Denver, CO….The 2011 season for the Denver Broncos was one of the craziest, most memorable in team history. The year began with Kyle Orton under center and a typical pro style offense with the usual play action passes and drop-backs into the pocket. Because of an incredibly inept offense paired with a 1-4 start, the fans were clamoring for you know who, and “Tebow Time” took off which swept the nation for the better part of three months. In that college style, option offense led by Timmy, the rushing yards began to pile up. So much so, that by the end of 2011, Denver finished first in total rushing yards with an average of 164.5 per game. Tebow ran the ball, Willis McGahee ran the ball, and even Ball ran the ball (Lance Ball). Basically anyone who was in the backfield behind Tebow had a great shot of getting the rock, as passing was an afterthought in this new, crazy system. Not a bad idea really, as Timmy proved he excelled at the “ball in the dirt, 7 yards short” toss and the “land in the 3rd row in a fans lap” bomb. Bottom line, the team was winning, sometimes in inexplicable ways. For anyone who has been vacationing on the moon for the past 4 months, Tebow is now a Jet, and the Broncos acquired a new guy wearing #18. This new QB we have isn’t the best of runners, and loves to sling the pigskin. So with that said, the Broncos felt compelled to give him some help in this years draft. That help is now coming, in the form of #34, Ronnie Hillman.
Anyone who has followed the NFL during the past 20 years knows who Marshall Faulk is. The now Hall of Fame RB, who played for the Colts and Rams, was one of the most versatile backs to ever put on the pads. He could run as well as catch the ball out of the backfield, and was a nightmare for defenses to defend. Faulk went to San Diego State University, the same college where Ronnie Hillman just left. Hillman, who won’t be 21 years old until September 14th, played just two years at SDSU. One thing that is interesting to look at, is Hillman’s numbers versus Faulk’s in their first two years in college. After two seasons, Faulk had 3,216 rushing yards, compared to Hillman’s 3,243. Faulk had 37 rushing TD’s, compared to Hillman’s 36. Hillman also has the ability to catch the ball, like Faulk did, as he reeled in 24 balls for 270 yards in 2011. So why did Hillman last until the 3rd round in the draft? A few reasons. His size had to be one of them. Ronnie is roughly 5’9″ and 196 lbs, not exactly the prototypical size for an every down back in the NFL. Also, the fact that he played just two years in college had to scare some pro teams away. There are question marks about almost every player coming out of college, even the high first round picks. For the Broncos to get a guy in the 3rd round with this kind of production, who is still just 20 years old, and has never had a major injury, screams steal to me. Also, have you noticed how Denver has not acquired any other running backs via trade or free agency this offseason? This says to me that the tandem of Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman will be the plan in 2012. What about Knowshon Moreno? Well, I think the front office has grown tired of his style of play, and he is also coming back from an ACL injury. To me, it’s 50/50 whether he is on this team this season anyway. During training camp, Hillman may make that decision for the Broncos an easy one.
Buckle your seatbelts, Broncos fans. The inclusion of Ronnie Hillman into this offense could very well be a quick one. Willis McGahee has proven to be a very tough runner between the tackles, which is important in today’s NFL. But the best teams have that breakaway threat, a guy who can bust a game open with a 75 yard burst to pay dirt. Hillman has every opportunity to be that guy here in Denver. With Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and the new additions at the tight end position, this offense has the makings of being one of the leagues best. Just make sure to keep an eye on #34, as this rookie could end up being the X factor who makes the difference in 2012.