Bengals rookie running back Mark Walton is set to attend the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere with 39 other players in Los Angeles, California.
Walton will get a chance to jump start his off-the-field career as NFLPA business partners look to secure endorsement deals with the 40 rookies in attendance. The rookies will also learn more about the business of football and have a chance to wear their new NFL uniforms for a photoshoot with Panini America, the NFLPA’s exclusive trading card licensee. The event will run from May 17 to 20th. Walton will then return to Cincinnati afterward as the rookies and veterans take the field for the first time together on May 22.
This is the players first business and marketing opportunity for players since they were drafted. The Rookie Premiere was launched in 1994, and serves as a good opportunity for businesses and players to build relationships.
Walton was selected in Round 4 of this year’s draft, and he was the Bengals’ first offensive skill position player selected. Based on that, it is no surprise he was the only Bengal invited to the event. Usually only offensive skill position players who could have an immediate impact for their team are invited. There are obvious exceptions, but it is true for the overwhelming majority. This year only one defensive player was invited (Bradley Chubb).
With that said, it doesn’t look like Walton will have an opportunity to have a huge impact on offense this season with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard likely to dominate the backfield. We should expect to see Walton get a few touches a game though and make a big impact on special teams.
Last year Mixon and John Ross represented the Bengals at the event. In his rookie year, Mixon showed flashes of why we should be excited for his future. Ross has a lot of ground to make up after being banged up and inactive for most of his rookie season. He failed to record a catch in his first year in the NFL, despite being the third wide receiver drafted and the Bengals’ Round 1 pick. 2017 was a far more sexy draft for the Bengals as they used their first two selections on those skill players. This year, the Bengals took Billy Price in the first round and didn’t draft another offensive player until Day 3.
Walton’s story of making it to the NFL is a tragic one. He lost his brother and father in two separate shootings and his mother to a stroke. A struggle like that makes the NFL seems like a breeze, so it is great that Walton was afforded this opportunity.
Even though Walton likely won’t see the same type of season we saw out of Mixon last year, he should show us some reasons to get excited about his future when he gets his opportunities.