The 2023 NFL Draft class has not only depth but high-end talent at nearly every position, especially running back, where not only could we see a first-rounder, but there will be fantastic value on Days 2 and 3. That’s right where Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay hopes to hear his name called. While most of the conversation has been focused on the top names in the class, what does Valladay’s scouting report suggest about his NFL Draft stock?
Xazavian Valladay NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Arizona State
- Year: Sixth-Year Senior
Some players want to get out of college as quickly as possible. Others make the most of every experience, which was the case for Valladay. He began his college career as a lightly recruited two-star prospect out of Brother Rice high school in Illinois.
Valladay spent the first four years of his career at the University of Wyoming. They were the only D1 school to offer him a scholarship. In return, he gave Wyoming four ultra-productive years.
After redshirting his freshman year, Valladay played in 10 games for the Cowboys and rushed for nearly 400 yards on 71 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He ended the season on a high note, rushing for 192 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-3 win at New Mexico.
In 2019, Valladay established himself as one of the top backs in the Mountain West and the nation. He earned first-team All-Conference honors and was named Associated Press All-Bowl Team thanks to his 204-yard and one-touchdown effort in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Valladay ended with 1,265 rushing yards to lead the Mountain West and ranked 22nd in the nation. He was also No. 1 in the conference with an average of 124.08 all-purpose yards per game.
Although his 2020 season was impacted by COVID, Valladay ranked No. 1 in the Mountain West and 16th in the nation, averaging 110 rushing yards per game with 5.6 yards per carry on the season. With 550 rushing yards on 99 carries and 105 receiving yards on 13 receptions, Valladay finished third in the conference in all-purpose yards per game.
As a redshirt senior in 2021, Valladay rushed for over 1,000 yards with six touchdowns, but his best football was still to come, albeit while wearing a different uniform.
Valladay Elected To Transfer To Arizona State
The opening of the transfer portal in college football allowed Valladay to put his hat into the ring as he announced he would be leaving Wyoming. An All-Mountain West selection for three straight years and the owner of the second-most rushing yards (3,274) in Wyoming history, Valladay announced he was committing to the University of Arizona State to fill the role the was once held by Rachaad White, now of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As a grad student for the Sun Devils and making the most of his sixth year, Valladay shined and was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list after leading the Sun Devils with 1,481 all-purpose yards and leading the conference with 16 rushing touchdowns. He was one of three Pac-12 RBs to rush for over 1,000 yards. Plus, Valladay rushed for a touchdown in eight straight games, the most by a Sun Devil since Cam Marshall in 2011.
Yet, with 22 games of over 100+ rushing yards for his career, Valladay has gone under the radar. While the former Sun Devil did have his moments at the East-West Shrine, both in the game and in the drills against linebackers, Valladay was, in my opinion, one of the biggest NFL Combine snubs.
However, at the Arizona State Pro Day, Valladay put on the show I wish he could’ve done in Indianapolis. Measuring in at 5’11” in 204 pounds, he nearly jumped out of the gym with a 40″ vertical after hanging 22 reps on the bench press just before. Not only that, but he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, which would’ve finished in the top seven at this year’s Combine.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
If Valladay had received an invite to the Combine, he would have tied for first among running backs in the vertical jump, placed second in the bench press, and tied for fifth with a 10’3″ inch broad jump.
“I definitely feel like I got more noticed and that I feel like I should’ve gotten that in the first place,” Valladay said. “Just being able to come out here and feel like I got snubbed at the Combine, I didn’t get that. I definitely turned a lot of heads today.”
“I’m not a normal athlete,” Valladay continued. “I don’t consider myself normal. I consider myself elite — the best of the best. They have yet to find out what Xazavian Valladay has to offer. Whatever they can do to dig in and see what they see — that’s up to them. But whoever gets me is going to get one hell of an option, and they will be blessed to have me.”
While Valladay does have many likable traits as a runner, testing numbers and previous production, especially a running back, can mean very little. To better gauge where his strengths and areas for improvement sit, we have to look at Valladay’s scouting report.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Xazavian Valladay
Strengths: Productive ball carrier who is also effective as a receiver out of the backfield. Patient, waits for blocks to develop, and finds the running lanes. Effectively follows blocks all over the field, consistently runs north/south, and keeps his feet moving.
Plays faster than his 40-time, beats defenders into the open field, and keeps the play in-bounds. Quick, runs with authority, and possesses outstanding instincts. Extends his hands to make the reception away from his frame, and displays eye/hand coordination. Sturdy.
Weaknesses: Better in a straight line and loses momentum trying to cut back against the grain or change the direction of runs. Not a perimeter runner and lacks the agility to turn the corner. Possesses average size.
Overall: Valladay was a dual-threat running back for Arizona State with a nose for the end zone. He possesses the versatility and running skill to be a third-down back, and he could surprise in camp this summer.
Xazavian Valladay Combine Measurements and Results
- Height: 5’11 3/8″
- Weight: 204 pounds
- Arm Length: 30 5/8″
- Hand Size: 8 1/2″
- Bench Press: 22
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.43 seconds
- Vertical Jump: 40″
- Broad Jump: 10’3″
Note: All Times From Arizona State’s Pro Day
Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay Current Draft Projection
From top to bottom, there are difference-making running backs all over this draft. Unfortunately, it’s not a good time to be a running back due to how the NFL views the position. However, I still expect names like Bijan Robinson, Zach Charbonnet, and Jahmyr Gibbs to go early next week.
Some players like Kendre Miller, Devon Achane, Tyjae Spears, and Roshon Johnson will be excellent values on Day. Meanwhile, others like Israel Abanikanda and Deuce Vaughn might have to wait a little longer than others, despite their productive backgrounds.
This will likely be a similar scenario for Valladay, who hopes to hear his name called. He is currently the RB26 on Tony Pauline’s Big Board. He is the No. 331 ranked player with a 3.24 draft grade, placing him outside the draftable range as an undrafted free agent.
Valladay has succeeded everywhere he has been in college. Plus, I haven’t even mentioned that Valladay never put the ball on the ground despite taking 929 touches for 5,339 yards, 4,466 of which came on 841 rushing attempts.
But like many, you likely read those numbers and thought, “Oh wow, that’s a lot of usage.” You would be right. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for Valladay to find success, or even a high draft capital, is his age. Spending six years in college and racking up nearly 1,000 hits to the body does not suggest a long career in the NFL. Not unless you look like Derrick Henry, and no one besides the King looks like him.
That said, I am sure Valladay will undoubtedly find a role in the NFL as a slashing, one-cut type rusher who could be an effective change-of-pace option as a complementary back to a more traditional rusher. But he does have a lean frame and runs somewhat upright. However, if you’re going to bet on any running back that will go in the back half of Day 3 or later, Valladay is as good of a bet to make as anyone.
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