2018 Prospect Watch: RB #7, Kalen Ballage, ASU

Kalen Ballage, 6-3 230 RB

Explosive.

Let me try that again.

EXPLOSIVE.

That is how you would describe Kalen Ballage. The 6-3 230 RB is one of the most impressive athletes we will see at the 2018 Combine in February. Ballage is expected to run in the low 4.3 range, while leaping 37″ and long jumping over 10 feet. This puts him in a group, athletically, that includes Patrick Peterson and Julio Jones. This kind of athlete is a must need for any team, and will make Kalen a hot prospect in the second round of the draft.

For the Colts, Ballage would fit in as a 2nd back behind Mack, one that can be featured in two back sets, Wildcat, slotted out to WR, or used as a F (move TE)/H-back. He has an impressive amount of touches in all aspects of the game at ASU, including kick and punt return. He is also the proud owner of an 8 TD game in 2016 (ties NCAA record).

A knock on Ballage is that he does not take traditional hand-offs often. He has been used as a Wildcat QB quite a bit, which I feel is a testament to his coaches trust in his ball security. When he does take a normal hand-off, his patience behind blockers and his breakaway speed stand out during film review. He is also not the most physical of backs, considering his size, but he can get tough yards if needed… but usually he can outrun pursuit to the edge in college, something that will change in the NFL.

Ballage grades out as a more explosive Knile Davis. But I liken him to Tevin Coleman. Both are tall RBs with great breakaway speed who are able to contribute in all three aspects of RB play, as well as occasionally split out to WR to create a match-up issue. Like Coleman, I can see Ballage slide to the back half of the 2nd to early 3rd due to heavy names in the RB class ahead of him. And, like Coleman, I can see Ballage be a solid complimentary back to a 3 down starter who provides a handcuff in the event of injury, and a toy for a creative OC.

About Tom Peck 11 Articles
Former teacher, current facilitator for community corrections. Father and husband. I coach high school football, help recruits find homes, and love the NFL Draft in all of its weird glory. Follow me on Twitter for football, politics, food, dog pictures and rants about my son.

5 Comments

  1. Kalen Ballage should be ranked as the third best back in the draft at this moment and his draft stock should be considered extremely upward mobile. A selection at the bottom of the first/top of second is in play.

    Tim Campbell – Live 4 Sport Network

  2. I do think his stock is very fluid right now. The Combine and Pro Day will be his key to a 2nd round selection.

    As for the 3rd best RB?
    Tier 1: Barkley (PSU), Guice (LSU), Chubb (UGA)
    Tier 2: Wadley (Iowa), Scott (MSU)/D.Harris (Bama), Ballage

    His body of work just is not there from a traditional RB role. Nor is his production. He has never been over 700 yards rushing, and has broken 1000 offensive scrimmage yards once (barely).

    In 2016, he was the 2nd option at RB, and the 3rd receiver. This year with an increased RB load, he is averaging 3.8 YPA… respectable, but not what you want to see from a top prospect in the class. By comparison, my tier 1 guys are all over 6 YPA.

    Kalen is currently tied for 88th in carries, but is still almost a one YPA behind people in his grouping. And they all have similar “long” carries (in the 20s).

    Athletically, his could be special. But his current production does not match a top 3 positional talent, IMO.

  3. Thanks for the response.

    A couple things –

    First, I enjoyed your write up on Ballage a great deal. I’ve been scouting players online, doing player evaluations and writing about the NFL draft since 2007 and I can honestly say that this has been one of the better breakdowns I have come across in recent memory. I disagree with some of the assessment but that doesn’t change the fact that you prepared it well with an attention to detail. I’ll be reading more of your material this season and I look forward to comparing some players and some evaluations as we get closer to the draft.

    One thing in particular that I agree with a great deal is how the combine will affect Kalen’s stock. I fully expect him to crush it and it will undoubtedly have a positive impact on his draft day projection, but much like last season where at this point in the year others had Patrick Mahomes slotted as a third round pick and we were suggesting a low to mid round first, I’m seeing similarities for Ballage (current 3rd to 4th projection compared to upper second to low first). There is a bit of a disconnect between production numbers and NFL potential and Kalen is probably the perfect laboratory test for this aspect. Ballage’s NFL impact from a pure statistical viewpoint will undoubtedly be greater than he’s collegiate showing, only to be slowed by the one factor that all rookies cannot control, the situation they are drafted in.

    As for your tiers, I think most of the general scouting world has a similar view and would have those players ranked in basically the same order (with the outlier being Scott, as I have him currently sitting in a similar spot as you but I have seen a lot of people ranking him much later). I’m not as strong on Wadley at this point as many are and I believe his running mate in Iowa should be getting more notice.

    There’s lots of time left between now and the draft, and I have only started my baseline scoring for players so my opinions on some are still being formed. I’ll look forward to comparing some thoughts with you between now and then and I hope to see you build a large following as the season wears on.

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      I had a bit of a discussion on Twitter with some ASU homers about how someone so talented is not producing as well as he should. Consensus was improper use by coaches, bad team building, constant change of OCs, and lack of offensive identity. These are, hopefully, problems that will be solved with his draft slot.

      My tiers are still fluid. Barkely and Guice will be fighting for my 1 and 2 spots throughout the year, but beyond that, it will be an interesting development process.

      As with you, I am just scratching the surface of my evals. My 2018 Prospect Watch is mainly just guys that fit the physical profile that Ballard seems to prefer (still ironing that out for most positions), and who happen to fill what I feel is a need for the team.

      Once the Combine and Pro Days hit, buckle up… lots of analytics will be coming at you, along with much more in depth game analysis.

      I have been to your site as well, and am starting to dig deep in to your stuff. What I have seen so far is great.

  4. Thank you for dropping in and for the high remarks. It’s greatly appreciated. We went through a major redesign this off-season so there’s still some work to do but it’s moving in the right direction.

    I’ll be sure to check back and see what you have tapped up. If it’s alright with you I will reference and link your analysis on anything I have that spins in the Colts wheelhouse as we get closer to the draft.

    Have a good weekend.

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