Is a true starter someone who earned the position, or won it by the failure of another? That’s the case with Montee Ball, who has replaced Ronnie Hillman as the Denver Broncos‘ starter after Hillman’s third fumble in as many preseason games.
That pretty much sums up Hillman’s short career thus far. Last year as a rookie, Hillman was statistically the least efficient runner in Denver, ranking over 30 spots lower than Knowshon Moreno in terms of rushing net expected points per attempt. Yes, that Moreno — the one with only 525 yards rushing on an anemic 3.8 yards per attempt.
That brings us to Ball, who left the Wisconsin Badgers‘ program with consecutive 1,800-rushing seasons, and the NCAA record for both career touchdowns (83) and rushing touchdowns (77). And while you might think that makes him suited to carry the load for the Broncos, it also means there’s a lot of wear and tear on his young body.
If we take a look at how this year will shape up for this young runner, we first have to look at the offense as a whole. This isn’t Mike Shanahan’s rushing attack of old. John Elway and John Fox have since recruited a gunslinger that is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
You may have heard of him—Peyton Manning. Manning also happens to be throwing to the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker — all sure to be key focal points for this offense.
So where does that really leave Ball?
Hillman is still a valuable power back. Moreno is still a third-down back. The only saving grace for any of these runners is that Denver plays in a weak division, and if they pull ahead in games, they should take some of the responsibility off Manning’s shoulders. They are also dedicated enough to the run that they ranked ninth last season in total rushing plays.
In the end, if Ball can hold onto the ball and average a modest four yards per carry, he should keep the job. But that shouldn’t be enough for you to carry him on your fantasy team, or any of the other Denver backs for that matter.