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.
Who starts at running back for the Denver Broncos has been the topic of more than a few conversations between coach Gary Kubiak and his staff.
Kubiak has been also been asked plenty about how he plans to divvy up the carries between Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson and for the most part Kubiak has routinely answered he views both backs as starters so that means something fairly close to a 50-50 split in the workload.
And to this point Hillman has 138 carries in 11 games, including 14 in Sunday night's win over the New England Patriots, while Anderson has 117 carries this season, including the 15 he had against the Patriots. Both players would very much like to be the team's starter, but for the most part they have each performed their best in games when they weren't.
While it may be risky fantasy strategy, the story pointed out the better back tends to be the one who doesn't start. Hillman has three 100-yard rushing games this season and two of those have come in games Anderson started -- Hillman's 103 yards rushing against the Minnesota Vikings and his 111 yards rushing against the Cleveland Browns. Anderson has two 100-yard rushing games this season and both -- his 113 yards rushing Sunday night against the Patriots and 101 yards rushing against Green Bay -- were in games Hillman started. That's four 100-yard games by non-starters. Apparently the pursuit of the starting job means a little something, the story said.
Friday, November 20, 2015, 6:29pm
Thursday, November 19, 2015, 5:53pm
Wednesday, November 18, 2015, 6:07pm
Beat writer Troy E. Renck on the struggles of the Denver running game:
Ronnie Hillman made some good cuts but was neutralized. And C.J. Anderson finished with two carries. Kansas City showed Peyton Manning no respect. The Chiefs squatted on short passing routes, crowded the line of scrimmage, creating few openings for the Broncos to run or pass. The offensive line remains wildly inconsistent. This week provides an interesting scenario. I would expect the Broncos to ask Brock Osweiler to manage the game, meaning more reliance on the run against a week Bears' rush defense, followed by a handful of play-action shots down field. If the Broncos don't run well against Chicago, it should be a chilling concern.
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