Colts general manager Chris Ballard speaks to the press at the NFL Combine Mar 1, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

One of the long-standing traditions of the NFL Draft is teams around the league leaking negative stories to the media, hoping a player falls to them. A lot of the time, these stories will get overblown and take on a life of its own. It happened again this year. While there were no ill effects on this particular player’s draft stock, C.J. Stroud’s reputation took a hit leading up to the draft.

Stroud, who was selected by the Houston Texans with the No. 2 overall pick on Thursday, had his name dragged through the mud. There was a lot of conjecture, rumors and reports about the former Ohio State quarterback that put his status in doubt as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft.

Not only were there reports that Stroud’s testing scores were peculiarly low, but there were multiple unconfirmed reports about his character. One of those reports came from Fox Sports analyst and former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn, where he accused Stroud of “ghosting” the Manning Passing Academy, which was founded by Archie Manning and is directed by Peyton and Eli Manning, after saying he would attend. That led to Quinn sparring with ESPN’s Ryan Clark and Robert Griffin III, among others.

The frustration at those reports had been boiling over for a while now. While Ohio State head coach Ryan Day came to the defense of Stroud, so did a general manager that he will likely face two times a season. Though Chris Ballard didn’t refer to Stroud by name in his press conference following the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, it was obvious who the Indianapolis Colts GM was referring to.

Ballard took a break from discussing his first-round pick — Anthony Richardson — to make some pretty pointed comments about stories that come out around this time of year.

“I get frustrated,” Ballard told reporters on Thursday night, via Pro Football Talk. “All the crap that comes out about these kids. It’s crap. Like, it’s bullshit. I’m sorry, but it’s bullshit. Like people that leak these stories, these negative stories on kids. I just don’t — I don’t agree with it. It’s bullshit.

“These guys work their ass off to get where they need to be, and then all week you’ve got to read . . . and then they’ve got to answer questions. So, anyway, not on Anthony, it’s on some other kids in the draft that are good kids, and I thought had to take a little bit of a beating that they shouldn’t have had to take.”

There are quite a few people that likely owe Stroud an apology. Fortunatley, it did not affect his positioning in the draft, but it very well could have. Good on Ballard for speaking out against baseless attacks on a prospect’s character, which happens way too often around this time of every year.

[Pro Football Talk]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.