It wasn’t that Walton wasn’t worthy of a the pick as much as this wasn’t viewed as a position the Bengals would address even this early. With so many talented backs already on the roster, this could have easily been an area the Bengals avoided altogether.
But the team felt very good about what Walton brings to the NFL and his long-term potential. He certainly looked the part of a second or third-round pick to being the 2017 season.
Walton was having a standout year before an injury cut it short. He rushed for 428 yards and three touchdowns through the Hurricanes’ first four games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
Walton led all returning ACC running backs with 36 missed tackles and a 3.4 yards after contact per attempt (minimum 60 carries) in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s a shifty runnner that will prove to be a hard tackle, even in the NFL.
Walton finished his college career with 1,995 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground, while also hauling in 56 catches for 624 yards and two touchdowns.
Heading into the draft, Walton was someone who draft experts had varying opinions on.
The Cold Omaha Consensus Big Board, which factors in every major draft ranking, had Walton ranked as the 118th-best prospect in this draft.
Needless to say, this was a pick right on par with where Walton was valued going into the draft. However, it’s fair to think he’d have gone much higher if not for the injury, which was the only major one Walton had in his career.
Looking ahead, Walton will compete for the third/fourth running back spot behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard. While Walton being an early fourth-round picks would seemingly make his roster spot secure, he’s got a battle on his hands with the likes of Brian Hill, Tra Carson and Quinton Flowers for those final spots.