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ESPN’s Kiper ranks ASU’s Ballage inside top-100 of NFL Draft

Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (7) stiff-arms Arizona cornerback Lorenzo Burns in the first half during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov 25, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

ESPN’s NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his top 300 NFL Draft prospects on Tuesday and it features some players out of Tempe, including former Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage.

He ranks at No. 90 on Kiper’s board and as the eighth-best running back.

Ballage has been one of the more enigmatic prospects in the NFL Draft.

In no surprise, he showed out with his impressive physical profile at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, creating buzz around him as a potential Day 2 selection. The concern with Ballage has been how he uses that physicality.

He has been battling a reputation that he’s not the physical runner he needs to be, something NFL Network draft and college analyst Charles Davis went over on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta in late January.

“I would guarantee — I would bet my last dollar — that when Kalen Ballage walked into the room (this week), either the running backs coach or someone said to him, ‘Man, you sure look pretty but you don’t run that way. What am I going to get out of you this week?’” Davis said. “When you turn on the tape, my big concern with him is at his size, at his weight and build, why didn’t he break more tackles? Why didn’t he run through trash better inside? Why did everything have to be clean before you got a big run out of him?”

Ballage rushed for a career-high 669 yards with a 4.3 per-carry average as a senior in 2017. He added 20 receptions for 91 yards, a far cry from his 44 catches for 469 yards a year prior.

Sun Devils guard Sam Jones is also in the rankings at No. 173 and his former teammate, defensive end JoJo Wicker, cracks the top-300 at No. 256.

An extension to the positional rankings reveals more Arizona State alums.

Demario Richard was not in the top-300 and was ranked 31st among running backs. Christian Sam is at No. 20 for inside linebackers and Koron Crump is 43rd among outside linebackers.

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