Fantasy Impact: Denver Broncos Select Montee Ball
It’s easy to take a look at Montee Ball’s Heisman-candidate 2011 with 39 touchdowns and compare it to 2012 and say he regressed more to where he should be. Although I said it was easy, I didn’t say it would be correct. When you factor in everything that changed around Ball from 2011 to 2012, it’s almost more impressive that he remained so productive. Ball lost Russell Wilson and his best WR (Nick Toon) who drew a safety over the top. He lost two offensive lineman drafted in the first 50 picks (Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler) and Ball’s offensive coordinator took a head coaching job and he was left with a new scheme and Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien at QB (who failed miserably before being benched for a sixth-year senior).
Montee Ball’s path the to the NFL reminds me a lot of Ray Rice’s. Both backs were considered somewhat small and lacking an extra gear (long-range speed) even after producing every chance they got in big conferences. Ball doesn’t have that 4.4 Chris Johnson breakaway speed but what he does have is a lethal jump-cut that is unique to him and only him in this draft. He runs downhill and attacks the line of scrimmage. In his arsenal is also a spin move that he puts on display when the defender gains more ground. This past season, Ball was not used a receiver out of the backfield but when teamed with Russell Wilson, he caught 24 passes for 306 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is a smart kid who can come right in and contribute on all three downs. Besides his lack of breakaway speed, Ball’s two biggest weaknesses are his college workload and that sometimes he is not patient enough as a runner. At times, he would hit the hole too fast before the blockers would get to their spots and it would lead to a minimal gain. Overall, Ball strikes me as one of the most underrated prospects in this draft as size and speed issues have downgraded him like MJD and Ray rice in the past. However, Ball is one of the more natural runners and I believe his game will translate very well to the pros.
College statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.
Fantasy Impact With the Denver Broncos
Montee Ball joins a backfield in Denver that currently consists of Willis McGahee (coming off of a season-ending leg injury ) and ex-draft bust turned average contributor Knowshon Moreno. With McGahee on the wrong side of 30 there is a real opportunity for Ball to grab a hold of the feature back role sooner than later. Before we go into why Ball has so much potential if he earns that role we need to dive into a negative aspect of his game thus far that could hold him back from seeing the field: his pass protection. Ball came off of the field on third downs for the Badgers and he has not yet learned the art of pass protection.
As we all know, Peyton Manning’s backs need to know every protection, even now so more than ever. The good news is that Ball is a smart player and he should be able to pick up the playbook much quicker than most backs. Also, he has the size to be a solid pass protecting back. If Ball finds his role in Denver, the sky is limit. Feature backs on Peyton Manning offenses over the years have finished as RB1s and RB2s consistently year after year.