The Bengals just enjoyed a productive draft, but one of the most celebrated picks by the national media has been someone you wouldn’t expect.
In Round 4, the Bengals surprised a lot of people when they took Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton. This wasn’t a position of need, and Walton missed most of his junior season due to a significant ankle injury.
Even so, ESPN’s Todd McShay is calling Walton the Bengals’ best value pick of this year’s draft.
The Bengals haven’t quite found the right mix at running back, despite spending some high draft capital -- Giovani Bernard (2013, second), Jeremy Hill (2014, second) and Joe Mixon (2017, second) -- at the position in recent years. I had Walton as my ninth-ranked RB in this class, but a season-ending ankle injury hurt his stock. There were several people I spoke with at the Miami program who believed he was the best athlete on the team, and if he can recover fully, he’ll be a nice change-of-pace back in Cincinnati with some upside.
McShay isn’t the only draft expert that thinks the Bengals did well with this pick. Prior to the draft, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah had some high praise of Walton.
“He’ll be a top 50 pick and will be picked ahead of a lot of big-name backs we’ve talked about in this run up to the draft,” Jeremiah said. “We know the top five, six backs, but Mark Walton will sneak around a couple of them. … He’s a guy we’ve been talking about in that fourth-round range, but maybe he’ll shock us all and make it in the top 50.”
Through the first four games of his 2017 season, Walton was averaging an absurd 7.6 yards per carry. However, he would suffer a season-ending ankle injury against Florida State, which required surgery. He was actually initially hurt the Miami’s 53-20 win over Toledo on Sept. 23, but he returned in that game to post a career-high 204 yards.
For the season, he had 428 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in four games.
For his career, Walton totaled 2,006 career rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in his less than three seasons at Miami. He also caught 56 passes for 624 yards and two touchdowns.
Listed at 5’9”, 205 pounds, Walton is an explosive runner who uses his lack of size to squeeze past defenders when he’s not outrunning them. He’s surprisingly strong for his size and proves challenging to bring down.
Walton is also a very crisp route runner that also does very well in pass protection. While he may be undersized, it’s not a stretch to call him one of the more complete backs in this draft, and it’s easy to see why Cincinnati and others liked him so much.