Opinion: Kalen Ballage is a fitting candidate for the New England Patriots

Ballage has the NFL draft profile to join the Super Bowl runner-ups

After having to split carries with fellow senior Demario Richard in the backfield for the Sun Devils last season, former ASU running back Kalen Ballage did not have the type of senior campaign that many would peg for a strong draft pick in the NFL draft. 

But, after a stellar showing in the NFL Scouting Combine, Ballage has now shown he has the tools to become a player who can come into an organization and bring immediate results.

Multiple teams in this year's NFL Draft need help at running back, including the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but after losing its No.1 running back in Dion Lewis this offseason, the New England Patriots are a team that may well benefit from Ballage’s services next season.

After tying the Football Bowl Subdivision single game touchdown record by scoring eight touchdowns in a 2016 contest against Texas Tech University, Kalen Ballage has never quite lived up to the hype of his monstrous performance against the Aggies two seasons ago.

“(Ballage) is one of those guys who has the ability to (score a touchdown) every single time he has the ball in his hands,” said Patriots beat writer for the Boston Sports Journal Christopher Price. “When you have a guy who cannot only run between the tackles, but a guy who has that break away speed, those guys are pretty special.”

Although Richard was a very solid contributor for the Sun Devils a season ago, Ballage's fellow senior back is still projected by NFL.com to not even be drafted.

For Ballage to split carries with a projected undrafted free agent may be a rough look on the running backs draft profile, but Ballage’s athleticism shown in his combine numbers makes him a fairly attractive candidate for the NFL.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Ballage certainly impressed with a 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds that was tied for the third fastest time out of all running backs and a three cone drill time that finished fourth in his position.

In addition to his impressive combine numbers, Ballage’s experience as a special teams contributor makes the former ASU running back's NFL stock only higher, as versatility and experience in multiple different roles makes a player more valuable to a franchise.

One team that has valued versatility and special teams play to arguably the highest degree is the Patriots, who last season Football Outsiders ranked as having the No. 3 special teams unit in the NFL.

“He’s been able to prove himself on special teams. That’s a great intrigue (for NFL teams),” Price said. “We have seen that from a lot of guys from New England over the years, where they might not necessarily have a spot on offense or defense, but their ability to crack the roster is thanks in large part to their special teams skill.”

Last season's Super Bowl runner-ups currently have four running backs on the roster including Rex Burkhead, James White, as well as the newly signed Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee.

Although it may seem as if the Patriots have enough depth within their backfield, it must be mentioned that Hill and Gillislee will be free agents at the end of the season.

Combining those two potential future losses with head coach Bill Belichick’s continuous desire to improve on special teams makes Kalen Ballage a potential fit at running back for New England.

Although the Patriots do not have a vital need at running back, they do need future depth and security at the position and though Ballage would not get much, if any, playing time in his first year in New England, he certainly would receive playing time as a special teams contributor for the Pats.

“I think (the Patriots) are going to take (a running back) before the end of day two (of the NFL Draft),” Price said. “They do need to add a little bit of depth (at running back) after the loss of Dion Lewis.”

As a third or fourth round caliber player, Kalen Ballage finds himself in the type of range in the NFL Draft where teams that need future security or depth at a certain position can find.

For Ballage, the New England Patriots are the team that the former ASU running back can fall to. He can help out with the Pats backfield depth and special teams play.

Reach the columnist at kbriley@asu.edu and on twitter @KokiRiley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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