Hillman was the only back to score a touchdown Saturday night, as his seven-yard rush in the middle of the third quarter gave the Broncos comfortable separation that would last through the final whistle. He was the “Flash” to Anderson’s “Thunder” and finished the game with 45 yards on just five carries, including an electric 21-yard dash in the fourth quarter.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said last week that running back Ronnie Hillman is in “a helluva battle” to make the 53-man roster. It appears that Hillman is losing that battle.
Mike Klis of KUSA reports that it would now be a surprise if Hillman makes the team. That’s a surprise, considering the Broncos re-signed Hillman to a one-year, $2 million contract with $600,000 guaranteed this offseason.
C.J. Anderson is the clear starter in Denver and fourth-round pick Devontae Booker is a lock to make the roster as well. That leaves Hillman competing with Kapri Bipps for what is likely a third and final roster spot. Bipps has played well enough in the preseason that the Broncos would likely prefer to keep him at his $525,000 base salary than Hillman at the $1.4 million remaining they’ll have to pay him if he makes the roster. Hillman should catch on somewhere if he's let go as there are several teams, like the Patriots and Redskins, who may be interested in adding a back.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Hillman would see plenty of action in Saturday’s exhibition against the San Francisco 49ers as part of the ongoing evaluation process.
“Ronnie is in a battle, a helluva battle with Kapri and Book right now,” Kubiak said. “There’s no way around that. I’m just being honest with you."
Just how big the crowd is at running back for the Denver Broncos can best be explained by the fact that the team’s leading rusher in a season that ended with a Super Bowl win -- Ronnie Hillman -- is in a battle to keep his roster spot.
While C.J. Anderson led the Broncos down the stretch and into the postseason, Hillman led the team in carries (207), rushing yards (863) and rushing touchdowns (seven). But in the things-change department, Hillman finds himself in an all-out, every-rep-matters competition to reclaim the kind of workload he had in the offense.
The Broncos also used a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to bring in Devontae Booker. And at 219 pounds with vision, to go with receiving skills out of the backfield, Booker has shown enough for the Broncos to already be considering him part of the group. Add in Juwan Thompson, who can play both running back and fullback and Andy Janovich, a fullback drafted in the sixth round, and it's a big crowd.
Two of Anderson's best runs Wednesday came late in practice. On the first one, Anderson read the blocking and exploded to daylight created by Max Garcia and Michael Schofield on the left side.
Seven snaps later, Anderson took a shotgun handoff from Siemian and saw a seam created by Garcia and James Ferentz. He burst through it for what would have been a substantial gain in game conditions.
Anderson wasn’t fully healthy heading into the season and struggled at the onset, averaging just 2.69 YPC on 11.4 rushing attempts through the first six weeks of the season. He turned it around in a big way after the Week 7 bye, however, racking up an average of 64.5 yards on 11.6 carries (5.57 YPC) and 0.58 TD over his final 12 games, including the playoffs. Those are mid-level RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR. Moreover, the Broncos committed to Anderson down the stretch, feeding him 15.6 carries over the final five games. In that span, he averaged 13.7 fantasy points in standard (and 15.9 FP in PPR). Those averages would have been good enough to finish #3 in both formats. Even though he finished strong, playoff numbers don’t count for fantasy, so the fact remains that Anderson burned his owners in 2015. As a result, his ADP is likely to remain depressed heading into 2016 fantasy drafts.
Running back Ronnie Hillman is an unrestricted free agent after wrapping up the contract he signed as a Broncos third-round pick in 2012. Mike Klis of KUSA reports that the Broncos recently reached out to Hillman to express their interest in bringing him back for a fifth season with the team.
Anderson signed a four-year offer from the Dolphins that the Broncos matched, but Hillman’s market hasn’t been nearly as active. The story went on to say there was a report last month of Packers interest in Hillman, but nothing has materialized. The Broncos currently have Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs on the depth chart with Anderson. With all kinds of questions at QB, it makes sense the Broncos want to have a very good running game. However from a fantasy angle, we'd be looking at a similar situation as last year with both backs likely being involved in the offense.
Getting C.J. Anderson back to full health after he suffered a toe and an ankle injury is key, HC Gary Kubiak said. Anderson finished second on the team with 720 yards on 152 carries (4.7-yard average) with five touchdowns in 15 games (five starts). Leading the way was Ronnie Hillman, who started 11 games and ran for 863 rushing yards on 207 carries (4.2 average) with seven touchdowns.
Retaining Anderson will be easier since he's restricted, but keeping Hillman while also trying to keep many of the team's key defensive free agents will be difficult and might prompt the Broncos to look for help through the draft.
"We've got a young man on our practice squad — Kapri Bibbs — who I think fits what we want to do," Kubiak said. "We've got four good young players, and hopefully Ronnie is still part of that. We'll go from there. I thought we got better as the season went along. Keeping C.J. healthy is the key moving forward."
Anderson wasn’t fully healthy heading into the season and struggled at the onset, averaging just 2.69 YPC on 11.4 rushing attempts through the first six weeks of the season. He turned it around in a big way after the Week 7 bye, however, racking up an average of 64.5 yards on 11.6 carries (5.57 YPC) and 0.58 TD over his final 12 games, including the playoffs. Those are mid-level RB1 numbers in standard formats and low-end RB1 numbers in PPR. Moreover, the Broncos committed to Anderson down the stretch, feeding him 15.6 carries over the final five games. In that span, he averaged 13.7 fantasy points in standard (and 15.9 FP in PPR). Those averages would have been good enough to finish #3 in both formats. Even though he finished strong, playoff numbers don’t count for fantasy, so the fact remains that Anderson burned his owners in 2015. As a result, his ADP is likely to remain depressed heading into 2016 fantasy drafts. But Ronnie Hillman is unlikely to return after a poor finish (while Anderson is a restricted free agent), so the Denver backfield is one to monitor in the offseason. If Anderson returns as the clear RB1, he’s going to be a fantastic value in the 4th round and a solid value in the 3rd.
Friday, December 18, 2015, 6:32pm
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (foot, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 15. C.J. Anderson is expected to play, and that will impact Hillman’s touches in a tough matchup against Pittsburgh.
Thursday, December 17, 2015, 6:06pm
Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 6:21pm
Thursday, December 10, 2015, 6:31pm
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson (ankle) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) did not practice Wednesday. HC Gary Kubiak said that Anderson and Hillman should both be full participants on Friday, but we’re more optimistic about Hillman since he played through the injury last week. Kubiak even suggested that Juwan Thompson may start this week even if Anderson and Hillman practice fully on Friday. Complicating matters, the Broncos play late on Sunday.
Friday, December 4, 2015, 6:28pm
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (tooth, probable) took full practice reps again Friday and is probable for Week 13. Hillman is being outplayed by C.J. Anderson right now, but he’s still going to see 10-12 carries against San Diego.
Thursday, December 3, 2015, 5:56pm
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (tooth) took full practice reps Thursday after being limited Wednesday. Hillman is being outplayed by C.J. Anderson right now, but he’s still going to see 10-12 carries against San Diego.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015, 6:12pm
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (tooth) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Tooth? Apparently Ronnie Hillman has a tooth injury. We’ll monitor this odd ailment this week, but we’re assuming he’s going to be out there on Sunday. He has lost some touches to C.J. Anderson, who has been the better back since the team’s bye.
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