Mobile, Alabama is the talk of the NFL Draft right now. NFL personnel and scouts are fluttering around the city, and more specifically, the practices leading up to the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Saturday.
The presence of quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen — both of whom are projected first-round picks — have capitulated the media attention. But as scouts watch more players and more practice reps, one name keeps popping up.
Former ASU running back Kalen Ballage.
Prior to the Senior Bowl practices, many around the country knew Ballage for two reasons: rushing for eight touchdowns against Texas Tech in 2016 and being one of the biggest freaks in college football.
The latter has been confirmed tenfold in Mobile as pundits tweet about the running back’s off-the-chart measurables and innate pass-catching ability.
RB Max Speeds first 2 days:— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 25, 2018
Kalen Ballage (ASU) – 19.42 MPH
Akrum Wadley (Iowa) – 19.3 MPH
Ito Smith (So. Miss.) – 19.17 MPH
Jaylen Samuels (NC State) – 19.5 MPH
Rashaad Penny (SDSU) – 18.61 MPH
Darrel Williams (LSU) – 17.7 MPH
Fastest RB in NFL in '17: L. Fournette - 22.05 MPH pic.twitter.com/73fhFEsi1l
Back in the film room tonight, ASU RB Kalen Ballage takes a pair of ankles here from Brown linebacker Dewey Jarvis. pic.twitter.com/oFenqaJLKR— Riley Auman (@junioraumanac) January 25, 2018
Stock in the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Ballage seems to be at an all-time high, quite the pivot from just a few weeks ago. The Colorado native accumulated 275 fewer yards and nine less touchdowns from 2016 to his his senior season, which culminated with just four carries in the Sun Bowl.
Many have named Ballage as a key standout from each day of Senior Bowl practice. As the attention keeps coming, so to does the speculation about where he will land in the draft.
ESPN reporter Michael Rothstein writes that the Detroit Lions need to take a hard look at the former Sun Devil, even calling Ballage “the most intriguing back in Mobile.”
With the Senior Bowl acting as a prelude into the NFL Combine, which begins on Feb. 27, Rothstein also alludes to some of Ballage’s prior numbers regarding drills he will run at the combine.
“He’s an athletic marvel,” Rothstein writes. “This AZ Central story has him with a 37-inch vertical leap and a long jump of 9-feet, 11 ¾-inches. Oh, and he can bench press 360 pounds and squat 513 pounds.”
It’s one thing to be a standout at the Senior Bowl, doing the same at the combine, however, can boost a player’s draft position sometimes an entire round or an entire day.
First, though, Ballage will be suiting up for the North Team at the Senior Bowl on Saturday. The game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. MST and can be viewed on NFL Network.