Pick-a-Player: Ballage, Barber, or Powell - Footballguys

Footballguys staff and Facebook answer a dilemma at the 14.01 spot

The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:

  • You need a player at that position and all three are available.
  • The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted, and none of their bye weeks are duplicated on your current roster.

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In this case, it is a PPR league, and you are up at Pick 14.01. Would you take Kalen Ballage, Peyton Barber, or Bilal Powell? Or would you pass on all three?

The Results

And the winner is all of the above. See the percentages below.

Group
Percentage Picking...
Ballage
Barber
Powell
None of the Three
Footballguys Staff
0.0%
50.0%
30.0%
20.0%
Footballguys Facebook
30.8
15.4%
30.8%
23.1%

The Reasons (from the Staff)

Daniel Simpkins: Too bad this isn’t year two for Ballage, because I very well may have picked him if it was. He’s got a higher ceiling than Kenyon Drake and is much more skilled as a pass catcher. Unfortunately, the signing of Frank Gore caps the opportunity both Ballage and Drake will get this year. It’s great for Ballage’s long-term outlook that he’s learning from one of the best backs to ever play the game.

That said, I think Peyton Barber is the choice at this pick. I know that Ronald Jones is the future in Tampa, but I don’t think he’s ready to pass block. We’ll see much more of Peyton Barber this year while Jones works on improving this and other deficiencies that are common to rookies.

Jason Wood: I recently penned the Ronald Jones II Player Spotlight and made the case Peyton Barber is just another guy. That doesn't mean he can't have value, because Jones is limited as a receiver and some question his pass-blocking. I just don't view Barber as a high-upside No. 2 running back, and he's not a target. Ballage intrigues, but I agree with Daniel that he's got a huge road ahead to contribute as a rookie. I'm quite high on Kenyan Drake this year and see Frank Gore as the complementary back and eventual starter if Drake got hurt. Which leaves Bilal Powell. Powell has his moments, but Isaiah Crowell is the play in New York (and a fantastic value at current ADP).

In other words, I'm voting none of the above.

Matt Waldman: Ballage should not be on this list but he's an example of fantasy owners falling in love with physical traits and equating them to talent. He's a better dynasty pick than a re-draft selection because of those traits but fans and "fan-alysts" will argue his merits all year -- especially when he has the occasional run where he earns a big crease and can run in a straight line for 15-20 yards and do something playground-like in the open field.

Ballage has a lot to learn about footwork and reading blocks. He doesn't do a good job of setting up his blocks and maintaining space between himself and his blocks or his opponents, which is why he's an inconsistent yardage gainer, at best. You can add another three years to Frank Gore's current age and slow him down another step and I'd take him ahead of Ballage in a 2018 re-draft.

Powell is a competent back, but he's splitting time with Elijah McGuire and Isaiah Crowell. I'd rather acquire Powell off waivers after the disappointed fantasy general manager drops him in September and an injury occurs to one of the other two backs in October or November.

It leaves Barber as my choice. He's only 24 years old and his discipline, creativity, and decision-making between the tackles are underrated. It's this combination of vision, agility, balance, and initial burst that helped him outplay every option above him on the Buccaneers depth chart -- including Doug Martin, who is more talented but lost his discipline because the Buccaneers line struggled so often.

While Ronald Jones II is a serious talent, I expect Barber to be the more consistent runner this year because he's a wiser decision maker at this point. I fear Tampa will have difficulty getting Jones into space as anything more than a short-area receiver.

Chad Parsons: In dynasty, this is Kalen Ballage by a country mile, but in redraft, I like Peyton Barber. I am one of the most skeptical critics of Ronald Jones in the fantasy space and Barber could be a Week 1 starter. Ballage, even if he hits, will be a later-season arrival and a tough hold that long in traditional redraft leagues where the intoxication of the weekly waiver wire makes longer-term holds near impossible. Barber needs a slow start from Jones or an injury to be the unquestioned lead back for 15+ touches a weekly. Even without Kenyan Drake in the mix in Miami, I expect Frank Gore to be the preferred option. I did not mention Bilal Powell as he may not even make it to Week 1 (cut-worthy contract) and Elijah McGuire is a better (and cheaper) version on the same Jets depth chart.

Will Grant: Powell projects to be the best choice - at least from a potential-points-scored-this-season point of view. I've never been a big fan though, and I'd rather swing for the fence on a player with bigger upside with a 14th round pick. I've never really been a guy who had to have Powell and with Crowell there too, I don't see Powell as a guy I'm taking in my draft. Maybe I keep him on waiver wire speed dial if he's available and I need a spot back - but in a redraft league, I'm passing on all three of these guys.

Bob Henry: I have drafted these three players in best ball drafts exactly zero times so far. I've probably been closest to taking Barber because he appears to have the highest probability of having a "lead" role out of the gate. Like Jason has articulated, though, I just don't think he's either talented enough to keep the role or that he'll be productive enough even if he's the lead back on early downs.

Ballage is not a player I'm targeting for redraft purposes. If I'm banking on upside in that backfield, then it's Kenyan Drake 60% of the time, every time. Ballage has enamored me since he his recruitment out of high school, but I'm perplexed by his athletic profile and underwhelming production (especially since he always seemed to have the opportunity to do much, much more).

I've always like Powell as a value pick, but he's another veteran holdover who I think could be squeezed by others on the roster. Isaiah Crowell is probably the best runner in terms of eating up carries and being productive at the goal line, while Elijah McGuire looms as a major threat to Powell's targets or snaps on third down as a threat out of the backfield. For that matter, I've long thought (and still believe) that Crowell's receiving skills are undervalued.

Jeff Tefertiller: I like Barber but the McGuire injury pushes Powell up for me. It's not as though Crowell has shown much competence.

Ari Ingel: In agreement with Matt that Ballage should not be on this list and I'm not sure why people are even drafting him right now.

While he certainly looks the part at 6'1", 228 pounds with 4.46 forty speed, he's never truly lived up to his potential in college. He is a reliable pass catcher though and a decent all-around back in theory, but he may be more of a special teams player to start the year unless Gore gets hurt, even then he won't pass up Drake.

Barber, on the other hand, was somewhat of a revelation last season and showed that he could carry the load on early downs. He stands 5-foot-10, 228 pounds. At the Combine, Barber ran a paltry 4.62 forty, but he says he is in better shape now and is running the forty in 4.5 seconds. He will push Jones hard if nothing else and has an outside chance to be the team’s lead back. He's the upside pick.

Powell (now 30 years old) averaged 4.34 yards-per-carry last season and has always performed well when given a chance; unfortunately, he has never been given a proper chance.

David Dodds: Before the McGuire injury, none of these were on my radar even in the 14th round. I now think Powell will get enough early season work to justify that draft spot, but I prefer swinging for the fences on someone with a bit more upside.

Andy Hicks: Johnathan Franklin, Marcus Lattimore, and Denard Robinson were all taken around the time of Kalen Ballage in 2013.

Andre Williams, Ka’Deem Carey, De'Anthony Thomas, and Lorenzo Taliaferro were taken in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.

Jeremy Langford, Mike Davis, and David Cobb all were taken around the time of Kalen Ballage in 2015.

Sure there is the odd example of a Devonta Freeman in the early fourth or players who are still on NFL rosters such as James White and Javorius Allen, but Kalen Ballage is all shiny and new and optimism surrounds his prospects this year. The odds of him being on an NFL roster in three years is not good. The odds of him being a starter, and a decent one at that, even worse. Pass.

Peyton Barber is just a guy. He can do a decent job running the ball, but he shouldn’t be a player that you can expect to play to the level of an every week starter at running back. His only use is if Ronald Jones flames out or cannot pass protect and even then I wouldn’t get too excited.

That leaves me with Bilal Powell. He has had the kind of career that a fourth-round running back should dream of. He is entering his eighth year as an NFL player and for the last two years been a borderline fantasy starter. Out goes Matt Forte and in comes Isaiah Crowell for the Jets and with an injury to Elijah McGuire, Powell has to be the favorite for the role of the third-down back and maybe more. He had a career-high 178 carries last year and over the last two seasons has had 309 carries for an average of 4.8 yards a rushing attempt. In the 14th round that sounds like a steal.