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 few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#1 Mark Walton/RB Miami (FL) – 5’9 205
– Plus athlete with great burst through the hole and speed to consistently win the edge, even against defenders who have the angle on him
– Excellent lateral agility and ability to bounce runs when he has to, able to make defenders miss in space, and shows ability to create beyond the structure of the play
– Reaches top speed quickly
– Surprising power through contact and balance, not tremendous, but better than you’d expect, especially when he was healthy sophomore year
– Well-rounded back, asset in passing game, routinely involved on designed runs (screens/angle routes) and on checkdowns, threat in space, able to separate from LBs in one-on-ones
– Gives top effort in pass protection, strong enough base to anchor against blitzing LBs/DBs, and plays with correct technique, staying square to the block and looking to finish
– Good ball security and able to move ball to sideline arm for extra protection and ability to stiff-arm
– Frame would be considered average
– Good power for size but still not great overall, not going to run over many people
– Dealt with injury that really limited him in 2017, hurting experience/production
– Occasionally tries to do too much in space, make one too many cuts, and passes up easy yards in search of the big play
– One year as full-time starter, 2016, before getting hurt in 2017
– Career: 394 carries, 1995 yards (5.1 YPC) 26 TDs, 56 receptions
-2017: 56 carries, 428 yards (7.6 YPC) but limited to four games
– Suffered right ankle injury that cut his junior season short, had also played through left ankle injury
– Returned 17 kicks for an average of 17 yards his freshman year
– Four-star RB out of high school, also had offers from Auburn, Florida State, and Tennessee
There’s no question this year’s RB class is loaded. So Mark Walton’s name is easy to forget about. But that creates excellent value for some lucky team. When healthy, he showed some serious talent.
Walton is an excellent athlete with long speed and initial acceleration through the hole. He can win the edge on perimeter runs and is physical enough to keep his lower half running through contact. His sophomore year tape, 2016, is the best example of it, given the injuries he dealt with his senior season. Two examples.
He’s not a big back and his power isn’t overwhelming but he has a strong lower half to run through contact and shows enough balance to keep the play alive.
He’s a multi-facet back, too. I was surprised and impressed with the work he did in pass protection. Fearless and anchors well.
I didn’t spot a ton of negatives. Like I said, the power is good for his size but it’s not that special. He didn’t try to dance like other backs I’ve seen in the past but there were times where he did too much. Open space on this run but he tries to cut it back and is caught from behind. He has the speed to win the edge.
If you know the Steelers, you know they generally go for taller, bigger backs. A list of the workhorse types, not counting the scatbacks like Dri Archer and Chris Rainey, they’ve drafted in the Mike Tomlin era.
James Conner: 6’1 233
Le’Veon Bell: 6’1 230
Rashard Mendenhall: 5’10 225
Jonathan Dwyer: 5’11 229
The only exception here is Baron Batch (5’9 207) though he was a 7th round pick and you can argue a flier/outlier.
So unfortunately, Walton doesn’t seem to quite fit the mold. But I love his game, in every area, and think he can make a Year One impact. The upshot to Walton getting drafted by Pittsburgh? Tomlin loves the Miami kids and one of either him or Kevin Colbert always shows up at their Pro Day. A chance to get to know a guy who wasn’t on the radar very much because of youth/injury.
Sort like Duke Johnson, who also went to the U, but an even better comparison might be Ameer Abdullah minus some of the ball security concerns.
Projection: Late Day Two-Early Day Three
Games Watched: vs Florida St (2016), vs North Carolina (2016), vs Virginia (2016), at Duke