The expectations for Montee Ball this season are astronomical. Broncos Country and fantasy owners are looking forward to Ball getting the lion’s share of the backfield touches and expecting him to produce like a boss.
Ball was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft and this year, it’s looking like that’s about where he’ll end up in most fantasy drafts, but it’ll likely be at the top of the 2nd.
As a fantasy prospect, he offers most of the attributes that one checks off when one looks to draft a RB1, such as:
- - Is he a primary RB? Check
- - Is he involved in the passing game? Check (he’s working on his receiving skills)
- - Can he block? Check. (we’ll talk about why this is important)
- - Is he injury prone? No. Check.
- - Does he have a track record that offers evidence that he can produce like a bonafide RB1? Check
The above check list are the things I check off when I’m drafting a projected RB1. Over the last 6 weeks of the Broncos 2013 regular season, Ball averaged a very healthy 6.4 YPC. He has a nose for the endzone. He is rarely injured.
In a Peyton Manning offense, it’s vitally important that the running back can block. This is self-evident. Would this be as important for a running back in a Mike Glennon offense? No. But it’s huge in a PFM offense. If you can’t block, you won’t be on the field with Manning.
Ball struggled with protections early on last season, but down the stretch, he improved markedly as a pass blocker. This means that he’s going to stay on the field on 3rd down, which also opens him up to opportunities in the passing game.
For Montee Ball owners, it’s all there. Ball offers the whole package. But even though he doesn’t have an extensive history with that virulent pest, the injury bug, owners would be remiss to not consider a handcuff.
The question is, who would be Ball’s handcuff?
The obvious answer would be Ronnie Hillman. But fantasy owners in Broncos Country know that Hillman could face an uphill battle to see playing time in 2014. He spent most of last season in the proverbial doghouse.
It is this humble writer’s opinion, however, that if something were to happen to Montee Ball, Hillman would get the first swing as his replacement in the Broncos offense. The team still believes in him.
Why? Because he now has 2 years under his belt in the Manning offense. Granted, he hasn’t excelled within it, but he does know it. He also is a vastly talented runner. He just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet on the field and he’s struggled with ball security. But so did Ball early on last year.
It is possible that C.J. Anderson could blow up training camp, like he did last year and really take off, especially now that he has a year in the system under his belt. Anderson is a powerful and decisive runner who thrives in smashmouth situations. But he is not as experienced as Hillman.
Newcomers like Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay could separate themselves in camp and possibly make the roster, but the Broncos would have to be truly hard-pressed for one of them to see extended playing time in 2014.
Really, the handcuff question comes down to 2 players. Hillman or Anderson. I’m not counting Anderson out, but something tells me that Ronnie Hillman is not going to go quietly into the night.
If you’re going to draft a Montee Ball handcuff, Ronnie Hillman has to be your guy. Of course, the worst thing that could happen to any fantasy owner is when your primary RB goes down and the team replaces him with a RB by committee.
If Ball went down, Hillman would get the majority of touches, but Anderson would likely get the short yardage and goal line touches.