Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) is pursued by New England Patriots defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich (50) during the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos Fantasy Outlook: Montee Ball

Going into the 2013 season, many Fantasy Football “experts” were advising owners to draft the Denver Broncos’ shiny new rookie running back, Montee Ball, high.

In some drafts, I saw Ball go as high as the 2nd round. Those who reside in Broncos Country likely knew that drafting him that early was a bit premature, because Knowshon Moreno was firmly entrenched as the Broncos’ starting running back.

In Ball’s rookie season, he received a total of 140 touches, compared to Moreno’s 301. In those 140 touches, Ball produced 88.4 points in standard fantasy leagues. Moreno? 236.6.

But Moreno is gone. It’s Montee Ball time.

On the season, Ball rushed for 559 yards and 4 TDs, with a 4.7 YPC average. That’s healthy. Here’s a very illuminating stat that should get Montee Ball owners excited. In the last 6 weeks of the regular season, Ball averaged a whopping 6.4 YPC. Now you’re beginning to see why Johns Elway and Fox were okay with letting Moreno walk.

There’s no question that Montee Ball is going to be the Broncos’ lead workhorse back for 2014. And with no proven runners behind him, he’s going to receive the lion’s share of touches.

The biggest concern with Ball is his ability as a receiver out of the backfield, which was an area that his predecessor thrived in. Last year, Ball was targeted 27 times by Peyton Manning. He hauled in 20 of them. On paper, that seems like a solid receiving percentage. But Broncos fans remember watching Ball drop many easy, “bread basket” balls.

Rest assured that Ball will be working on his hands a lot this off-season, along with his pass protection, which improved dramatically over the course of his rookie year.

Health willing, I expect Montee Ball’s 2014 numbers to look something like this:

260 carries, 1,300 yards, 12 TDs.

40 receptions, 365 yards, 3 TDs.

For fantasy owners wise enough to draft him high, and you will have to pull the trigger early, Ball is going to pay off big time in 2014.

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