Coming out of high school, Kalen Ballage was hyped to be a once in a generation talent. People were talking about him in the same manner that they talk about Saquon Barkley now. His high school tape entailed jaw-dropping highlight-plays, one after another. This led to offers from almost every major program. However, the Ballage we expected to see never materialized.
Measuring in at 6’3”, 230 pounds with great ball skills and such power, comparisons were likened to Adrian Peterson. He was a highly touted Devy asset, but unfortunately, after signing with Arizona State, he was grossly underutilized. Ultimately sharing the backfield led to Ballage being used primarily in the red zone and not having a full workload. A full break down of his stats with the Sun Devils can be seen below:
Facing competition from DJ Foster and Demario Richard was not expected to be a hurdle in his college career. Despite the disappointing production, there are still many traits that leave people enticed by his freaky potential. Yes, there are some red flags. But he could be a cheap, high upside pick in rookie drafts, because of his athleticism.
Perhaps Ballage’s biggest strength is his running IQ. He often finds the right hole and is patient and decisive when needed. Additionally, he has a unique skill set in the passing game. For a guy that is so large, he’s a tremendous pass blocker with soft hands and solid route running. In a league where screens are being used more and more to get RBs in space, and then letting them make plays in space, a 6’3” monster could do some damage. His ability was on full display in 2016 when he caught 43 balls.
Opinion is noticeably split on his draft stock. Due to his conflicting status, some experts rate him as a top 5 back in this class, while sites like Walter Football rank him as the 25th RB in the 2018 draft class. Obviously, for that reason, there are some glaring concerns.
One of my biggest concerns is that I don’t think he’s as fast as he’s rumored to be. There’s a lot of people hyping him as a speed demon, but I’ve seen too many plays where he struggles breaking to the outside and to break away. On his 157 rushing attempts, he only had 1 rush go for over 20 yards. There’s therefore not too many highlight plays for the 2017 season.
Furthermore, he runs incredibly upright. For a guy who is so large and powerful, you’d like to see him remain low so he can maintain good balance and can drop the shoulder when need be. If he could slightly alter his running motion, he could become a yards-after-contact beast.
My heart is still up in the air with this guy. I truly think he could become a star with some effective coaching and his price seems to be declining to a point where I think he could be a steal. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a backup power back at best. He makes a risky dynasty investment, but if he falls to the late 2nd round or early 3rd in rookie drafts, then he may blow your expectations out of the water. I’ll be curious to see how he tests in the combine and predraft evaluations to see if he can build that once prodigal status back up.