Breaking away from defensive players, today we look at Kalen Ballage, a newly added piece of the running backs core in 2020. A fourth round pick in 2018, Kalen Ballage has had a road trip before coming to Los Angeles. Starting with the Miami Dolphins then being cut, he was picked up by the New York Jets this past season. He was later cut and picked up by the Chargers which later went on to post career highs. This is the “re-sign or let walk” of Kalen Ballage.
Kalen Ballage is an interesting and at times complex player to make this determination with. There is so much to like and at the same time much left to be desired. He’s a great depth piece but is he worth keeping?
A deeper dive into Kalen Ballage and his playstyle is that he is a patient runner. Similar to that of Leveon Bell with less agility and a bigger frame. Knowing our offensive line and issues revolving around it a patient runner doesn’t fit and this is apparent even with a guy like Bell when his line situation is below average. The team need’s a hard nose power back who is able to bully his way through resistance. Austin Ekeler presents us with plenty of elusiveness so someone with a opposite skill set to pair with him would be nice. Going even further back to 2018 in his draft profile they even mention he “isn’t as hard to tackle as it seems” and “athletic, but not elusive”. Kalen Ballage is better suited in a better offensive line situation. Somewhere that could give him a lot more room to roam and time to process situations. However if the team does indeed make multiple additions to the linenthis offseason could LA be that somewhere? Another factor that comes into play is that he plays in a very replaceable position. In the draft you can find adequate runners and even undrafted free agents have proven to be good, Austin Ekeler and James Robinson are two examples. In other words it’s hard to know how much better Ballage could be with an upgrade in the blocking department or if they could find a better hard runner like Jacksonville did with Robinson.
The benefits of Kalen Ballage are that he is a great depth piece, relatively cheap, and presents a good goal line/ short yardage back. In an injury riddled core Kalen Ballage was one of the healthier players and was able to stay on the field consistently. He went on to start two games after his Chargers debut. As it stands Kalen Ballage has a market value of around 1-3 million dollars, I would expect the median at 2 million dollars per year. Lastly, Kalen Ballage is probably best suited as a rotational piece. A total of 3 of his touchdowns as a Charger all came from below 10 yards aka the redzone. Not to mention he averaged 3.33 yards per carry and his longest rushing attempt was only 17 yards.
If we want to sprinkle in statistics, PFF comes in handy. Carrying a 62.7 overall grade and a good 72.0 rushing grade. In his short time with the Chargers he only managed 4 runs of greater than 10+ yards. What was supposed to be his strength coming as a running back seemed like a weakness carrying a 53.6 receiving PFF grade. In total he amassed 290 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns paired with 99 receiving yards.
At the end of the day his pure potential is enough to keep around for depth. Guy’s who were supposed to be depth pieces like Justin Jackson and Troymaine Pope never could stay healthy or consistent. Based on his physical traits and size alone I say he should at least replace Pope and Jackson on the depth chart. If they aren’t sure about him and keep him anyways they can always roll the dice in the late rounds or with an UDFA and you never know, they might just get a James Robinson. After all this team has an odd skill in finding undrafted gem’s. Its also unclear how much the front office value’s him or if he was just an Anthony Lynn guy. All in all its not risking anything to keep him around.