Kalen Ballage | 6021 | 222 | Estimate 40 time: mid 4.4 |
- v. UCLA
- v. NC State
- v. Colorado
- v. Washington
- @ Senior Bowl
- 2017 Maxwell Award Watch List
- 2016 Second in PAC12 in Rushing TDs
- 2016 Tied NCAA Record for Most TDs in a game (8)
Injuries and workload:
A largely clean bill of health registered by Ballage during his time at ASU. He missed 3 games with mono in his sophomore year and had one knee injury his junior year vs. Cal but, returned before the game was over. He should be healthy during the course of his 4 years on a rookie contract. He totaled 450 rushes and 82 receptions for about 2700 yards and 29 TDs in four years at ASU. For comparison, he had about 100 fewer touches in his career than Ronald Jones II; Jones only played 3 years. It’s also worth noting that he was used in a rotational role as the second back behind Demario Richard as well as extensive use as a kick returner. Taking him is likely a safe bet that he won’t be hurt and has plenty of treads left on the tires and is likely going to be an available asset to a team going well into his second contract.
Best: Finishing with Strength, Hands/Catch Radius, Inside Zone
Ballage plays with good speed, strength, and acceleration on a plus frame for a powerback role. He turns his head and reads the field pre-play. His mental toughness stood out to me on short yardage situations(3+short, Goal line), clutch situations (seal the game type of player), and consistently bounced back on the next play when he made a mistake on the prior. He is solid at getting out of his stance and getting downhill on inside runs (zone or man blocking) as well as displaying solid to good patience before hitting the hole. Ballage can sometimes move defenders out of the hole before he hits it by looking them off. He is good at finding daylight on Inside zone, solid at finding cutback lanes on inside zone using a solid jumpcut that could still improve, and solid at finding daylight on man blocked plays (inside) while creating good to very good separation as well as good at forcing defenders to change their pursuit angles on the aforementioned runs. When contacted, he is mostly physical and aggressive @POA, drives feet through small groups of opponents to be good at falling forward in these encounters, displays a decent to high motor, embraces contact, and solid at branching arm tackles above the ankles. To finish runs, Ballage is good at finishing with power (see: Senior Bowl, first half v. Safety in space) and solid at finishing with speed or elusiveness using jumpcuts, shoulder charges, stiff arms, and spin moves. He runs with solid pad height for his size, keeps the ball away from the defenders and towards the sideline, puts two hands on the ball through contact, and I would trust him to not fumble most of the time. As a receiver, he catches with his hands and uses his long arms to have a very good catch radius with solid ability to turn upfield. Ballage is good at creating separation in all three phases(mentally, physically and with burst). Mentally, he is solid to good at identifying where the down marker is and solid at setting up defenders before his cuts. Physically, he uses his large frame to box out well and is good at pushing off at the top of routes. With burst, he is good at pulling away from defenders, consistently burns LBs in coverage, and has effective, albeit awkward looking, cuts. He was used out wide to run mostly fly routes and ran a wide range of routes out of the backfield (curl, screen, flat, check and release, wheel, in, out, and swing) As a blocker, he somewhat wants to in pass protection, a willing and able lead blocker using cuts and hand shooting, with good to very good ability to chip out of the backfield.
Worst: Pass Pro, Suddenness as an Athlete, Any Outside Run
Ballage has adequate agility and change of direction with poor balance. He could also likely fill out his frame and be more effective (likely trading speed) in a power role if he packed on another 5-10 pounds during the offseason. He sometimes knows where the hole is pre-play but, can sometimes get lost on stacked front looks, does not use his blocks to weave behind them as effectively as he could when getting downfield or on screens, and sometimes stops his feet in the hole vs. LBs. When reading Outside Zones, he struggles as he is adequate at reading cutbacks and poor to adequate at reading frontside lanes. The issue that forces this to be magnified is that he has an adequate full speed to stop and stop to full speed into outside holes causing him to have marginal ability to separate from the hole on Outside Zones and some buck sweeps or wide power runs. When contacted, isn’t always aggressive when he has the ball, he doesn’t drive his feet in large packs, and inconsistently fights for extra yards causing him to not fall forward in packs as well as you’d like a 6’2 222 LB powerback to. He is still solid at falling forward in packs but, it isn’t up to potential. When finishing runs, he is poor to adequate at finishing with balance and gets tripped up easily by reach or arm tackles to his ankles. He tends to run a bit high naturally due to his height, giving him a bigger-than-most target area for tacklers and is loose with the ball when in space. Out of the backfield, he is adequate to display hands and numbers which, when paired with his athletic profile, predicts adequate at best hip flexibility, and is adequate at sitting down in the open areas of the zone, occasionally getting lost. As a pass protector, he has inconsistent technique, adequate to solid anchor (which I’d hoped would be a pro of his with his size and strength), adequate at IDing blitzes/assignments, and is inconsistent with his head being up or down.
Pro Comp. and Projections:
- Ceiling: Latavius Murray
- Floor: Alfred Blue
- Reasoning: At the top of his game, he is a rotational power back with the versatility to be used out of the backfield. One of those guys who is going to surprise you with 100 yards and a TD or two in a random game during the year but, is best in a stable of backs to make up for his weaknesses.
He would be a great rotational power back when paired with a player like Mark Walton or Sony Michel in this draft class and Christian McCaffrey or Dion Lewis at the NFL level. His best fit is in a role where he can just tire out the defense and take over short yardage and goal line duties. Do not, I repeat, do not try to run this man outside. Don’t bother. This is the first player I have given a score of “marginal” to on any skill during my history evaluating and his burst on outside runs is marginal. For these reasons, I believe he would be a fine late day 3 guy with upwards mobility to mid day 3 if he impresses in the shuttle and 3 cone or really packs on good size with maintained speed. If he goes undrafted, that is my first call as a GM.