The Denver Broncos will be without starting RB Montee Ball for the remainder of the preseason, as he underwent an appendectomy on Monday. Ball’s current ADP is 12th overall in mock drafts, and any injury or surgery right before the season’s start is risky for such a highly drafted player. So how should fantasy football owners react to this news?
Ball was hyped up last year as well, being drafted in the fifth round on average despite not having played a single snap fresh out of the University of Wisconsin. Even though he sat second on the depth chart last preseason behind Ronnie Hillman, experts and armchair experts alike touted Ball to be the eventual starter.
Instead, Knowshon Moreno jumped from third on the depth chart to become the starting RB in Denver, ending the season with a top-5 RB fantasy finish. With Moreno now with the Miami Dolphins, Ball’s job is far more secure as the starting RB than it was in 2013. However, if last year’s events indicate anything, it’s that no RB in Denver is necessarily a lock.
Though Ball fumbled early in the season and struggled to pass protect in blitz situations, he showed clear improvement late last year. Ball averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2013 and scored four TDs despite only seeing 120 carries during the regular season. The Broncos even trusted him enough to give him 28 carries in the postseason, including six against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
But at the end of the day, whoever can protect Peyton Manning the best will play in that offense. Ball will be missing valuable reps and practice time during training camp and preseason games in 2014. While I believe he is more talented than both Hillman and C.J. Anderson, it’s anyone’s guess as to how preseason will work out. It’s not impossible that either of those RBs has an impressive preseason and develops a strong rapport with Manning.
While an appendectomy is nothing major to worry about, the time missed with the team could be. Even though he’s expected to be back in time for Week 1, Ball is just too costly an asset right now for me to draft with a top-20 draft pick, much less at 12th overall. Without seeing how he progresses with the offense during the preseason this year, I want nothing to do with Ball in the first two rounds despite his top-5 RB upside.