The debate began as soon as the Denver Broncos used their second-round pick to select running back Montee Ball over Eddie Lacy. In all honesty, it wasn’t much of a debate in many circles, the emotions of fan ranged from confused to outrage. How could the Broncos pass on the best running back in the draft, especially in the second round?
There’s more than one answer to that question but the simplest answer is that Ball is a better player than Lacy. Let’s start with a confession; I’ve been beating the drum for Ball being drafted by the Broncos since watching the Rose Bowl last January. His running style fits perfectly with that the Broncos want to do in the running game, and he is more durable than Lacy.
Lacy is very talented, no one is saying he isn’t. But he has a toe injury that scared a lot of teams off. A toe injury for a lineman may not be a big deal, but for a running back that has to cut, it’s a very big deal. Keep in mind that it is not just a basic toe injury; Lacy had to have the big toe fused. Maybe he will go onto have a long and productive career, but it’s a big risk for a team to take in the second-round.
Ball, despite a lot of carries in college, has been extremely durable. In fact, many personnel people were more concerned about Lacy’s long-term durability because of the physical practices at the University of Alabama. For anyone who does not know, Nick Saban is an old school coach who believes in hitting every day. That philosophy has obviously served Saban well as Alabama is the best college program in the nation, but it is not always ideal for his players who head to the NFL.
As for Ball, he brings to the Broncos a couple of things. The first one is a real threat in short-yardage and goal-line situations. The Broncos were flat-out terrible in those situations last season despite being second in offense. A case can be made that one of the main reasons for the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens was an inability to convert 3rd and shorts. Imagine how much better the Broncos offense can be if 3rd and one becomes almost automatic with Ball in the backfield.
There are certain backs that have a knack for scoring touchdowns, it’s one of those skills that they either have or they don’t. Ball scored 55 touchdowns in his last two seasons at the University of Wisconsin. Scoring 55 times does not happen by accident, Ball has a nose of the goal-line and will be a huge weapon inside the 10.
Ball is also a natural receiver out of the backfield and when he played with a good quarterback in Russell Wilson during his junior season, Ball had 24 receptions. Six of those receptions went for touchdowns. Ball won’t be asked to do a lot of receiving out of the backfield with the Broncos, but on those rare occasions when everyone else is covered, Ball is more than capable of making a play.
The one area that needs some work is pass protection and Ball even admitted he needs to improve in that area, but he’s not bad. In fact, the coaches at Wisconsin praised Ball’s ability to pick up the blitz when Wilson was with the Badgers.
Both Ball and Lacy were great college running backs, and both have a shot to be very good professionals. For the Broncos, however, going with Ball was an easy choice. He fits with what they do and he grew up a huge fan of the Broncos, sometimes things are just meant to happen.
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