DAVIE — This is the most exciting pick the Miami Dolphins have made in this year’s NFL Draft, and it’s unusual to say that about a fourth-round pick.
An offense that’s been dangerously low on electricity got a big jolt of it by choosing Arizona State running back with the No. 131 overall selection. He’s a thicker back at 6-foot-2, 228 pounds and he’s still got enough speed to clock a blazing 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Much of the Dolphins’ draft to this point had been about filling crucial needs, which is important, but Ballage is the first pick that brings the thrill of posing a big-play threat at all times.
“I don’t believe there’s 130 guys better than me, and definitely not 11 other running backs,” Ballage said.
This is a guy who once scored eight touchdowns in a game against Texas Tech, and anybody who can do that is worth the attention. Last year, as a senior, he put up 669 yards at a rate of 4.3 per carry and scored six touchdowns.
Ballage also possesses the pass-catching ability Adam Gase covets as he tries to assemble Miami’s backfield of the future. Kenyan Drake will be the primary back this year and has put together convincing evidence that he can do damage as a runner and receiver, and Gase’s imagination will run wild with ways to use him and Ballage together.
As a nice bonus, he’s already well-versed in special teams and could be a big factor for Miami in the return game.
Take a look at the skill players Miami has now, and the offseason departure of Jarvis Landry hurts a little bit less.
The Dolphins have exceptional speed at receiver in Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, plus the potential that always comes with DeVante Parker if he can get it together as well as a steady veteran in Danny Amendola.
They’ve got two new tight ends, one with the athleticism and leaping ability of an NBA wing player and one who made his name as a gritty blocker. The former, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki, could provide Miami with the red-zone target it’s been badly missing the last two years.
And the backfield now has dynamic speedsters in Drake and Ballage, both of whom will learn from one of the all-time greats in soon-to-be-35-year-old Frank Gore.
“Frank Gore is one of the best running backs ever,” Ballage said. “It’s cool to be able to learn from him.”
That’s a perfect attitude for Ballage, who admitted he’s raw and could use some guidance. He endured plenty of turnover on the Arizona State coaching staff during his time there and comes to Davie ready to be molded by Gase’s staff.
He also comes in with low mileage after getting just 450 carries in four years with the Sun Devils. That’s part of why Ballage thinks he got overlooked and drifted all the way to the late fourth round, but he won’t be short on opportunity when he joins the Dolphins.
In Gase’s economy, being a big-play threat is worth more than anything, and finding one this late in the draft is great work by Chris Grier and the Dolphins.
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