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Player Spotlight: Denver RBs (Ball, Hillman, McGahee, Moreno) (1 Viewer)

Jason Wood

Zoo York
2013 Player Spotlight Series

One of Footballguys best assets is our message board community. The Shark Pool is, in our view, the best place on the internet to discuss, debate and analyze all things fantasy football. In what's become an annual tradition, the Player Spotlight series is a key part of the preseason efforts. As many of you know, we consider the Player Spotlight threads the permanent record for analyzing the fantasy prospects of the player in question. This year, we plan to publish more than 140 offensive spotlights covering the vast majority of expected skill position starters.

As always we will post a list of players to be discussed each week. Those threads will remain open for the entire preseason, and should be a central point to discuss expectations for the player in question. Importantly, analysis done in the first week of posting will be part of the permanent record in two ways. 1) At the end of the week, we will tally the projections into a consensus. 2) We will select a number of pull quotes from forum contributors who make a compelling statement or observation. Both the projections and pull quotes will be part of a published article on the main website.

Thread Topic: Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Willis McGahee & Knowshon Moreno, RBs, Denver Broncos

Player Page Link: Montee Ball Player Page

Player Page Link: Ronnie Hillman Player Page

Player Page Link: Willis McGahee Player Page

Player Page Link: Knowshon Moreno Player Page

Each article will include:

  • Detailed viewpoint from a Footballguys staff member
  • Highlighted member commentary from the message board threads
  • FBG Projections
  • Consensus Member Projections

The Rules

In order for this thread to provide maximum value, we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Focus commentary on the player (or players) in question, and your expectations for said player (or players)
  • Back up your expectations in whatever manner you deem appropriate; avoid posts that simply say "I hate him" or "He's the best"
  • Avoid redundancies or things like "good posting" ... this should be about incremental analysis or debate

While not a requirement, we strongly encourage you to provide your own projections for the player (players):

Projections should include:

  • For QBs: Attempts, Completions, Passing Yards, Passing TDs, Ints, Rush Attempts, Rush Yards, Rush TDs
  • For RBs: Rushes, Rushing Yards, Rush TDs, Receptions, Receiving Yards, Receiving TDs
  • For WRs & TEs: Receptions, Receiving Yards, Receiving TDs

Now let's get on with the conversation! We look forward to your contributions and let me offer a personal thanks in anticipation of the great debate and analysis.

 

FF Ninja

Footballguy
This should be one of the most discussed spotlight. It has been shown that the Denver RB was extremely valuable last year. Denver ranked 3rd in the NFL in RB rushes with 449. Unless John Fox employs a 3 or 4 way RBBC, someone is going to post at least RB2 numbers here. The tricky part is obviously figuring out who will do it. As has been discussed, Fox has a history of neglect with rookie running backs. Also Moreno did an excellent Addai impersonation late last year. He is a very good pass catcher and pass blocker. Important aspect for any RB in a Peyton Manning offense. However, there has been a ton of hype about Denver's second round rookie. Reports that they won't be bringing him along slowly and that Manning has taken him under his wing. Meanwhile Moreno has been injured.

Currently, Ball will cost you a 6th round pick and Moreno a 14th. A 6th round pick seems like a pretty good price for a potential RB1 (I'm pretty sure McGahee was producing low-end RB1/high-end RB2 numbers before injury and Moreno was a mid-level RB1 during the last 5 games). However, getting caught buying into offseason fluff is more annoying than answering the phone to a telemarketer. Given Fox's history with rookies, Moreno's skillset, Hillman's presence, and the 2nd round rookie bust rate, I will have a hard time making that 6th round investment in Ball. If I do take that gamble, I'll almost certainly have to use two roster spots and reach a round or two for Moreno.

 

The Moz

Footballguy
The only player that interests me is Moreno as he can be had at the cheapest price and he was the best runner they had last year when given a chance to be the main guy. Also he is the best pass blocker which is key for Peyton. Moreno's issue is staying healthy which he can't do but for a 13-15th rounder he is well worth it. Ball might be the best but I doubt Fox changes now - at best I see Ball as a staright up RBBC guy in the mold of a J Stewart from years back. McGahee would have gotten first crack at the RB1 gig but he never showed for the first set of workouts , and Finally I don't know what to make of Hilman - he could be a sneaky pick. If given the choice I take the guy who is the best pass protector which is Moreno.

I really doubt both Moreno and McGahee are on the final roster but who ever does I see as the the main back at least to start and be no worse than a 50/50 RBBC the rest of the way.

 

donkshow

Footballguy
Moreno showed, when healthy, he could do what he did a couple years ago. I think he'll produce high-end RB2 numbers.

 

TheDirtyWord

Footballguy
First off, I don’t think the Broncos will release both McGahee AND Moreno despite the drafting of Montee Ball and what appears to be a high satisfaction level with what they’ve seen so far. But I think McGahee and Moreno are fighting for the same roster spot. With McGahee scheduled to make $2.5M and Moreno $1.8M, the difference between the two is negligible when it comes to the value they can provide as veteran depth on the RB depth chart.

But John Fox is conservative. He knows that Peyton Manning is what is going to get this team to a Super Bowl…not anyone on the RB depth chart and as such, it’s as important if not more that whoever become the primary RB or who is going to be given significant snaps be flawless in pass protection. Knowshon Moreno rose from the dead almost average 25 touches over the Broncos last 6 regular season games and was about as ordinary as you could get. But because he was proficient in pass blocking, he became a bellcow.

The Broncos didn’t mind running Moreno into the ground because he was an expendable asset. Montee Ball is a guy I’m sure the Broncos see with a much longer term view which is why:

  • Even if Ball does win the RB1 job, I see him in the 15 touch/game area with limited exposure in the passing game.
  • It makes sense to sprinkle in whichever RB they wind up keeping (McGahee/Moreno) in a series/game capacity.
As for Hillman…his rookie season bugaboo was pass protection and until he shows marked improvement in this area, his time on the field is simply going to be limited. It says a lot about his situation that Moreno took on as big of a role as he did once McGahee was injured. That said, it’s not unusual for a rookie to come into the NFL with some under the radar holes/gaps to his game and if Hillman is able to show some improvement in this area, he stands a much better shot to carve out a change of pace/3rd down role. It’ll be up to Hillman how much they rely on him in this role. If he rises up, McGahee/Moreno will simply be an insurance policy and RB depth. If he doesn’t, McGahee/Moreno could wind up having a more significant role even with Hillman around. My bet is that Moreno’s more versatile skillset wins the last RB spot.

Prediction:

Ball: 215 Rushes 908 Rushing Yards, 7 TD’s 19 Receptions 112 Receiving Yards
Moreno: 84 Rushes 331 Rushing Yards, 3 TD’s, 24 Receptions 152 Receiving Yards 1 TD
Hillman: 102 Rushes 398 Rushing Yards, 1 TD, 12 Receptions 87 Receiving Yards


 
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swirvenirvin

Footballguy
Thread needs some more discussion.

Looks like Ball, and Hillmand might split the 1st and 2nd downs and then maybe Moreno coming in in obvious passing 3rd down attempts, or 2 minute offense.

M. Ball - 224, 900, 7 td's, 18 rec 140, 0

Hillman - 101, 410, 2 td's, 11 rec 85, 0

Moreno - 95, 405, 2 td's, 32 rec 275, 1

L. Ball - 27, 100, 1 td, 6 rec 50

I think what also might happen with the no huddle that each RB b/ Hillman and Ball might get 1 series to do their work, and then rotate

 

zadok

Footballguy
It's clear the coaching staff doesn't trust Moreno (drafting Hillman, starting McGahee, drafting Ball). It's also clear to me that they don't see Hillman as an every down back (drafting Ball). Hillman will be the "change of pace" to the winner of Ball vs Moreno IMO.

 

We Tigers

Footballguy
I'm most curious to see if Moreno actually takes that 3rd down role, or if he's basically just a reserve if Ball or Hillman get hurt. Kinda like how Chris Ivory never got in a game unless Ingram was injured. I could see a scenario similar to what swervinirvin's projected, but maybe cutting Moreno's numbers in half and distributing them across Montee Ball and Hillman in some fashion. Even though Moreno seems like a safe backfield option for Manning in terms of pass protection and receiving ability, it's hard not to think back to all his healthy scratches last year.

 

Grahamburn

Footballguy
I'm most curious to see if Moreno actually takes that 3rd down role, or if he's basically just a reserve if Ball or Hillman get hurt. Kinda like how Chris Ivory never got in a game unless Ingram was injured. I could see a scenario similar to what swervinirvin's projected, but maybe cutting Moreno's numbers in half and distributing them across Montee Ball and Hillman in some fashion. Even though Moreno seems like a safe backfield option for Manning in terms of pass protection and receiving ability, it's hard not to think back to all his healthy scratches last year.
At least he didn't get cut, which is more than I can say for one of the names still present in this spotlight.

 
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Warrior

Footballguy
Will they trust Ball or Hillman to protect Manning?

I doubt it. They drafted Ball for the future, not necessarily to become a bellcow in year 1.

I predict Moreno having the most carries after Ball blows an assignment and Manning gets popped. Hillman will be a change of pace back.

 

Beerguzzler

Footballguy
Will they trust Ball or Hillman to protect Manning?

I doubt it. They drafted Ball for the future, not necessarily to become a bellcow in year 1.

I predict Moreno having the most carries after Ball blows an assignment and Manning gets popped. Hillman will be a change of pace back.
Umm the future is now for the Broncos. Whoever gives them the best option to win is who is going to play.

 

bostonfred

Footballguy
The Broncos didn't draft Ball to sit.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9254278/montee-ball-reminds-john-elway-denver-broncos-great-terrell-davis

"When we were watching Montee, the one thing that stood out about his running style is that it's a lot like Terrell Davis, and so that got us very excited, and we hope that Montee has an even longer career than Terrell had," said Elway, who made his comments at a fan forum for season-ticket holders... "I have high expectations for him to come in and really help us with the running game," Elway said.

Matt Russell, the team's director of player personnel...said the Broncos were very high on Ball, who the team picked 58th overall... "We feel we have a career back in Montee Ball," he said.

http://www.milehighreport.com/2013/4/26/4273308/fox-elway-discuss-broncos-draft-montee-ball-kayvon-webster

“He’s a big back with a ton of production in college," John Elway said, "who has great quickness and a great slashing-type style and is always heading north and south. So, we liked him a lot. We thought he could be a three-down guy for us, so we were thrilled he was available for us at the bottom of the second [round].”

Video: Montee Ball on Sports Science

"We’ve got a pretty big stable of [running backs] there," Coach Fox said. "I do remember we went through a few of them this year, throughout a whole NFL season. In this game you bring guys in, you let them compete, and the guys who prepare and play the best, play. So, it’s a good position to be in, and we think we he can definitely help that for us."

Ball is expected to push Willis McGahee as the Broncos' three-down back.

http://forums.footballguys.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=681122&p=15660847

I posted a highlight reel and talked about the things I liked that I saw. I'm not a big film guy or anything, I just wanted to see if the "He benefitted from an awesome line in college" criticism was valid. It isn't, imo.

From numerous sources:

Peyton Manning expects the Broncos to count on second-round RB Montee Ball "in a big way."

"He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn't going to bring him along slowly," Manning assured. This has been our belief since the Broncos selected Ball at No. 58, and is why Willis McGahee's roster spot is in grave danger. Ball should be drafted as a high-ceiling RB2, and it wouldn't be surprising if he challenged for RB1 status in the Broncos' lethal offense.

From ESPN:

ESPN's Chris Mortensen stated on NFL 32 that rookie Montee Ball is "absolutely" the front-runner to replace Willis McGahee at tailback in Denver.

"It is absolutely the rookie Montee Ball from Wisconsin," said Mortensen, who recently spent a ton of time with the Manning brothers. "And I can tell you already the feeling from the quarterback (Peyton) is this guy has -- kinda like what Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai gave him -- is that he gets 'it.' He's got 'it.' In other words, he's dedicated, he's a pro, and he's got talent. ... Montee Ball, watch out." Look for Ball to blow by Ronnie Hillman et al in training camp and preseason games. He's already the best inside runner on Denver's roster.

 

bostonfred

Footballguy
My own projection for Ball? He starts out in a committee where he gets 5-7 carries a game, gets good yardage as they put him in run friendly spots, gets maybe a reception here or there, plus all the goal line work. So the first four games of the season, I'll call it 22 carries, 3 catches, 100 total yards, 2 TDs.

The next eight games, I see him getting an expanded role as a feature back. Call it 150 carries, 12 catches, 750 total yards, 6 TDs.

The final four games, as the Broncos are preparing for the playoffs, I see them leaning on him heavily. They'll want to rest Manning's arm a bit, and give opposing defenses something to look out for. For the most part, Manning isn't chasing records, Thomas and Decker won't be in position to chase records, and Welker already has records. The only way I see this going poorly for Ball is if Manning is in striking distance of re-setting the TD record, which is possible with this receiving corps, but unlikely. Assuming that's not the case, I'll go with these stats for the final four games:

88 carries, 12 catches, 450 total yards, 6 TDs

Total: 260 carries, 27 receptions, 1300 total yards, 14 TDs, and great playoff production.

 

Grahamburn

Footballguy
Quote from the David Wilson thread. Note the date.

Eli Manning on Wilson
My link

Manning on rookies David Wilson and Rueben Randle: "They both had a good spring. The thing about David Wilson is he’s the fastest running back we’ve ever had. I mean, this guy’s; quick, he’s explosive, so that’s kind of exciting. Our running backs over the years have been the powerful, big guy. With those young guys at running back, it’s all about learning protections. If I start changing plays, they have to know exactly what they’re doing, the routes off that and blocking guys. You slowly work them in, you have a small amount of plays in a special package for them that they can get comfortable with and then you get them in the mix.
Eli gushes over Wilson there. Then he goes on to talk about what's really important. It's going to be the same thing for Montee Ball. Notice in all the quotes and comments from Peyton or Elway there isn't anything about his blocking or receiving. It's all about his ability to run the ball.

There was a lot of hype for Hillman at this time of year last season as well. He was going in the first round in some dynasty drafts. He had 85 total carries. People like to talk about how old McGahee was, or how unproductive Moreno is/was, but Peyton Manning doesn't care...

If we get into a situation in August where we're hearing about how great Ball is blocking and he's running exclusively with the first team then I'll be on board. Until then, considering ADP right now, Moreno is the player to own for 2013.

 

mjr

Footballguy
I don't believe Ball was drafted as a project with an eye to the future. Denver is a team in the "win now mode", particularly when considering Manning is unlikely to be as good as he has the potential to be this year. Elway is clearly following the success structure of Denver's superbowl years when he played under center. Then they bring in Welker. So in spite of Fox's history with rookie RBs, I can see Ball getting a nice share of carries as the Broncos go all out chasing after that ring NOW.

Denver's playoff push in 2012 was weakened in large part to the problems they had in the backfield. It makes little sense to me that Elway and the coaching staff are going to play 2013 with the goal of leaning heavily on the same personell, minus McGahee no less.

Enter Montee Ball.

Ball brings the asset of durability to a backfield that desperately needed it. While it might make sense to keep his load lite early in the season until he can improve in pass protection or to "keep him fresh" for a late run, I don't see Ball playing an equal load in a 3 way RBBC split come October and beyond.

However, I can also see Denver leading the league in pass attempts this year, so while Ball might finish the year with the most touches I don't think it'll be enough for him to rack up 1000+ yards. I think Ball's value will be primarily for his bullruns into the endzone.

215 carries / 875 yards / 12 TDs for Ball.

185/830/4 on the ground for Hillman.

85/380/2 on the ground for Moreno and 38/290/with maybe 2 through the air.

Ball and Hillman combine for 25/240/2 receiving with a lean to Hillman in those numbers, but I didn't really put much thought into the receiving projections here.

 

bostonfred

Footballguy
Quote from the David Wilson thread. Note the date.

Eli Manning on Wilson

My link

Manning on rookies David Wilson and Rueben Randle: "They both had a good spring. The thing about David Wilson is he’s the fastest running back we’ve ever had. I mean, this guy’s; quick, he’s explosive, so that’s kind of exciting. Our running backs over the years have been the powerful, big guy. With those young guys at running back, it’s all about learning protections. If I start changing plays, they have to know exactly what they’re doing, the routes off that and blocking guys. You slowly work them in, you have a small amount of plays in a special package for them that they can get comfortable with and then you get them in the mix.
Eli gushes over Wilson there. Then he goes on to talk about what's really important. It's going to be the same thing for Montee Ball. Notice in all the quotes and comments from Peyton or Elway there isn't anything about his blocking or receiving. It's all about his ability to run the ball.

There was a lot of hype for Hillman at this time of year last season as well. He was going in the first round in some dynasty drafts. He had 85 total carries. People like to talk about how old McGahee was, or how unproductive Moreno is/was, but Peyton Manning doesn't care...

If we get into a situation in August where we're hearing about how great Ball is blocking and he's running exclusively with the first team then I'll be on board. Until then, considering ADP right now, Moreno is the player to own for 2013.
You're right. That's what Eli said last year about his rookie back, and that's exactly what the Giants did.

Now read this quote from Peyton Manning about Ball:

"We're just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage. Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year," Manning said. "He's a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn't going to bring him along slowly."

Here's what Ball's draft profile said about his pass blocking and receiving:

Effective cut blocker in the hole and willing to stand up to blitzers when protecting the quarterback. Natural receiver, adjusts to throws over the middle and in the flat, continues downfield fluidly.

Here's what Wilson's draft profile said:

"Wilson is just as electric working as a receiver out of the backfield or in the slot as he is as a ball carrier, and he could be used in a variety of alignments."

No mention of blocking.

So like you said, sure enough, Wilson didn't get a ton of carries. Because blocking is important. And the quarterback can tell us a lot about how the team plans to use the rookie RB. But Peyton is saying much different things about Ball than Eli did about Wilson. As he should - they're different players. Wilson is a speed guy who was brought onto a team that had a starting runner who was likely in his final year with the team. Ball was a three down back who was brought on to a team that released its starting running back almost immediately after he was drafted. The comparison is apt, but it doesn't show what you think it does.

 

ol blues

Footballguy
While there is far too little definitive information to know how this backfield will shake out, a few things are apparent. Protecting Peyton is paramount and no one will get much time on passing downs without blocking skills. How well Ball blocks and how much Hillman's blocking has improved are unclear. The fast pace that Gase prefers limits substitution flexibility which should mean you want your most diverse skilled back on the field to start the series. Who has the most diverse skillset? To me, with the singular exception (& most important skill in this offense) of pass blocking, Moreno figures to be the least of these 3 by at best early season. Both Fox and Gase say this will be a committee likely with alternating series for the top backs. Apart from Stewart in his rookie year (&, to me, on a talent level Stewart was leagues ahead of Ball as a rookie) a Fox coached team has never featured a rookie as its lead RB, although, to be fair, most of those teams had more appealing all around choices than Moreno and Hillman.

Right now I think we are in a guessing game that likely doesn't gain as much clarity in the preseason as we might like, but context clues don't support Ball's robust ADP or the depressed ADPs of Moreno or Hillman.

 

T with T

Footballguy
Will they trust Ball or Hillman to protect Manning?

I doubt it. They drafted Ball for the future, not necessarily to become a bellcow in year 1.

I predict Moreno having the most carries after Ball blows an assignment and Manning gets popped. Hillman will be a change of pace back.
trust me Ball is gonna be given majority not moreno mr acl come on man get real.. I think you need a new hobby if you think what you posted holds any water. Couldn't disagree more, and like moreno will even be healthy enough to play in week 4 grow up

 

T with T

Footballguy
While there is far too little definitive information to know how this backfield will shake out, a few things are apparent. Protecting Peyton is paramount and no one will get much time on passing downs without blocking skills. How well Ball blocks and how much Hillman's blocking has improved are unclear. The fast pace that Gase prefers limits substitution flexibility which should mean you want your most diverse skilled back on the field to start the series. Who has the most diverse skillset? To me, with the singular exception (& most important skill in this offense) of pass blocking, Moreno figures to be the least of these 3 by at best early season. Both Fox and Gase say this will be a committee likely with alternating series for the top backs. Apart from Stewart in his rookie year (&, to me, on a talent level Stewart was leagues ahead of Ball as a rookie) a Fox coached team has never featured a rookie as its lead RB, although, to be fair, most of those teams had more appealing all around choices than Moreno and Hillman.

Right now I think we are in a guessing game that likely doesn't gain as much clarity in the preseason as we might like, but context clues don't support Ball's robust ADP or the depressed ADPs of Moreno or Hillman.
Fox is a puppet in den unlike in Car. P.manning and Elway run the show and they like Ball so guess what Ball's getting the Ball.

 

Grahamburn

Footballguy
T with T said:
Will they trust Ball or Hillman to protect Manning?

I doubt it. They drafted Ball for the future, not necessarily to become a bellcow in year 1.

I predict Moreno having the most carries after Ball blows an assignment and Manning gets popped. Hillman will be a change of pace back.
trust me Ball is gonna be given majority not moreno mr acl come on man get real.. I think you need a new hobby if you think what you posted holds any water. Couldn't disagree more, and like moreno will even be healthy enough to play in week 4 grow up
You're still here? :lol:

 

swirvenirvin

Footballguy

althepostman

Footballguy
Will they trust Ball or Hillman to protect Manning?

I doubt it. They drafted Ball for the future, not necessarily to become a bellcow in year 1.

I predict Moreno having the most carries after Ball blows an assignment and Manning gets popped. Hillman will be a change of pace back.
trust me Ball is gonna be given majority not moreno mr acl come on man get real.. I think you need a new hobby if you think what you posted holds any water. Couldn't disagree more, and like moreno will even be healthy enough to play in week 4 grow up
Are you high?

 

AcerFC

Footballguy
What are people thinking about the post in Joes email today. Will Hillman run with the opportunity or are we still looking at some sort of split

 

Bigboy10182000

Footballguy
What are people thinking about the post in Joes email today. Will Hillman run with the opportunity or are we still looking at some sort of split
Even before Joes post everything was pointing in his direction. Gaining 20 pounds of muscle, better at pass protecting, and maybe a better understanding of the NFL could be HUGE

 

silentcoach

Footballguy
Ball will be the TD vulture if he does not start so Hillman's upside is limited. A decent number 3 rb in ppr leagues if Hillman is named the "starter" but with limited upside because of Ball's redzone presence.

 
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citsalp

Footballguy
Ball will be the TD vulture if he does not start so Hillman's upside is limited. A decent number 3 rb in ppr leagues if Hillman is named the "starter" but with limited upside because of Ball's redzone presence.
Maybe, maybe not...Ball isn't that great. Never has been...

 

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