NFL Scouting Combine: Eight Running Backs, O-Linemen To Watch Friday


The on-field portion of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off Friday morning, with running backs, offensive linemen and specialists running through measurable and positional drills at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Here are a few players the New England Patriots, who have potential needs at running back and offensive tackle, could have their eyes on during Day 1 of the league’s annual prospect meat market:

John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
Height: 5-foot-9 7/8
Weight: 216

The player who replaced 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara in Knoxville is an intriguing mid-round prospect in his own right. A three-down back, Kelly is a powerful runner and sound pass catcher who excels at breaking tackles and possesses the type of versatility Bill Belichick covets. His official NFL draft profile likens him to Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement, who torched the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Height: 6-foot-1 4/8
Weight: 228

Ballage currently is viewed as a late-round talent, but scouts seem to believe he’ll knock evaluators’ socks off in Indianapolis. “Mark this down,” an NFC team director of college scouting told NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein. “Nobody will be talking about him until he gets to the combine, where he will lift well, run well and jump out of the stadium. Then, he’ll be the hot name.” Zierlein added that Ballage is “an extremely talented receiver” who is “built like a Greek god.”

Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State
Height: 5-foot-8 3/4
Weight: 198

Another player who’s generating some pre-combine buzz, Hines was both a 1,000-yard rusher and an All-ACC sprinter for the Wolfpack in 2017. His relative inexperience as a ball carrier gives some experts pause — he only had 61 carries over his first two college seasons before racking up 197 as a junior — but he was a productive pass catcher throughout his collegiate career, snagging 89 receptions for 933 yards over his three seasons at N.C. State while also returning kicks. Hines is shooting for a sub-4.33-second time in the 40-yard dash. He grew up a Patriots fan and met with the team earlier this week.

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Height: 5-foot-10 5/8
Weight: 214

NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock compared Michel to Kamara. Size-wise, they’re almost identical. The Patriots brought him in for a meeting this week. Despite getting nearly 70 fewer carries than Georgia teammate and fellow draft prospect Nick Chubb, Michel still rushed for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa
Height: 5-foot-9 7/8
Weight: 198

Wadley is on the smaller side but shifty and uber-athletic, with Zierlein comparing his footwork to that of “a European soccer star.” He surpassed 1,000 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards in each of his final two seasons at Iowa. His biggest knock, other than his slight frame, seems to be his struggles in pass protection. Wadley met with the Patriots this week.

Mark Walton, RB, Miami
Height: 5-foot-9 5/8
Weight: 202

An ankle injury limited Walton to just four games in 2017, but he averaged 7.6 yards per carry in those games after rushing for 1,117 yards as a sophomore in 2016. Praised for his pass-catching and pass-blocking abilities, Walton, who met with the Patriots in Indy, also didn’t fumble once over his final two collegiate seasons. He could be a steal in the middle rounds.

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Height: 6-foot-7 7/8
Weight: 309

Towering and athletic, McGlinchey could be an option for the Patriots at No. 31 if Nate Solder leaves in free agency. An impressive showing at the combine could push him out of New England’s reach, though.

Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Height: 6-foot-8 5/8
Weight: 309

Another skyscraper, Miller reportedly has run a 4.9-second 40 in the past — and believes he can do so again Friday. That’s crazy fast for any offensive tackle, much less one whose height would not be out of place in the NBA. Miller had a formal interview with the Patriots this week, and as they have with McGlinchey, multiple draft analysts have linked him to New England at No. 31.

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