Player: Ronnie Hillman
2016 Status: Scrap
Explanation: Ronnie Hillman, how you keep our hearts racing. Speaking of consistency, you know that Ronnie Hillman is always able to provide the fans with a possible heart attack every time he takes the field. He’s an explosive runner with wheels that can burn most defenders, but his knack for making bone headed plays can hurt his team as much as the opponent on any given play. Case in point, the “backward pass” play against the Patriots.
It’s one thing to not be able to catch the ball, but Hillman has to be more aware in that situation. Against a team that is known for their excellence in playing situational football, Hillman has to go after that ball and secure possession of it just to make sure there’s no debate amongst the officials.
The fact that he didn’t go after the ball, let alone not be aware that it could be ruled a turnover, is concerning for a players long term prospects with a team that is predicated on an effective running game. How can you trust a player with that kind of lapsed judgement to be your “bell-cow” back?
To be fair, he’s had his share of game changing plays as well. The 72 yard burst to the end zone against the Vikings is a great highlight in his repertoire.
Another positive for the fourth year Bronco is finishing the regular season as the Broncos leading rusher in yards (863) and TD’s (7). In a contract year, Hillman made the most of his opportunities and delivered his best season to date. At the ripe young age of 24, Hillman made a strong case to be somebody’s starting RB heading into next season, the question is, will it be with the Broncos?
Despite the production this past season, I think it’s time to move on from Hillman. The reasoning for this decision vary.
- Like I mentioned earlier, Hillman has had a knack for making bone headed plays throughout his entire tenure in Denver. The backward pass mishap against NE is only the culmination of many dumb plays that Hillman committed in his time with the Broncos and it was clear that the coaching staff lost trust in him after that play, as he only had a handful of carries between the rest of that game and the Super Bowl.
- This is an offense that is notorious for finding unheralded backs and turning them into big time players, which de-values Hillman’s presence on the roster. Why pay a running back a second contract when his production can be replaced by a rookie or cheaper player with less experience?
- The former Bronco connection around the league could help Hillman find a solid market in Free Agency. John Fox may want to bring in the fellow SDSU Aztec alum to Chicago or Del Rio taking him back to his home state with the Raiders. I’m not saying Hillman could or should get a big money deal in FA, but I think there will be enough teams out there that will give him a better offer than Denver will.
Ultimately, I think the Broncos will be fine without Hillman. He’s definitely got some talent, but his inconsistency and slight build work against his chances of ever being a big time back for the Broncos. I could see the Broncos offering him a short term deal to come back, if the market for his services is colder than expected.
Unless that happens, I expect Hillman to go elsewhere this off-season.