The 2018 NFL Draft will feature two blue-chip running backs in Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice, but they’re not the only players worthy of early-round consideration at their position.
Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage, the 6-3, 230-pound bruiser with juice, is a name worthy of NFL scouts’ attention and is likely to find his way to Day 2 of the draft if he stays healthy.
If ASU coach Todd Graham is right about his prediction for Ballage’s 40-yard dash time, the senior running back could come off the board even sooner than that.
According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, Graham predicted Ballage will run a 4.4 or better at the NFL Combine next winter. If he runs that fast with the size he possesses, NFL teams will line up for his services.
Ballage didn’t have a ‘wow’ season in 2016, but he flashed enough on film to be a lead candidate in the breakout season category. He ended last year with 126 carries for 536 yards and 14 touchdowns, a season that saw his yards-per-carry dip by nearly a yard (5.2 in 2015 to 4.3 in 2016).
Ballage needs more touches in 2017 for a complete scouting report. He’s proven to be a capable receiver (44 catches in 2016), but I want to see more traditional running back carries from him in the fall. Many of his impressive runs came when he was lined up as the quarterback in shotgun. NFL teams won’t ask him to do that.
Ballage currently ranks No. 6 among draft-eligible running backs heading into the 2017 college football season.