NFL.com Draft Analyst Chad Reuter has been ranking the top college football players for 2017. Miami’s Mark Walton checks in on the list at #41. Mark shares the back 10 of Reuter’s top 50 ahead of FSU QB Deondre Francois, USC counterpart Ronald Jones II (6.3 yards/carry), Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk (16 career receiving TD’s), and Oklahoma State WR James Washington (2,900 career receiving yards and 26 career receiving TD’s).
Statistically, Walton isn’t quite as impressive as Jones, only putting up 4.7 yards/carry or as sound as (what I presume is) the #1 rated back in Saquon Barkley. Penn State’s Barkley has rushed for 2500+ yards and 5.7 / carry with 25 career TD’s as a Nittany Lion.
Walton may not be a home run threat like long striding Edgerrin James (6 yards / carry for his career) was back in 1998 or on year wonder Willis McGahee (6.2 yards / carry, 13.1 yards / catch) in 2002. But Mark brings a polish and steadiness most college backs don’t posses. Walton is an NFL quality back because he can pass protect, he has soft hands, and he gets positive yards. Behind two abysmal offensive lines and the horrid 2015 season, Mark’s is seen as a top 50 player in 2017.
With Mark Richt’s scheme implemented and another year of Offensive Line coaching and recruiting, Walton should be primed for a breakout year in 2017.
I liken him to James Jackson (although the comparison game can become exhausting). Jackson was a solid back that did everything right- just like Walton. Damn, the more I watched the more I actually think the dude has Clinton Portis type moves. CP would like you to think he was THE ONLY BACK MIAMI EVER HAD but Portis’ 2001 season, his lone as a full-time starter, saw him rush for 1200 yards, 10 TD’s and 10 yards / reception. It took him to his junior year to pick up those numbers and maybe that’s Walton’s future as well.
- Below, Walton shows some shake against FAU in 2016
There were times where I wanted Walton to just hit the damn hole and get 5 yards. He would hesitate a little too much, looking for the cutback lane on every play. At times, backs have to settle with what they have and pick up yards. James Jackson knew that, Walton needs to learn it. Thomas Brown was a 5 yard / carry back, maybe he can teach that motto. With the improvements on the O-Line, expect Walton to have a Portis 2001 type year in 2017, if Coach Stacy Searels’s line can do even half the job the 2001 line did.
The other portion is Mark has to be able to put together an entire season, and have that breakout game against a rival or in a national showcase game. McGahee’s famous 2002 game against Florida rings a bell as does Portis against FSU in 2001 and James against UCLA 1998. James Jackson picked up 145 yards and a TD against the Hokies in 2000.
Compare Mark Walton to Jackson:
How about to Portis:
Mark’s 2016 tape: