregular hand placement overall. This leads to him not being able to sustain his blocks long and also allowing edge rushers to get the corner or cross his face inside.
We see the former here against the Blazers, as Ball waits with #22 Jordan Smith coming off of the edge, electing to shoot his hands rather than continue his vertical pass set with a kick step, whiffing completely on his punch and allowing Smith to pressure the QB, making him roll out to his right and run into more pressure coming off of the right side. He tries to deliver the pass on the run on a key two-point conversion try, but fails to get the ball to his receiver.
He tends to do the same thing in the run game as well, as we see on this rep where he gets his hands on the edge rusher but over-sets on the play, not keeping his hands on the defender and getting his momentum going too far to the side, allowing the defender to cut back inside and make a diving tackle attempt on the runner as he crosses the LOS.
Overall, Ball is a tough evaluation for many different reasons. As far as positives go, you see a player that has the pedigree as a former four-star recruit and started a lot of games initially with Florida State, showcasing great mobility and athleticism for a player of his size and length. He has experience at both tackle spots and is still growing into himself as a player with more experience.
On the other hand, he has some serious baggage with the domestic violence claims against him with the dating violence, along with several instances of picking up personal foul penalties in key moments of games. These instances point to serious concerns of whether Ball can control his emotions effectively, causing some speculation of what will happen once he is receiving NFL paychecks. Pair that with the fact he is still pretty raw in terms of technique with his footwork and hand placement and needs to add more mass and strength to his long frame, and you have a player that is the definition of a gamble.
Ball’s upside is there, having all the traits you look for in a quality starting LT in the league who can also play on the right side. His size, style of play, and measurables are nearly identical to that of Ryan Schraeder, who played for the Falcons and was also from a small school in Valdosta State. Schraeder was an undrafted free agent and worked his way into a starting role after a couple of seasons, and Ball could be in line to do the same should he continue to develop and refine his game.
As far as the Steelers are concerned, however, they normally don’t budge on players with bad off-field history. Ball may be a changed man, but the red flags are there that will make many teams steer clear of him as a potential draft prospect, Pittsburgh likely included. However, should Ball prove to teams that he is a changed man and that his past experiences are indeed behind him, he would be an enticing project to consider in the later rounds of the draft, being able to come in and play a swing tackle role relatively quickly with the skillset he possesses, with the chance to become a solid starter down the road as he refines his game with more coaching.
Projection: Mid to Late Day 3
Games Watched: vs Appalachian St. (2020), vs UAB (2020), at Clemson (2017)