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Montee Ball Pick Could Mean Bad News for Other Denver Broncos’ Backs

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | With the selection of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in the second-round, the Denver Broncos envision Ball to come in and contribute right away.

Ball, 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, was one of the most productive running backs throughout his college career. The former badger tallied up 5738 career yards from the line of scrimmage and had an NCAA-record of 83 touchdowns.

Vice President of Football Operations John Elway told Mile High Report he sees Ball as a three-down player.

"He's a big back with a ton of production in college who has great quickness and a great slashing-type style and is always heading north and south," Elway said. "So we liked him a lot."

Although while Ball may be the newest Bronco to look forward to, it likely means that one, or more, of the five running backs will be cut during camp.

Here's a look at the five running backs that the Broncos used last year and an early look at who could be in a different location by the start of Week 1.

Willis McGahee

2012 Info: 731 rushing yards on 167 carries, 4.1 AVG, 4 touchdowns, and 5 fumbles with four lost. Missed last six regular season games and playoffs with a torn MCL suffered against the San Diego Chargers.

The case for him to stay:

McGahee was brought in from free agency in 2011 and gave the Broncos some much needed consistency to the running game. That year he helped lead the Denver offense to be ranked first in rushing. In 2012 as the main back, McGahee had three games that produced over a 100 yards rushing.

McGahee is a well-respected veteran that could pose as a mentor as Ball learns the ropes in his rookie season.

The case against him:

Scheduled to make $2.5 million with only $500,000 of that guaranteed in 2013, McGahee could be cut to clear cap room. Besides money, McGahee is 31-years-old and injuries could be a concern.

Also a potential x-factor: fumbling issues. In his Bronco career, McGahee has fumbled eight times with losing seven of them. He also had two more crucial fumbles during an overtime playoff game against Pittsburgh, which the Broncos ended up winning 23-20.

Verdict: Stay. He's still the best pass blocker the Broncos have at running back. Ball would really have to outshine McGahee in this area for the Broncos to keep someone like Moreno.

Knowshon Moreno

2012 Info: A late season surprise, Moreno flourished after McGahee went down to injury. He racked up 525 yards on 138 attempts. He fumbled only once, early in the season against Atlanta. Moreno scored four touchdowns throughout the season as well. Moreno played in only eight regular season games, often listed as inactive.

The case for him to stay:

Moreno finally got his chance to show what he can do while healthy. The former first-rounder from 2009 was fully healthy down the stretch and was productive in his opportunity to carry the load. At just 25, Moreno could be a threat in the upcoming season.

A potential x-factor: The Broncos drafted wide receiver Tavarres King in the fifth-round. Moreno was once King's former teammate at Georgia and perhaps could be used to help King get adjusted what he means to be a pro.

The case against him:

In his four year career, Moreno has only played the full sixteen games once, during his rookie season. Moreno was often in the doghouse for most of the year before McGahee's injury. What also damages Moreno is that he's due $1.7 million in 2013, making his heavy salary expendable if need be.

Verdict: Moreno made the most of his opportunities last year, but I don't think it will be enough for him to stay. He looks like the odd man out in this scenario.

Ronnie Hillman

2012 Info: As a rookie, life for Ronnie Hillman was up and down. He rushed for 330 yards on 85 attempts for one touchdown. However, Hillman often struggled in pass protection and was substituted out for fullback Jacob Hester.

The case for him to stay:

He's staying. Hillman is just 21-years-old and the Broncos third-round pick from a year ago. The running back from San Diego St. showed flashes of the speed that Fox can utilize him as a change of pace back.

The case against him:

Really, there's none. Although, Hillman will need to seriously improve on pass protection and getting used to NFL schemes this upcoming season. He struggled with that in his first year.

Verdict: He's staying.

Lance Ball

2012 Info: A rotational back, Ball rushed for 158 yards on 42 attempts. He played in 15 games, often contributing on special teams. Ball had one touchdown on the year.

The case for him to stay:

Ball is one of those players who does nothing exceptional, but everything well. As mentioned Ball contributes on special teams, which is why he was often active instead of Moreno last year. Ball signed a one-year tender offer on April 8.

The case against him:

Ball's strengths are also his weaknesses in this scenario. With the Broncos backfield being so crowded, Ball could be expendable if the Broncos decide they would rather have Moreno in case of injuries. Ball isn't reliable enough to be the starting back in case of injury.

Verdict: He stays because of his role on special teams. However if Fox and Elway wanted to keep Moreno, Lance Ball would most likely be the next one to go.

Jacob Hester

2012 Info: Hester signed with the Broncos late into the 2012 season. He often played full back, but did rush for 81 yards on 17 attempts. Hester was used in pass blocking situations occasionally as well

The case for him to stay:

While Peyton Manning's offense doesn't normally rely on a full back, Fox and previous offensive coordinator Mike McCoy combined their running schemes, making Hester effective. Hester was used mostly on short yardage situations when he got to carry the ball and could potentially be used in the same situations.

The case against him:

Montee Ball was brought in to be a big back who could gain yards in short yardage situations if he wasn't ready to take over the starting role. That's a bad sign for Hester, who saw most of his playing time doing just that.

Verdict: Hester will probably make the roster as a full back, but the amount of playing time could be limited.

With all that in mind, who do you think will end up being cut next season? Let us know in the comments.

Matthew Paras is Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets including,, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can be reached by email at or on twitter @Mparas1432. He currently resides in Chicago, but lived in Littleton, Colo. for seven years.

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