[dropcap]M[/dropcap]uch of the talk leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft surrounded former Alabama standout Eddie Lacy. Since the draft’s conclusion however, Montee Ball has gained a great deal of popularity as arguably the top fantasy rookie prospect heading into the 2013 NFL season.
The former Wisconsin star has a lot of mileage, but that didn’t keep the Broncos from talking him with the 58th overall pick in the draft. Ball had an astounding 924 carries in his four seasons at Wisconsin, including 356 in his senior season. He also had 59 career receptions, a factor that surely made Denver even more excited about their potential starting running back.
924 NCAA carries is the reality, but I’m not worried about Ball’s workload as a lot of people are. Heck, Ray Rice had 910 carries in just three seasons at Rutgers and his NFL career has turned out pretty well. I’m not comparing Montee Ball to Ray Rice, at least not yet, I’m just saying a heavy college workload doesn’t mean a player is doomed in the NFL. In fact, Ball didn’t miss a game his junior or senior season when he totaled 307 carries and 356 carries respectively. Ball can handle the responsibilities of a starting running back in the NFL.
Dubbing Montee Ball the starting running back in Denver seems obvious. Willis McGahee is on the wrong side of age 30 and coming off a knee injury (torn MCL). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could be released this off-season. Willis McGahee will be a free agent in 2015 and will turn 32 in October
Knowshon Moreno has been a bust his whole career aside from some solid performances late in 2012. The chances he wins the starting job is slim to none. The same could be said for Ronnie Hillman, who has been somewhat of a disappointment as a rookie last season after struggling with holding onto the football. The doors are clearly open for Ball to assume No. 1 duties in the Broncos’ backfield.
Yet, if and when Montee Ball does become the Broncos’ go-to running back, what can we expect from him?
Despite my low expectations for the other Denver Bronco RB’s on the roster, they will obviously still have roles in the team’s offense, especially if the Broncos want to take caution with Ball’s experienced legs. Ball is likely to get the majority of the carries while McGahee will play more of a short yardage and goal line role with Hillman and Moreno used as change of pace backs. If McGahee does remain on the team as primarily a short yardage and goal line running back, this would obviously downgrade some of Ball’s fantasy value. Nevertheless, Ball has shown that he can also contribute in the passing game which will give him added value in PPR scoring format leagues. At 5’11”, 215 lbs. Montee Ball has the size to be a good pass protector for Peyton Manning, the most important asset of playing on the Broncos’ offense.
Of course, fantasy football owners can’t help but envision the newest rookie running back being anything but an every down running back in Denver’s potent offense. Montee Ball has what every young running back wants: opportunity. If Ball takes advantage of that opportunity, especially with the offense he’s been drafted into, the sky’s the limit. As of right now, I would rank Montee Ball’s fantasy value near the sixth round as a low end RB2 or high end RB3.
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