Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is complete, dynasty fantasy football decisions are on the line. As a former high school football coach and educator by trade, one of my passions include providing film-based reviews on rookie prospects and focusing on their strengths and weakness which may assist other fantasy football enthusiasts in their evaluations.
After reviewing five of his games, here’s my scouting report on former Arizona State Sun Devil and current Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage:
[Note: Most of these game videos are available via YouTube and Draft Breakdown]
RB Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins
6’2” | 222 lbs.
College: Arizona State
2018 Senior Bowl, UCLA, NC State, Washington, Colorado
Rookie running back Kalen Ballage is very inconsistent which unfortunately means a lot of different things. Let’s start with his eight touchdowns on fifteen touches against Texas Tech in 2016 and how most of those touches came from direct snaps. Ballage has only scored 29 total touchdowns in his collegiate career, so over a fourth of his scoring production came from a single game, which is quite random and will be difficult to repeat. During his senior season, the running back touched the ball six times combined in losses against USC and NC State! He was never the true workhorse for the Sun Devils, which actually benefits him because it saves the wear and tear on his body, but Ballage did not compete alongside a talented running back depth chart like he would have had he played for LSU or Ohio State. That makes me question his true upside.
Ballage is not a strong inside rusher; he prefers to break plays outside. This worked fine in college, but the speed of NFL defenders may force him back between the tackles. The former Sun Devil runs too high, which allows defenders into his body. Perhaps that is why he is so inefficient running inside. I also found him to be a very indecisive runner, who many times lets the defense adjust before he does, limiting his success. Ballage’s hips seem stiff, which impedes his ability to change directions quickly; that alongside his lack of vision which makes it more difficult for him to read rushing lanes. Finally, Ballage has been plagued with inconsistent effort; looking like a man amongst boys one play and then like it’s the first time he touched the pigskin on the next. These traits are the opposite of what young Kenyan Drake demonstrated last season and of what even old man Frank Gore can do right now.
As mentioned, the young back did not amass a lot of college backfield touches (532 total) so he has plenty of tread left on his tires. Ballage uses a nice combination of speed and power with the ball in his hands. He always seems to fall forward, especially in short yardage situations and had some success near the goal line. His bouncy feet and good balance are sometimes combined with a spin move or two to create open space. The young back got used in the passing game because of his nice hands and routes as well as being a willing pass blocker. While he wasn’t overwhelmingly good at the Senior Bowl, the young man certainly held his own. The new Dolphins back uses a second gear in the open field and is most dangerous out in space. He can return kickoffs if needed as he did that some with Arizona State, which could be helpful in leagues that reward that yardage.
According to My Fantasy League ADP, Ballage is being selected as the 10th rookie running back off the board. I feel that is a bit too high with Drake and Gore in his way for touches. He struggles running inside and gives very inconsistent effort. However, the young running back is an asset in the passing game and might be used more in a third-down back role. I would grab the Colts RB Nyheim Hines, Bengals RB Mark Walton, and the Chargers RB Justin Jackson before I drafted Ballage. They are all more well-rounded running backs that should see more touches, even in year one. If you are in a non-PPR league, I suggest downgrading Ballage even further.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to generate and discuss 2018 rookie scouting reports with you so be sure to keep an eye on DTC for all of the new content. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.