De’Shawn Waller has a legit shot at the NFL Draft this Spring. Below I will break down some of the talented back’s more prominent strengths and what could make him a valuable contributor at the next level. Waller traveled a long road from high school to junior college and finally to Alcorn State. Take a look at this NFL Draft hopeful and why he is suited for life at the next level.
Life before Alcorn State
Waller was a prolific running back before reaching the college level. He rushed for over 3,000 yards and racked up over 40 touchdowns for Best Academy High School in Atlanta, Georgia. He also made significant contributions as a receiver as he caught 27 passes for 434 yards and another 5 scores. Waller then went on to attend Hutchinson Community College after high school.
During his lone season at Hutchinson, Waller averaged over 5 yards per run on his way to 888 yards and 6 touchdowns. He also showed to be an asset on punt returns, where he averaged 18.9 yards. Waller’s return ability could prove to be an asset as he prepares for the draft. He shows great vision and explosiveness when hitting the holes on rushing plays and punt returns. This proven ability earned him a spot at Alcorn State for the 2018 season.
From obscurity right into the spotlight
A former JUCO standout, Waller started his FCS career third on the depth chart at Alcorn State. However, it wouldn’t take long before he made his mark on the team. Waller received only three carries in Alcorn State’s opening 2018 blowout loss to Georgia Tech. After that, the Braves decided to give the talented back more carries, and he rewarded them handsomely. Waller went on to score 12 touchdowns in the next eight games, including three total in the SWAC championship against Southern. He showed early signs that he could be a worthwhile NFL draft pick.
During that time, he recorded four games with multiple scores and even surpassed 200 yards rushing against Alabama State. Waller seemed to shine the brightest when needed most, including that three-score effort and a 137-yard, two-score performance against FBS opponent New Mexico State. In the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl against North Carolina A&T, Waller closed out the season with 167 yards and averaged nearly 9 yards per rush.
Waller surpassed the 100-yard mark all but two times as the starter last season and appeared to be a player on the rise in the SWAC conference. It is obvious he has exploited lesser talent at the FCS level and could be ready for a bigger stage. His vision and acceleration set him apart from other rushers in the conference and could make him intriguing as a late-round draft pick.
The open arms of the NFL
Waller was mentioned previously on this site as one of the top five prospects in the FCS and among HBCU schools. The Braves have some strong draft prospects heading into 2019, but the focus will surely be on Waller for 2019. Quarterback Noah Johnson and tackle Kevin Hall both have significant potential on this offense and should only help Waller reach his lofty expectations this year. Waller hopes to be one of the greatest ever to touch the field. The standout running back models his game after Alvin Kamara and Le’Veon Bell. Waller compares favorably to these two backs as a dual-threat out of the backfield with soft hands.
He has great size at 5’11” and 210 pounds and profiles as a backup and change-of-pace runner at the next level. Teams like the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears could show interest in the draft. The Cardinals currently boast two running backs from the FCS level with starter David Johnson and backup Chase Edmonds. The Bears have experienced success with the FCS and HBCU with 2017 draft pick Tarik Cohen. The Bears’ sophomore back experienced a successful and explosive rookie season in the NFL last year. He combined for over 1,100 yards between rushing and receiving yards and scored eight touchdowns.
His time is coming
Waller may not be the same type of explosive talent as Johnson or Cohen, but he deserves a shot in the NFL and he will likely find one in the 2020 draft. Until then, he will continue to torment opponents in the SWAC while waiting for his big shot. In his first game action of 2019, Waller rushed for 56 yards and a score against Southern Miss. The senior NFL hopeful also added four catches in what will likely be his worst output of the season.
Waller will look to get back on track this week at home versus Mississippi College. He should find life more comfortable and a few more lanes to run through against the Choctaws in the friendly confines of Spinks-Casem Stadium.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and HBCU. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.