During the 2013 season, the Denver Broncos lit the world on fire with a record breaking, scorching-hot offense. Going into camp, the running back position was fairly settled with Ronnie Hillman as the starter, Montee Ball as the rookie everyone raved about and Knowshon Moreno as the forgotten man and former 1st round selection. By the start of the season, Moreno was able to grab hold of the starting gig, as Hillman all but relinquished it. Knowshon became a fan favorite, holding the starting job for the duration of the season. At the same time, Hillman faded and became a gameday inactive, while Montee Ball stepped up down the stretch as the team’s best runner. The team now heads into the season with Montee Ball as the starter, with Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson and a slew of undrafted free agents, behind them.
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In 2013, the Bronco running backs contributed 2,665 total yards, scoring a total of 18 touchdowns, with 3 lost fumbles. Now, the majority of those stats were contributed by Knowshon Moreno, who is now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Montee Ball has already been anointed as the starter for the foreseeable future. Moreno ranked 5th in scoring among fantasy running backs this past season, so the common thought process is to think that Montee Ball will have a similar season. Let me be the first to tell you, PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Montee Ball is a second year player, and he’s not the same receiving threat Moreno. His ball security in general is still in question, after losing 2 fumbles as a rookie. Now I’m not down on Ball, I’m just not as high on him as others are. For instance world renowned Fantasy Guru Matthew Berry has Ball ranked as his #11 player overall. I personally have Ball rated as my #26 player overall, which would slot him as a 3rd round pick in most drafts.
“Ronnie’s made the biggest strides from last year in my opinion, somebody in his position, he could have tucked his tail between his legs, sat down and said it’s over. But he came back, and he’s competing extremely hard right now.” – Montee Ball
Sitting behind him is Ronnie Hillman. Hillman entered the NFL in 2012 as a Denver Bronco 3rd round pick. During his first season, he was the youngest player in the league. During his second season, he remained one of the youngest players in the league. The point here is that Hillman is still younger than most players that were recently drafted, the big difference is that he has 2 years of NFL experience now. I am likely in the minority on this, but I firmly believe that Hillman will not only make it onto the 53-,man roster, but will also play a large role in the offense. Hillman has drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk as well as Darren Sproles. While he will likely fail to validate either of those comparisons, (especially the Faulk comparison) that doesn’t mean he can’t come close. I see Hillman filling a role in the Denver offense very similar to what Darren Sproles was for the New Orleans Saints the past few seasons. Hillman adds a dimension to the offense, with his speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which is a trait that no other viable Bronco back has. His value will be very high in PPR formatted league,s where points are rewarded for receptions made as well. He could turn out to be a solid flex play in most leagues.
After Hillman, there is not much else in the Bronco backfield. I have called for the team to sign a veteran such as Ronnie Brown on multiple occasions. Many residents of Bronco country are excited by 2013 undrafted free agent C.J. Anderson, but I’m not impressed. Anderson looked great last preseason… but that was against 3rd and 4th stringers. He was injured before the regular season, but was able to show enough that the team couldn’t part ways with him, even with an injury that forced him to miss the first 6 weeks of the season. When I see Anderson run, I see a player who lacks initial burst, has mediocre speed, lateral quickness and questionable vision. In conclusion here, I see a player that will follow the career arc of his predecesso,r Jeremiah Johnson, as a bottom of the roster, practice squad type player. After Anderson, the Broncos have a number of undrafted free agent rookies, none of which warrant Fantasy attention.
Fantasy value for Bronco backs is directly tied to Peyton Manning, as the Sheriff goes, so goes the Bronco offense. Tune in next week for my WR analysis.