Ronnie Hillman’s time in a Denver Broncos uniform has been a mixed bag. He has been scrutinized since day one, as many fans felt that the Broncos using a third round pick on him was ill-advised, given the team’s other glaring needs at that time.
He has shown brief, and I do mean brief, flashes of the explosiveness the Broncos saw when they reached for him in the draft. But, he has also exhibited extreme carelessness with the football, which has resulted in costly turnovers, and ultimately led to him being benched or placed on the inactive list for much of the 2013-2014 season, despite him going into the year first on the depth chart.
Some have referenced how Knowshon Moreno took full advantage of the second chance he was given after experiencing a similar banishment, and believe that Hillman deserves the same opportunity. The problem with this is that Moreno was a consummate pro during his entire process, and it has been stated that Hillman was anything but, pouting on the sideline isolating himself from his teammates.
It is easy to continue making excuses for him. True he is young, entering his third year in the NFL at 22 years old, but he is also the Broncos most experienced running back at this point, and age shouldn’t be considered anymore.
He was a high draft pick, who is still on his rookie contract, so what harm can come from keeping him on the roster? Well, on a team as talented as the Broncos, every last spot on the 53-man roster is precious. If Hillman continues to be Hillman, keeping him on the roster means that a veteran free agent, such as Michael Bush or Ronnie Brown, who could immediately help the Broncos, will sign with another team.
So it’s not about the money or his cap number, it is about him unjustly occupying space on the final roster, if he doesn’t deserve it.
NFL executives are notoriously stubborn when it comes to their draft picks, and Hillman represents one of John Elway’s first selections. Pride can often get in the way of sound football decisions when faced with a situation like Hillman’s. Letting him go is akin to admitting you made a mistake by drafting him, and that is a tough pill to swallow for high profile execs.
But, with the running back core so extremely young and inexperienced, the Broncos cannot let pride cloud their willingness to cut bait with Hillman, and sign someone who can be trusted in critical situations.
Hillman better have a nearly perfect preseason for me to have any confidence that he belongs on this roster. The second he fumbles, even once, the Broncos should think long and hard about his place on the team. I know that sounds harsh, but anything short of a Super Bowl victory for this Broncos team, is a complete and utter failure, and weak links cannot be tolerated.
I hope for the best for Hillman, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I expect the worst. I just hope the Broncos are willing to admit that they made a mistake by drafting him.