Making sense of Mark Walton

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 29: Mark Walton
DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 29: Mark Walton /

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Miami running back Mark Walton in the fourth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. This pick makes more sense than you think.

The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Miami running back Mark Walton in the fourth-round of the 2018 NFL Draft surprising many fans. The surprise had nothing to do with questioning his talent but as to why the Bengals were grabbing a running back when there were still other needs on the roster. While running back was not the most significant need for the Bengals, it’s unlikely they would have found a starter with immediate impact in one of those position groups on day three.

Usually day three picks are players that will add depth to the team’s roster and players that coaches think they can develop into starters down the road. Fans that were wanting Cincinnati to address the offensive line again have to realize that if they had grabbed another lineman in the fourth-round, he would not have made an impact likely this season. When it comes to day three picks, it’s best to take the best player available on your board that you believe can develop into a starter or some contributor later.

Walton has seen a tremendous amount of struggle in his short lifetime overcoming the murder of his father at the age of 7 and then losing his mother in February 2017. Just before he lost his mother, Walton’s daughter was born prematurely at only 4-pounds 2-ounces. Even with all of this, Walton went on to have his best season with Miami in 2016.

Walton likely would have been an earlier pick if it wasn’t for his season-ending injury four games into the 2017 season. Coming off a 2016 season rushing for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, he finished the year being named as Miami’s most valuable player. Walton looked to do the same his junior season for Miami before his injury. In his four games before his injury, Walton ran for 428 yards and three touchdowns while running for an average of 7.6 yards per attempt.

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

The former Hurricane running back showed his great vision and patience to attack run lanes and take off quickly. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus compares him to Dion Lewis of the New England Patriots the last few years and now with the Tennessee Titans. This is a kid that fights for every yard and proved hard to bring down in college and looks to play the same way in the NFL.

Drafting Mark Walton gave the Bengals their third running back on the roster following veteran running back Jeremy Hill leaving for the New England Patriots this offseason. He brings another playmaker to the backfield that can add to the versatility already in the backfield with running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.

With the same determination that you can see on the field when you watch his games, he put the same kind of determination into his rehabilitation. Walton went through an aggressive rehabilitation process working very hard with training staff to make sure he was ready for the NFL combine and pro days. He wanted to prove to teams that he was prepared for the next step and willing to work hard to get there.

Over his three seasons with the Hurricanes, Walton ran for 2,006 yards and 26 touchdowns in 30 games while averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Add on another 624 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and you can see why Walton was someone the Bengals wanted in their running back room. He was also known as a leader in the Hurricanes locker room and recognized by coaches as a respected voice.

Cincinnati added insurance by drafting Walton in case Mixon or Bernard go down with an injury in 2018. Walton is a back that can jump right in as that second back without seeing a significant drop in play, and he can be a weapon in both the running and passing game like the other two backs. He will also bring contribution on special teams with his experience returning kicks his freshman year at Miami and as a guy that can get downfield quickly and make a play.

Considering this was the best player available on the Bengals draft board entering day three, I think they got a steal. Cincinnati tends to draft injured players but generally in the first round. Walton is a player that doesn’t have to be put in at a starting position right away and can develop over time. He was also cleared by combine medical with no injuries involving his ankle going into the draft. If he would have played out the 2017 season without his injury, I think he would have gone in the first two rounds.

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If you ask me, this is a kid that has been through plenty of adversity in his life and has overcome all of it. You’re drafting a kid that refuses to go down and quit no matter what is thrown at him, on or off the field. Walton will add to an already talented running back room while also contributing on special teams which were a need last season.