2012 NFL Draft: Is the Denver Broncos' Ronnie Hillman the Next Darren Sproles?

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2012 NFL Draft: Is the Denver Broncos' Ronnie Hillman the Next Darren Sproles?
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Ronnie Hillman (San Diego State University)

Ronnie Hillman has been called the new Marshall Faulk, but that may only be because they both came from the same school.

Though they are both similar in height, quick and were both drafted, it seems that comparing Hillman to Faulk—at this point of Hillman’s career—might be taking things a little too far.

Hillman was even hesitant to admit the comparison. He said this about his comparison to Faulk:

"He’s a Hall of Fame running back, so whenever you get compared to somebody like that, it’s a humbling experience. Like I said, he’s a great running back. I grew up watching him, and all I can do is be flattered that somebody would compare me to him.”

Hillman made the right move—when asked about his comparison to Faulk—and just said that it was “flattering.” Though Hillman would probably love to have career like Faulk, I'm sure he doesn't want to get ahead of himself.

So who does Hillman compare to? There’s a comparison that has become popular lately, and that’s to Darren Sproles. But is this an accurate comparison? It seems like a possibility.  

When asked about this comparison, Hillman admitted that he thinks he’s able to do a lot of the things Sproles can do. If this is true and Hillman’s skill set is comparable to Sproles, he’ll definitely be an offensive asset for Peyton Manning.

Those who followed the San Diego Chargers (before Sproles became a New Orleans Saint) remember how big of an asset Sproles was to Philip Rivers. At times when Rivers was unable to find an open man down the field and was in risk of being sacked, he’d find a way to hand the ball off to Sproles and get a first down. Sproles is incredibly gifted at turning a broken play into a productive down.

Manning could definitely use a Sproles-like player, such as Hillman. There’s no guarantee that Manning’s new receivers will establish a connection with Manning that is comparable to the one Manning had with receivers back in his Indianapolis Colts days.

Sproles has great hands, and so does Hillman. They are both fast, difficult to tackle and have great open field vision. They are also small and able to quickly maneuver through tackles for a quick gain.

Although, Hillman claimed that he and Sproles are not necessarily “mirror images” of each other—and that’s probably true—we have yet to see what Hillman is able to do in NFL.

Hillman's college days, although short, were definitely productive. He rushed for 3,243 yards and 36 touchdowns. As an Aztec fan myself, I remember watching Hillman run 99 yards for a touchdown against Wyoming. Hillman is exciting to watch. He brought a form of energy to Aztec games that will forever be missed.

Hopefully, for all Denver Bronco fans, he’s able to bring that kind of energy to the NFL. 

And there's a good chance that he will. John Fox has a history of drafting good running backs, when Fox was head coach for Carolina.  If Hillman is one of Fox's genius picks, then Broncos fans could expect good things from Hillman.

At the same time, Hillman definitely has some room to grow though. He’s been criticized for his “pass-protection” skills. According to one report, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy is better off using Knowshon Moreno or Lance Ball for third-down situations.

Luckily for Hillman, he’ll be playing for the Denver Broncos—a team that has both an elite and experienced quarterback and a dynamic veteran running back like Willis McGahee.

When asked about the opportunity to learn behind McGahee, Hillman seemed ecstatic:

 "I get to learn from a 10th-year vet in Willis McGahee, so I can’t wait to get here.”

So back to our question: is Hillman the next Sproles? I believe this question is similar (but not the same) as the question about him and Faulk: we won’t know until we have seen him play.

Nevertheless, Bronco fans should definitely be excited to see what Hillman can do.

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