Broncos RB Montee Ball didn’t protect much at Wisconsin and didn’t catch the ball much, either -- as he put it recently, “We threw the ball like every three weeks’’ -- and the Broncos knew it was going to be a work in progress. However, Ball is smart and has consistently worked with Peyton Manning to fill in the gaps.
He showed quality hands in recent workouts, even making some over-the-shoulder catches in red-zone team drills, and Manning consistently showed he was willing to throw to Ball in a variety of down-and-distance situations, a key hurdle of trust for any player in the team’s offense.
Ball also became more efficient in the running game as the season wore on and, as he got more carries, he produced more big runs. In the first eight games of the season, he had just two carries that gained more than 10 yards -- or 3.6 percent of his 55 carries over the first eight games. In the season’s second half, he had 11 of his 65 carries -- 16.9 percent -- gain more than 10 yards.
Now that Knowshon Moreno (and the #5 fantasy RB in 2013) has signed with the Dolphins, it’s clear that Ball’s stock has taken a huge jump. Prior to the Moreno signing, Ball was being drafted in the 4th round due to the uncertainty of his situation. With Moreno out of the way, he’s starting to go in the late 1st/early 2nd. Ball had a higher YPC (4.7) than Moreno (4.3), but wasn’t quite the weapon in the passing game. Still, his catch percentage (receptions/targets = 74.1%) wasn’t bad for a running back. His play down the stretch (8.5 FP/game in final eight games) is encouraging. He’s locked in as the RB1 in a great offense, so 10+ touchdowns seems likely.