NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage

From now until the 2018 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a several others will be top-ranked players at their positions. If there is a player you would like us to breakdown and profile in the coming weeks and months, let us know in the comments below.

#7 Kalen Ballage /Arizona State RB – 6’2” 222 lbs.

The Good:

– Good combination of speed and power.
– Upside in passing game as a receiver and as a willing blocker.
– Falls forward while fighting for additional yardage, especially short yardage.
– Second gear in the open field.
– Bouncy feet that are sometimes combined with a spin move
– Light usage in college shared backfield every year, plenty of tread on tires
– Returned kickoffs

The Bad:

– Runs high, letting defenders into his body
– In losses against USC and NC State, he touched the ball 6 times combined.
– Limited vision alongside hips that are stiffer than most NFL quality backs.
– Can be an indecisive runner which allows defenders to make adjustments before he does.
– Inconsistent effort, looks like a man amongst boys on one play and then overwhelmed the next


– Coming out of high school listed by as the sixth-best athlete prospect in the country and a four-star recruit.
– Career totals of 450 rushes for 1984 yards (4.4 yards per attempt) with 27 touchdowns, along with 82 receptions for 684 (8.3 yards per receptions) with 2 receiving touchdowns.
– Scored 8 touchdowns in 2016 against Texas Tech on 15 touches (majority of scores were as result of direct snaps).

Tape Breakdown:

Ballage lines up to the left of his quarterback in shotgun formation. After getting the handoff, Ballage runs high and allows himself to get strung out flowing east and west instead of north and south. This gives the defense time to flow into his path and wrap him up for a two yard loss. The back has no power behind those pads running so high.

Ballage is lined up behind his signal caller in the pistol formation just inside the ten yard line. The back runs full sprint into the line of scrimmage, reading his blockers while keeping those tree trunk legs churning. His effort running behind his pads and blockers leads to a 6 yard gain near the goal line.

Once again the back is lined up a yard behind his quarterback. #27 keeps square with the line of scrimmage while flowing into the flat. He snares the pigskin in stride, catching it out in front of his body. Ballage reads his first blocker, but does not avoid a diving ankle tackler in the open field. Sensing he is going down, the ball carrier launches himself forward for a 4 yard gain.

Ballage lines up at his usual spot to the side of his QB in the shotgun formation on a second down with 8 yards to go. The runner takes the handoff and uses a jump cut to get beyond the penetrating defensive lineman. Ballage keeps running high and faces two defenders where one aims high and the other goes low on the back. The ball carrier tries to spin out of the tackle with limited success, but still manages to create 2 yards where none should have been found.

Ballage is an interesting prospect for the Steelers to combine with James Conner should they opt to not to tag or extend Le’Veon Bell. The Arizona State runner is too inconsistent to be counted on as a starting NFL caliber back, although he flashes from time to time. I suspect that the back’s stock will go up with a good NFL Combine performance, which would drive his price tag up to the fourth round making him too big a gamble when there will be more trusted, less flashy options on Day Three of the NFL Draft.

Projection: Fourth or fifth round

Games Watched: 2018 Senior Bowl, vs UCLA, vs NC State, vs Washington, vs. Colorado

Previous 2018 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Sam Darnold Garret Dooley Calvin Ridley Fred Warner Ronald Jones II
Maurice Hurst Mike McCray DeShon Elliott  Malik Jefferson Ogbo Okoronkwo
Trayvon Henderson Josh Rosen Ronnie Harrison
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