After three subpar seasons with the University of North Carolina, everything finally clicked for defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer in his final year. In his first three seasons, Balmer had a combined 34 tackles and 2.5 sacks; not the kind of numbers expected of a first-round draft pick. However, he exploded onto the scene with 59 tackles (9 1/2 for a loss) and 3 1/2 sacks in his final 12 games played as a senior.
Balmer possesses decent size for a defensive tackle, although he might be at the wrong position. His 6-foot-4 1/2, 308-pound frame often led to him losing the leverage battle and being pushed off the line. This has some scouts believing his best bet at the next level will be as a defensive end. However, he does not have the type of outside speed that could make him a dominant end. Either way, Balmer will have come a long way from his Weldon, N.C., beginnings. When he joined the Tar Heels, many envisioned him filling the role of former Tar Heels defensive end Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers), but Balmer did not live up to that hype. Instead, he found his own role under the tutelage of head coach Butch Davis and has worked his way into being an expected first-day pick this year.
Balmer's athleticism ranks among the best for this draft's crop of defensive lineman. He has a tall frame, which is great on the line in disrupting passing lanes and getting his hands in quarterbacks' faces. He also has a solid motor and shows good awareness at recognizing where he needs to be on the field to make plays. At the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine, he ran a time of 5.05 in the 40-yard dash. This does not show his speed on the field, as he often seemed to play quicker when on film.
With his athleticism, Balmer could also be a great special teams player. He has a long reach and has enough quickness to get around players when he is in a good matchup. He also blocked two kicks during the 2006 season. His versatility also will likely result in him being rotated between defensive end and defensive tackle, depending on who he is matching up against.
Balmer's biggest positive lies in his potential. He has a frame that could still add muscle without reducing his speed, which would make him a more disruptive and dominant defensive player. Balmer has also improved on his tackling, no longer overextending his arms and is a tireless pass rusher.
If Balmer is to play defensive tackle at the next level, he will need to improve on his strength. Too often he is pushed back off the line because he lacks the size and lower-body strength looked for in a defensive tackle, particularly when trying to deal with double-teams. He also lacks ideal speed coming off the edge, which makes him somewhat of a tweener at this point - not strong enough to hold up consistently on the interior and not quick enough to excel on the end.
His work ethic and lack of urgency are concerns as he has been someone that needs to be monitored to ensure he is doing what is necessary in the weight room as well as on the practice field. That questionable effort can be seen in games as at times he has been known to give up against a blocker on plays if his initial move was unsuccessful.
One flag raised has been Balmer's problems with injuries. Following the 2005 season, Balmer underwent knee surgery to clean out some debris. He also missed time due to an ankle injury during the 2006 season. These are the types of injuries that could be magnified at the professional level.
Prior to his senior season, Balmer had just 2 1/2 sacks. In fact, during his first two years he managed just 18 tackles and five tackles for a loss, this despite playing in 20 games. Thus, he has not shown the consistency heading into the draft that you like to see in a top pick and last year's big season could be more of a fluke rather than the long-expected development of an impact player.
Expected Draft Placement
While not an elite prospect such as defensive tackles Glenn Dorsey (LSU) or Sedrick Ellis (USC), Balmer ranks at the top of the next tier of defensive tackles and is versatile enough to play all along the defensive front. He won't be a top-10 pick but should still go in the second half of the first round with the mid-20s being a likely landing spot. Teams like the Tennessee Titans (24th) and Jacksonville Jaguars (26th) could be interested, but it remains possible Balmer could fall into the early second round. It's his upside that most teams will love as he appears to still be growing into his body and getting comfortable playing the position.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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