By: Ryan Cearfoss
- Receiving ability
- Power/Breaks tackles
- Great size and speed combination
- Effective in short yardage/goal line
- Three down skill set
Receiving Ability- The first thing that stands out on Kalen Ballage's tape is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In 2016, Ballage racked up 469 yards off of 44 receptions. Ballage catches the ball with his hands consistently and is able to turn up field quickly. Not only can he handle the dump-offs and screens out of the backfield, but Ballage is a sound route runner as well. Ballage ranks near the top of this class's pass catching running backs.
Great speed and size combination – Ballage measured in at 6’1” and 228 pounds at the combine. He paired his ideal size with a blazing 4.46 forty yard dash time. That impressive speed-size combo translates to his tape as well. When in the open field, Ballage consistently out-ran defenders for chunk plays when he had room to work in front of him. Unlike most backs his frame, Ballage's burst and ability to reach full speed quickly make him incredibly dangerous.
Short Yardage/ Goal line specialist – Ballage is a bull in a china shop in short yardage situations. He has the ability to lower his shoulder and push the pile. Arizona State used him in the wildcat formation in the red zone which telegraphed exactly where the ball was going and they still couldn’t stop him.
- Outside running
- Limited Role
- Always lowers his shoulder in one-on-one situations
Outside Running – Arizona State continuously tried to run Ballage on stretch and sweep plays, and over and over again they were blown up in the backfield. For all of his athletic ability, Ballage was ineffective running outside at times due to poor vision and anticipation. A significant amount of the blame falls upon on the coaching staff for not catering to Ballage's strengths, but in doing so, they exploited a major weakness in Ballage's game.
Vision - Ballage showed inconsistencies in his vision and processing. On runs where a hole didn’t open up immediately, he was unable to find cut back lanes and frequently ran into his lineman. When running to the outside, like mentioned above, Ballage wasn’t able to process the hole opening up quickly enough. This prevents him from getting to the second and third level of the defense, which is where he thrives. In the NFL, a player can have all of the talent in the world, but if they aren’t able to show vision, they will be unable to utilize that talent.
Limited Role - The most confusing part about Kalen Ballage’s evaluation was his limited role in the Arizona State offense. While his carries rose to 157 in 2017, his touchdown total dipped from 14 to 6. He also witnessed his reception total shrivel from 44 in 2016 to 20 in his senior season. This downward trend of production and opportunities is eye-opening and raises questions about a prospect with his raw talent and measurables.
Kalen Ballage brings a versatile skill set to the NFL as a big running back who has a fantastic ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks. Any NFL team that drafts him should be able to find a role for him where he can make an impact. If Ballage can put it together, he could be a late round steal. If not, he could end up a distant memory.
Kalen Ballage will prove to be one of the biggest low floor/high ceiling players in this draft class. His receiving ability could aid him in carving out a role early. To truly thrive, Ballage needs to be drafted by a team with a great offensive line who will give him room to run and make plays. If Ballage goes somewhere with a mediocre offensive line, he could flop. If your dynasty team needs a player with a solid floor, I’d look elsewhere.