The Denver Broncos have made a few changes on both sides of the ball this offseason. The team added some veterans to the defense while replaced a couple of key players on the offense. In the running game, Knowshon Moreno signed with the Miami Dolphins, which makes Montee Ball the default starting running back in 2014.
In his rookie season last year, Ball had 120 carries for 559 yards, four touchdowns and three fumbles. He finished the season with 4.7 yards per carry, eighth among all qualified rushers. Now that Moreno is gone, Ball will likely see 215-230 carries throughout the season.
Looking ahead to the 2014 fantasy football season, the first round is already set. Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Le’Veon Bell and Peyton Manning are all guaranteed to be selected in the first round. There are even more running backs than can be selected over Manning. However, this doesn’t mean that Ball isn’t worth selecting in the first round.
As we look back to 2013, opposing defenses focused on Manning and the passing game. With all of those wide receives, Moreno was able to rush for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ball can definitely put up similar numbers in 2014, but as more and more defenses try to shut down Manning, Ball will be relied on a little more, which creates more pressure.
With the current crop of running backs available, Ball should not be selected in the first round. Despite being a starting running back, there are rushers leaps and bounds better than Ball from a fantasy standpoint. Ball is in the second-tier running back group with the likes of Reggie Bush, DeMarco Murray and Ben Tate. He can sill rush close to 800 yards with seven touchdowns, which is good enough to be a top-20 running back.
Ball should definitely still be selected within the first three rounds, but the sample size is not big enough to warrant a first round pick.