There’s an under-the-radar name at the Senior Bowl that Titans fans should familiarize themselves with: Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage.
If you were watching the same Tennessee Titans games I did this year, it’s obvious to see that some juice was lacking from the backfield. It seems like the time is now for Derrick Henry to take over full control of the position, especially with DeMarco Murray looking less and less likely to return in 2018. While the idea of Henry getting the bulk of the snaps seems enticing, it would shock me if the Titans were not able to add a change-of-pace back this offseason.
That is the kind of weapon Marcus Mariota has been deprived of throughout his professional career. After having what seemed to be a bevy of explosive pass-catching backs during his collegiate career at Oregon, Mariota’s closest thing to that in Tennessee has been Murray. This is where you insert draft-eligible RB Kalen Ballage from Arizona State.
Ballage, who’s listed at 6’3″, 240 pounds, can do a little of everything. He nearly eclipsed 2,000 yards over his tenure at Arizona State, and the Colorado native also averaged 4.4 yards per carry during that time. Over his final two collegiate seasons, Ballage was able to haul in 82 balls for 684 yards through the air. The senior back got into the end zone 29 times in his career, including tying the FBS record with eight(!) in a single game.
Not only does Ballage possess the size to be a between-the-tackles runner, but he has the athletic ability and route-running knowledge to be the exact change-of-pace back the Titans have needed for a couple of years now. There has also been a new emphasis new head coach Mike Vrabel has put on a player’s ability to be versatile, which makes this pairing even more viable.
The former Sun Devil has put on an absolute clinic at the Senior Bowl, regularly torching linebackers in 1-on-1s. In fact, he has been one of the more impressive pass-catchers in Mobile that there has been some talk about having him take some reps split out wide as a receiver, which speaks to his athletic ability. Here are some examples of his receiving ability at the Senior Bowl. Can you picture Marcus Mariota throwing that wheel route to Ballage? Because I can.
I have little doubt that Ballage will end up a better professional player then he was a college player. He possesses the instinctual cutting ability, downhill running style, and willingness to never go down easily that could make him a great asset for any team. You saw the damage Tom Brady did in the divisional round with Dion Lewis, why not attempt to replicate that to some degree with a bigger, more powerful version?
Now, it’s too early to tell when Kalen Ballage will go in the draft, but based off of what I’ve seen, it would shock me to see him fall into rounds four or later. Make it happen, Jon Robinson!