It's prediction time again, and this time the spotlight is on the Denver Broncos' running back stable—a group that is coming off an impressive season and will be expected to produce again even with the departure of second-leading rusher Tim Tebow.
A lot of that expectation is falling on the shoulders of rugged veteran Willis McGahee, who will be asked to bear the load. The remainder of the production should come in the form of Knowshon Moreno, who is looking to prove his draft position, and Ronnie Hillman, who is looking to prove he deserved to go higher.
Much is being made of the new-look passing attack that Denver will boast, but if last year taught any lessons at all it is that a game can be won with nothing but a brutal rushing attack.
Here are the predictions for the top-producing Denver running backs in 2012.
Seeing another 1,000-yard rushing season out of McGahee seemed a certainty before the regime change at quarterback. In fact, it wasn't wildly over-optimistic for people to assume that with an entire season in the new-look rushing offense that McGahee might push for almost 1,500 yards if he stayed healthy.
That will all seem like ancient history now that Manning is running the show, but Mike McCoy still knows what kind of weapon he has in McGahee and will certainly try to help Peyton get good use out of him.
Don't look for McGahee to make a huge impact in the receiving game, but that will mainly be to preserve him for the over 200 carries that he will receive.
2012 STATS: 203 Carries, 968 Yards, 8 Touchdowns
There is likely nothing that Knowshon Moreno can do in training camp to take over the starting tailback position except fill in due to injury for McGahee. Moreover, Moreno has a tough task ahead of him just to earn a spot on the roster at all in some people's eyes.
If he stays healthy, there should be no problem staying on the roster in Denver, and there is certainly an important role for Moreno to play on this offense.
Moreno will change the pace in the rushing game. His numbers may be negatively affected by the fact that he will be sharing this duty with Ronnie Hillman, the Broncos' third overall draft choice in 2012.
2012 STATS: 125 Carries, 537 Yards, 3 Touchdowns and 42 Receptions, 432 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
Hillman comes in as a real wild card as far as what kind of production can be expected from him at the NFL level.
He carried the ball over 300 times in his senior season at San Diego State, which is a number that may take him two NFL seasons to accumulate. Still, his 5.5 yards per game is impressive considering such a large amount of carries to divide it out over.
Hillman will need to work up to the point where he has the ability to carry the brunt of the load for the Broncos' rushing attack, but he will have chances to flash his ability right off the bat as a rookie.
Another strong facet of Hillman's game is the 11-yards-per-catch average he boasted in college as a receiving back. That skill will certainly be put to use by Peyton Manning as well.
2012 STATS: 80 Carries, 312 Yards, 1 Touchdown and 23 Receptions, 210 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
Other names who might contribute could be Mario Fannin, Lance Ball or even Chris Gronkowski from the fullback position.
Chances are that it will be either Fannin or Ball making the roster, with Gronkowski at fullback, but it isn't totally improbable that neither back will make the roster and Gronkowski will fill the role of both fullback and fourth-string running back.
Whomever it ends up being, this position on the roster will be lucky to contribute 100 yards rushing on the season, and potentially a spot touchdown here and there.