The Denver Broncos head into the 2014 NFL season looking like they could be even more impressive offensively than they were in 2013 when Peyton Manning essentially broke every single-season quarterback record with a historic campaign. A few of the pieces have moved on, but they were replaced adequately and Denver should not miss a beat. Manning’s running backs will always perform well if they have even a morsel of talent, as opposing defenses focus on the future Hall of Famer, making Montee Ball an incredibly attractive option and his backup, Ronnie Hillman, a must have handcuff in fantasy football.
Hillman was highly thought of during the 2013 fantasy draft season, as he was expected to shoulder most of Denver’s RB2 opportunities. But as Knowshon Moreno was putting up career numbers, Ball supplanted Hillman in the role. Hillman made it into just ten games in limited duty, with 55 carries and 218 yards and one touchdown, and undoubtedly finished with a lackluster season.
With Moreno’s departure, 2014 should hold extremely different circumstance for Hillman. Ball will get the majority of the workload if he’s healthy, but a recent appendectomy could hold him back somewhat over the first few weeks, in which case Hillman’s role has to increase, and it will.
As Moreno’s backup last season, Ball ended up with 120 carries and 20 receptions out of the backfield. For all intents and purposes, it appears Hillman should easily see 100 plus carries and a fair share of targets from Manning as well. In total, the Broncos scored 16 rushing touchdowns in 2013, of which 15 came from their backfield (Manning somehow found the end zone with his legs once) and expecting something similar, or better, is a fair assumption considering how dynamic this offense is.
Hillman currently carries a late 13th round ADP (13.12) and is ranked as the RB56 according to the Fantasy Football Calculator charts, which is absurd, as at first glance there are at least nine backs ranked prior to him who he should outperform, including the likes of Knile Davis, Jonathan Stewart and Chris Ivory.
At the very least, Hillman is a must have handcuff for Ball owners, but I encourage the masses to target him as a borderline must draft player regardless if they own Ball or not. He’s going to obliterate value considering where he is ranked currently.