Examining the New England Patriots' Move to Steal Jake Ballard

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Examining the New England Patriots' Move to Steal Jake Ballard

The New England Patriots claimed tight end Jake Ballard off of injury waivers on Tuesday and now own the rights to the talented young pass-catcher, according to his agent, Blake Baratz. Ballard was originally signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2010 after fours years at Ohio State. 

This move comes as a massive surprise, as I've kept a close eye on Ballard since the beginning of the 2011 fantasy football season. He developed into a reliable cog in the Giants offense and thus into a productive member of my fake team.

It felt odd pulling for a player who played for a different team than the one I rooted for, but that's the draw to fantasy sports, it allows and promotes objectivity. Still, Ballard was a thorn in the side of the Patriots in more ways than one last season.   

With just 17 seconds left in regulation during their Week 9 matchup against New England, Ballard reeled in the game winning touchdown for New York. He did it after converting a third and 10 with 51 seconds left and finished the day with 67 receiving yards and the score. 

The loss was the Patriots second straight, marking the first time the franchise had lost two in a row since 2009. 

On the year, Ballard produced 38 receptions to the tune of 604 yards (15.9 average) and four touchdowns helping to lead to the Giants to their second Super Bowl appearance in five years.  

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Ballard had played a large portion of the year with a partially torn PCL and his luck got even worse in the season's last game. He suffered a torn ACL and apparently didn't even know it. He was taken off the field in the second half only to attempt and fail to run and make cuts on the sideline. Ballard collapsed in a painful heap and was helped to the locker room after his gutsy try to make it back on the field. 

Ballard required a complete reconstruction of the ACL along with microfracture surgery to repair damaged cartilage likely from his attempt to make it back onto the field. The timetable of his recovery is what led to the Giants to place him on waivers. It was a move which New York likely expected would allow them to eventually regain control of the 6'6'', 275-pounder. 

Ballard's recovery is going to be a long road and there's no guarantee he can make it back onto the field in 2012. But stocking injured talent isn't a foreign idea to the folks in New England.  

The move to claim Ballard by the Patriots is reminiscent of the move made to claim Josh Barrett off of waivers from the Denver Broncos in 2010. Barrett sat out the 2010 season and eventually contributed four starts to New England's secondary in 2011 before succumbing to another season-ending injury. 

As for Ballard, he's likely to be placed on the PUP list until the team is forced to make a decision on whether or not to move him to the injured reserve. It's possible that he could have an impact this season, especially if injuries occur at the position for the Patriots, but we're along way from that stage.

Right now, New England has itself a 24-year-old with a high ceiling and recent success, but lots of rehab ahead of him so what it turns into from here is anyone's guess. One thing's for sure though, it feels damn good to have taken something of value from the Giants and if that's the only thing that comes from this, I'm good with that. 

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