Editor’s Note: To help you dominate your rookie drafts, this series will feature a look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of over 40 dynasty rookie draft prospects and run all through the month of May and even into June. We’ll cover all the premier prospects but also give you critical information on some of the lesser known talents. All of these rookie updates will be loaded into our ever-evolving 2018 Rookie Draft Guide – the ultimate resource for dynasty enthusiasts all over the world.
Name: Mark Walton
Born: March 29, 1997
Position: Running back
Pro Team: Cincinnati Bengals
College Team: Miami Hurricanes
Draft Status: Round five, 112th overall
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 202 lbs
- Hand Size: 9 ¼”
- 40 Time: 4.60
- Bench Press: 18 reps
- Vertical Jump: 31.5”
- Broad Jump: 118”
- Short Shuttle: 4.45 (pro day)
- Three Cone Drill: 7.0 (pro day)
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- Plays faster than his 40 time would indicate
- Plays quicker than his short shuttle and three cone would indicate
- Plays bigger than his size would indicate
- Awesome in space
- Has great hands
- Rarely fumbles
- Great hips and feet
- Can either be a slasher or a dancer as needed
- Not afraid of contact
- Dusts linebackers in pass routes
- Willing pass protector
- Indecisive when running inside
- Shows inconsistent vision between the tackles
- Needs to more consistently follow blocks and play design
- Despite running to contact, doesn’t possess great power
- Not an explosive athlete
- Tries to bounce too many runs
- Not always in the right place when pass blocking
Calling the Cincinnati backfield crowded is like calling Tom Selleck’s mustache nice: a gross understatement of an obvious truth. Joe Mixon is entrenched as the starter and is unlikely to be overtaken this season, even if he struggles as he did in 2017. The role many analysts had Walton pegged for is dominated by one of the better third down/space backs in the league in Giovani Bernard. Unless one or both falter significantly or get injured, it is going to be very difficult for Walton to see the field this year. Expect well under 50 total touches.
The only other yet-to-be-mentioned Bengals running back of note is 2017 fifth round pick, Brian Hill. The former Atlanta Falcon is a one-speed, one cut, downhill power back whose best case NFL situation is to play in short-yardage situations. Basically, Hill isn’t a threat to Walton unless both Mixon and Bernard go down and the Bengals decide to relive the Jeremy Hill era of three yards and a cloud of dust. You’d hope they learned from that experiment, but NFL coaching staffs are nothing if not stubborn.
I wish Walton had gone elsewhere because as is, it is going to be utterly impossible for Walton to get on the field without one of the starters going down. He could maybe get some work returning punts and kicks, but otherwise, I wouldn’t expect to see Walton on Sundays.
This is where things could get interesting. If Walton shows well in 2017, Bernard could be cut after the season, as the Bengals would save nearly $4 million by giving him the boot. Along with those savings, they’d only take a $750k cap hit, which shouldn’t prove much of a deterrent. The cost savings would be significant, especially with Bernard due for an extension on a contract that expires after the 2019 campaign.
All this is a lot of speculation on my behalf, and it occurring in the first place would be based either on Mixon’s ascension to a reliable three-down player, a development that would be devastating for Walton, or Walton’s own ascension to being a player the Bengals’ could trust in Bernards’ role. That’s a lot of ifs and coulds.
Another scenario that could – there’s that word again – see Walton land playing time involves waiting an additional year for Bernard to become a free agent. Dynasty owners aren’t generally that patient, which could create a value proposition for Walton believers.
(Yes, I am rupturing a disc in my spine level reaching here.)
To expedite any of this, the rookie RB would need to show he has three-down ability in the preseason and across very limited in-season opportunity and have Mixon fall flat on his face to an epic degree. Even if that happens, the Bengals could easily add another back next off-season or give Mixon another run in more of a 1a/1b situation with Bernard or, if the fates shine upon us, Walton in 2019.
It’s unfortunate he had the ankle injury last year, as Walton probably would have been drafted higher, and possibly into a better situation than what he finds himself in now.
NFL Player Comparison
This may be a bit optimistic, but Walton reminds me of Devonta Freeman coming out. Freeman was also knocked for lacking explosion and for his underwhelming size, but quickly showed the sum of the parts was much greater than what the Underwear Olympics would have you believe. The biggest difference between the two is Freeman is plenty competent between the tackles, an area Walton struggled with his entire career at Miami. To have any chance of becoming the next Freeman, he will need to learn to follow play design, wait for holes to open, and trust his blockers. Because it is less of a vision issue and more of a patience thing, I feel comfortable Walton could progress in these areas.
Rookie Draft Advice
The 33rd player off the board in rookie drafts, Walton represents a solid value if you have a deep enough roster to stash him for the season. In leagues with taxi squads especially, I would endeavor to bump him up maybe a half-dozen slots or more, as his end-game upside is much higher than most players being drafted in this area. He also has a sneaky chance at playing time if the Bengals do move on from Bernard, which may not be crazy likely, but isn’t at all out of the realm of possibility.
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