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Cowboys 2023 draft scouting report: Arizona State RB Xazavian Valladay

The Cowboys will certainly target a running back in the upcoming draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Oregon State at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A continuing series of scouting reports for potential Cowboys draft picks.

Name: Xazavian Valladay
Position: RB
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 204 pounds

Xazavian Valladay Career Stats, courtesy of Sports Reference

Combine Results: Not invited

Xazavian Valladay, known simply as X for short, was college football’s most productive running back over the last five years, as the active leader in rushing yards during that span. Yet, despite all that production, Valladay didn’t even receive an invite to the NFL Combine.

A two-star prospect out of Illinois, Valladay had just two Division 1 offers: Wyoming and Western Illinois. He picked the FBS team and moved to Laramie, where he finished second on the team in rushing as a true freshman. Valladay became the starter the next year and never looked back.

After four years of dominance at Wyoming, Valladay transferred to Arizona State, where he quickly became the bell-cow, and a rare bright spot for an otherwise terrible team that fired their head coach before conference play. Valladay topped 1,000 rushing yards in three of the last four years, with the lone exception being the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and he never averaged less than 5.1 yards per carry in a given year. That résumé is getting him noticed by teams despite his lack of a combine invite, though Valladay is still probably looking at being a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Burst: Valladay has burst/speed. At the Arizona State pro day, he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and posted a 40” vertical jump and 10’3” broad jump, all of which would’ve been in the 90th percentile or higher among running backs at the combine. Valladay runs like he’s shot out of a cannon, exploding off his foot when he makes a cut up the field. When he gets into the open field, he easily outruns defenders.

Balance: He has an average frame for the position, and he runs with too high a pad level most of the time, neither of which is great for his balance. He doesn’t go down easily, though, as Valladay fights for every yard when making contact. If he can run with better pad level, he can become a more consistent home run threat.

Lateral Agility: This is where Valladay shines. His primary usage came on outside zone runs, and for good reason. He is a master of moving laterally and scanning the line of scrimmage for a hole, and then cutting into that hole to let his speed take over. Valladay was one of the best at outside zone runs this past year, largely due to his lateral agility.

Ball Carrying: Fumbles have been an issue at times, as he has eight fumbles in five years. That said, half of those came in just the 2021 season, and it was the only year he had multiple fumbles in a season. He looked to clean things up during his one year at Arizona State.

Pass Catching: Valladay never saw much usage as a pass catcher, as the Sun Devils maxed him out with 37 catches for 289 yards. Much of his work as a receiver came as a checkdown option, with a limited route tree. His athletic profile suggests there is more value to be had here, but Valladay has yet to show it. That said, he spent all five years playing in run-heavy offenses with limited talent at quarterback.

Blocking: Valladay saw little exposure as a pass blocker, especially at Arizona State, but he looked solid in the limited snaps he had there. He isn’t the biggest back, and that becomes apparent when going up against defensive linemen that get penetration, but he isn’t lacking in desire. He would probably be better served running a route as a checkdown option than staying in to block.

Athleticism: Valladay is such a great athlete that it’s a wonder why he didn’t receive more offers coming out of high school. He posted the sixth best Relative Athletic Score of this year’s running back class. His speed and lateral agility in particular are selling points.

Processing: He plays like a seasoned veteran, with keen eyes to read the line of scrimmage and maneuver around to find open holes. He also demonstrated great IQ in pass protection, often being able to identify his assignment and get to the right spot.

Intangibles: Valladay was the active FBS leader in rushing, which is a great stat in college football, but NFL scouts hear that and immediately question how much gas is left in the tank. Injuries were never a concern for him, but the NFL is a longer and more physical schedule. Valladay was a respected leader of the locker room at Wyoming, and he quickly took on a similar role at Arizona State, helping to keep players motivated despite the terrible season they had.

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