by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It may have been surprising that the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round selection. How ironic will it be if they ultimately used that selection to acquire his replacement?
The Dolphins used that fourth-round pick to select Arizona State University RB Kalen Ballage, who could potentially get an opportunity to rise to the lead back role before long. That’s a bold statement, considering his less than impressive numbers while in college. Just look at his four-year college career:
At the same time you could argue that the lack of carries is a positive, as he hasn’t suffered the physical wear and tear that running backs generally deal with. As a comparison, over the past three seasons Saquan Barkley carried the ball 653 times, not to mention the receptions. That’s a big difference, and while you may call into question Ballage’s ability to handle a full workload (since he hasn’t proven it before) that shouldn’t be a big concern.
Ballage has the ideal size, listed at 6’2” and 228 lbs., and he pairs that with an ability to catch the football (44 receptions in 2016). His talent has already caught his coaches attention, as Adam Gase was quoted by the Palm Beach Post (click here for the article):
“He’s a big man that runs fast and can catch the ball well,” Gase said Thursday. “He really has all of the things that you’re looking for in an all-around back. It’ll be fun to see how he progresses and how things go … how quick he learns everything and how he fits in with the group.”
The Dolphins do have options, with Kenyan Drake expected to open the year as the starter. Drake showed strong talent last season, rushing for 644 yards on 133 carries (4.8 yards per carry), and really thrived after the trade of Ajayi (he averaged 4.9 yards per carry in December). They also brought in Frank Gore in the offseason, just adding another body to the depth chart.
At the same time, we all know Gore is at the end of his career and could easily be passed by. Drake is also no guarantee to produce, despite what he showed late last season, as it came over a five-game stretch. Maybe it translates to a full season, but is it a lock?
Ballage should be there to step in, and maybe it only takes one injury to get him a significant workload. As a late round flier, that’s about all we can ask for (especially for someone who has the upside).
Sources – ESPN, Palm Beach Post
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: