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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
Well, I was looking for a player to compliment Kenyan Drake as we needed a between the tackles kind of a back. Kalen Ballage isn't it, but he is such an athlete that he is one of those home run hitters that we love to fall in love with. Ballage also is a very good receiver out of the backfield, and if we brought back the Wild Cat he has the arm and legs to run that, too. He can return kicks, so, he will definitely contribute on Special Teams as well. I think we are really going to like this kid.
Kalen Ballage - RB - Arizona St
6-1½, 228 lbs
Scouts Grade 68
Position Rank 11
Overall Rank 121
Arm Length 32-3/4"
Hand Size 9-1/2"
40-YD Dash 4.46
Overall Football Traits
Running Back Specific Traits
Passing Game 3
1 = Exceptional2 = Above average3 = Average4 = Below average5 = Marginal
Ballage was a four-year player and two-year rotational starter at ASU. He played in 47 career games with 12 starts (six in each of his last two seasons). Ballage split carries at ASU, but he was very productive in the passing game and also contributed as a kickoff returner. He has an outstanding combination of size, speed and lower-body explosion, but he also lacks some elusiveness as a runner, his vision is inconsistent and pass-blocking technique needs work. He might be best suited to serve as a hybrid RB/slot-WR, similar to Christian McCaffrey's role with the Panthers as a rookie.
Ballage grades out as a versatile rotational weapon but likely isn't a bell-cow back in the NFL. He has Day 2 value.
Ballage made national headlines in 2016 by tying the FBS record by using his power and speed to score eight touchdowns in one game (seven rushing -- most from the Wildcat formation in the red zone -- and one receiving) in a September match-up against Texas Tech. Ballage did not earn any all-conference efforts because he split carries (126 for 536 yards) with Demario Richard, but he scored 14 rushing touchdowns, provided a safety valve in the receiving game (44 receptions, 469 yards, one touchdown) and returned kicks (18 attempts, 409 yards). Ballage split carries with Richard again in 2017, rushing for 669 yards and six scores on 157 totes (20 receptions, 91 yards; 20 attempts, 437 yards on kick returns). He missed the beginning of his sophomore year with mononucleosis but finished with 653 rushing yards and four scores in 10 games. The four-star recruit from Colorado played a role as a true freshman in 2014 (42 rush, 138 yards, three touchdowns; six receptions, 64 yards, touchdown), even making a 96-yard kick return in the Sun Bowl that year.
Ballage looks great on the hoof and should test well at the Combine, but his lack of decisiveness and vision make it hard to envision him as a full-time RB1. Ballage can do a little of this and a little of that, but a team will need to have a clear-cut plan for how to use him. Ballage's size and athletic ability will appeal to teams as will his ability to play on third downs and return kicks.
* Excellent body composition and frame
* Possesses an athletic build with well-proportioned upper body and lower body that squats over 500 pounds
* Versatile player who has experience as an off-set runner, a pass catcher out of the backfield and a wildcat quarterback
* Has experience returning kicks
* Plays with adequate burst between tackles
* Lowers shoulder and accelerates feet into and through contact to fall forward
* Has secondary power to find a tough yard near end zone
* Clean hands as pass catcher
* Displays ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls
* Can line up in the slot
* Able to slip first tackle attempt after the catch in open field
* Needs to protect with better technique, but his size is effective in taking on blitzers
* Doesn't have the hips or feet to cut with sharpness after flowing hard to the edge
* Runs too upright to squeeze through tight rush lanes
* Plays with early indecisiveness
* Takes too many skip steps in his approach downhill allowing defense time to fight past blocks
* Field vision is severely lacking
* Allows open run lanes to go unused
* Feet can get confused when faced with unexpected traffic
* Athletic, but not elusive
* Not nearly as hard to tackle as expected
* Play regressed somewhat from 2016
SOURCES TELL US
"Mark this down. Nobody will be talking about him until he gets to the Combine where he will lift well, run well and jump out of the stadium. Then, he'll be the hot name." -- NFC team director of college scouting
13. KALEN BALLAGE | Arizona State 6014 | 228 lbs. | SR. Peyton, Colo. (Falcon) 12/22/1995 (age 22.4) #7
A four-star athlete recruit out of high school, Kalen (KAY-lun) Ballage (buh-LODGE) was a two-way standout at Falcon, starring at linebacker, wide receiver and running back. As a senior, he rushed for 1,943 yards on 206 carries (9.4 average) with 25 touchdowns, adding 360 receiving yards and six touchdown grabs. Ballage was considered the No. 2 recruit in the state of Colorado (behind only Christian McCaffrey) and considered offers from Michigan, Washington, UCLA and others, committing to Arizona State. He saw the field as a true freshman, primarily in goal line situations, and rushed for 126 yards and three scores. Ballage accounted for 653 rushing yards as a sophomore, adding four scores and 60 receiving yards. His most productive season came in 2016 as a junior, rushing for 536 yards and 14 touchdowns while recording 44 catches for 469 yards and one receiving score. Ballage returned for his senior season (nine starts) and finished second on the team with 669 rushing yards and six scores. He accepted his invitation to the 2018 Senior Bowl.
Owns the body type of a linebacker and grown man strength…delivers jarring hits when he commits to lowering his pads…physical in goal line situations, barreling through the line of scrimmage like a metro bus with Sandra Bullock behind the wheel…runs as large as he looks, making him tough for defenders to get him on the ground…doesn’t escape out of bounds…galloping strides once he sees daylight with outstanding speed…smooth body control as a pass-catcher, making fluid adjustments on the football…reliable hands away from his body…experienced as a kickoff returner, averaging 22.1 yards (48/1,059/0)...became the first collegiate player to record eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving) in a single-game vs. a power-five opponent (Sept. 2016 vs. Texas Tech).
Taller than ideal for the position with long legs…late to hit holes and indecisive when trying to select his run path…overly patient, which leads to negative plays in the backfield or when trying to go east-west…displays run power when he lowers his pads, but there are more examples of him running soft and trying to avoid contact, often losing yardage…questionable on-field decision-making…forced to gear down when changing directions…wild run angles, lacking coordinated cuts…ball security issues, fumbling once every 66.5 offensive touches in college…struggled to find a defined role in the ASU offense, never leading the team in carries or rushing yards in any of his four seasons.
A one-year starter at Arizona State, Ballage spent most of his collegiate career as the third-down and goal line running back for the Sun Devils with 19 of his 27 career rushing touchdowns (70.4%) coming in goal line situations (several on direct snaps). He passes the eye test and occasionally runs as powerful as he looks, but not with any consistency. Ballage is underwhelming as an inside runner due to sporadic vision and hesitant decisions, hindering his ability to find space and use his athleticism. His receiving traits and position flex are his most appealing qualities. Overall, Ballage has more disappointing than encouraging tape as a running back and doesn’t project as an every-down producer in the NFL, but his size, athleticism and receiving traits give him a chance at filling a third-down hybrid role.
GRADE: 4th-5th Round
• A versatile player who has shown the ability to run the ball, catch it and return kicks well, but never put it all together in the same season.
• Ballage’s measurables are impressive and he is a physical specimen, so will likely see his hype rise post-combine workouts.
• Was exceptional during the week of practice as a receiver at the Senior Bowl, winning consistently in all practice scenarios.
• Coming off his lowest grade of the past three seasons, but was used confusingly at Arizona St., often as a wildcat QB (70 times over 2016-7).
• Only averaged 2.7 yards per carry after contact over his college career, lower than a player of his size and talent should.
• Broke only 15 tackles from 167 carries in 2017, and has never broken more than 16 in a season.
• May be a better receiver than ball carrier, but displays intriguing skills in all areas.
Kalen Ballage is a player of intriguing potential and versatility, whose stock is likely to rise in the lead up to the draft. He is an impressive athlete in a big body, and has the ability to perform well on the ground, catching the ball in the pass game and returning kicks. He was extremely impressive as a receiver during the week of Senior Bowl practices and will likely blow up at the combine during workouts, but teams will need to reconcile that with relatively pedestrian college production.
POST DRAFT THOUGHTS:
At 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, Ballage is a high-cut back with all of the tools necessary to be a complete back in this league. He flashed elite traits as a runner, receiver and returner in bursts all throughout his career, but he was limited in ASU’s offense and rarely given the opportunity to develop in any one area of the game. If Miami’s coaching staff can crack the code with Ballage, he’ll prove to be quite the Swiss army knife at their disposal. **
• Excellent size and strength. Impressive athlete with quick feet and very good change of direction. Shows a quick burst. Good run strength and is able to get yards after contact. Instinctive and makes good decisions. Soft hands and is a good short receiver.
• Given all his physical traits, why wasn’t he the lead back at Arizona State? Lacks the top-end speed to be a consistent outside runner. Needs a lot of work with his pass protection. Takes a lot of false steps, and that slows his initial quickness.
WAY WE SEE IT
• Interesting prospect. Has great size and really good natural athleticism. Not a burner, but he has a burst. Though he was productive at Arizona State, Ballage curiously was never the main attraction in the backfield. Is best as an inside runner who’ll make good decisions and use his strength and power to get yards after contact. Can jump cut or make a cut in the hole to find an opening. Not a consistent outside runner and needs a block to turn the corner. Good receiver out of the backfield but not a good pass blocker. Overall he’s talented, but something is missing. I view him as a rotational back in the NFL, but just like in college, he won’t be a lead back.
The skillset is unique for his size, as Ballage is at his best as an outside zone runner and pass-catcher. His upright running style won’t be for everyone and he’s never had a ton of success running between the tackles (even in the Pac-12), but he has the speed to hit the home run and can be a matchup weapon as a receiver. He might never be the kind of workhorse back his size would suggest, but he has a chance to develop into a versatile, unique playmaker.
Arizona State Sun Devils
6-2, 227, 4.56, #7
Falcon High School
Born December 22, 1995
12/4/2017 - Sun Devil Football running back Kalen Ballage has accepted an invitation to compete in the 2018 Reese's Senior Bowl. He will be the 57th Sun Devil to compete in the Senior Bowl, and the 10th since 2012. Ballage is coming off a productive senior campaign that saw him eclipse 657 rushing yards on 153 carries, adding six touchdowns. He also contributed 410 kick return yards and 81 yards receiving. With these marks, Ballage became the 26th Sun Devil to amass 3,000 career all-purpose yards and 29 career touchdowns overall, which is the 10th-most in ASU history.
The physically imposing Ballage entered the 2017 season as a trendy NFL prospect following a breakout junior season in which he accounted for a career-high 1,005 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. Ballage was especially productive on the ground, rushing for 536 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns, second among all Pac-12 players and among national leaders in this category.
Unfortunately, he and the Sun Devils failed to build upon this success in 2017. Though Ballage set a new career-high with 657 rushing yards on the season, his big plays as a runner and receiver plummeted, dropping from seven plays of 20+ yards in 2016 to just one - a 35-yard non-scoring run against Utah - as a senior. Ballage also saw his receiving totals drop significantly in 2017, slipping from 44 grabs for 469 yards (10.7 yard average) and a score as a junior to "just" 19 grabs for 81 yards (career-worst 4.3 yard average) and no touchdowns over the 2017 regular season.
With his ripped physique and versatility as a runner and receiver, Ballage looks the part of an early NFL draft pick. Certainly anyone who watched him tie an FBS record with eight touchdowns in a single game against Texas Tech in 2016 knows that he can be a difference-maker. Break down Ballage's game a little closer and throw out this outlier against one of the traditionally leakiest defenses in college football, however, and it is easier to see Arizona State has not produced a top 100 draft pick among running backs in 17 years.
Listed by Rivals.com as the sixth-best athlete prospect in the country and a four-star recruit; Ranked by 24-7 Sports as the No. 27 athlete recruit in the nation; Rated by Scout.com as the No. 52 running back recruit in the nation; Tabbed by ESPN as the No. 52 athlete prospect in the nation after rushing for 2,690 career yards on 318 carries (8.5 avg.) with 35 touchdowns in three varsity seasons at Falcon High. Also caught 40 passes for 671 yards (16.8 avg.) with 12 touchdowns and totaled 3,981 career all-purpose yards. Chose ASU over multiple offers from Pac-12 programs as well as ones from Boise State, Colorado State, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Vanderbilt and Wyoming.
Physically imposing athlete with a tight-skin, well-built frame and good overall musculature. A legitimate NFL-caliber athlete who possesses impressive zero-to-60 acceleration to rip through the line of scrimmage and create chunk plays. Varies his gait and can surprise opponents with his willingness to change speeds. Generates good power behind his pads when he runs low to the ground, showing the toughness and leg drive to break tackles. Sharp cuts to avoid defenders in the open field. Experienced and productive receiver out of the backfield, who shows good hands to pluck outside of his frame. Occasionally split out wide and may be seen by some as a potential H-back or receiver convert. -- Rob Rang 12/26/2017
Possesses a tall, high-cut frame including long legs which give defenders a relatively large strike zone to cut him down, especially when he runs laterally and allows his pad level to rise - each of which happen too often. Rarely simply attacks the hole, even when it is there. Dances too much at the line of scrimmage before picking a crease, raising questions about his vision and "natural" running ability... Is not the punishing downhill runner his imposing frame suggests, failing to lower his shoulder to consistently break through head-on collisions. Does not possess ideal balance, too often going down to initial contact. Just average awareness and competitiveness in pass protection. - Rob Rang 12/26/2017
COMPARES TO: James Starks, Green Bay. The 6-2, 220 pound Starks showed plenty of flashes as both a runner and receiver during his time with the Packers but never was able to emerge as a headliner, starting just 13 games and scoring just 15 total touchdowns (nine rushing) over seven seasons.
IN OUR VIEW: Aside from the "Ballage barrage" against Texas Tech as a junior, the 6-2, 227 pound Sun Devil was not nearly as productive as his career totals suggest. He possesses the build and burst to put up flashy numbers as both a runner and receiver if an NFL offense commits to feeding him but too often he failed to create yardage on his own.