For whatever reason, Knowshon Moreno is not a likable player. For some, it might just be because his name is unusual, but for Denver Broncos fans, it's because he hasn't produced like a 12th overall pick.
There are plenty of reasons why Moreno isn't a starter and several more why he is in serious risk of not making the 53-man roster, but releasing Moreno would be a serious mistake. The Broncos need Moreno more than they realize. Moreno can do things Willis McGahee can't, such as catch passes, and he's elusive in the open field.
He's not the elite talent the Broncos believed he was when they drafted him, but that's not exactly Moreno's fault. Players like Moreno are often unfairly held to a higher standard when they are drafted higher than they should have been drafted. Blame the general manager and not the player.
In a way, Moreno is being punished simply because he was not drafted by John Elway. Moreno's effort is not in question, and he's returned to the field less than nine months after he had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. That's not easy to do, and plenty of other players have taken longer to recover from the same injury.
The Broncos spent a draft pick on Ronnie Hillman to pair with McGahee, knowing that McGahee was 30 and Moreno was coming off an ACL injury. Now it's Moreno who is healthy and Hillman who can't get on the practice field because of a sore hamstring.
The plan obviously was to give Hillman the carries and the catches that previously went to Moreno. Hillman may prove to be a good addition, but at least initially he only duplicates what Moreno did for the Broncos. If the Broncos do jettison Moreno, there will be more than a few teams happy to pick him up. It's a sign that the Broncos could be dumping a versatile player who has plenty of value to other teams.
Moreno isn't great, but he's easily the second-best running back in Denver right now and the best in the passing game. Hillman could be better, but he has to stay on the field, and hamstrings have the tendency to get aggravated when the player tries to come back too soon.
Most teams probably would like a reserve running back like Moreno. He's averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his career and 9.0 yards per reception. In his first two seasons, Moreno put up more than 1,000 total yards while splitting time with Correll Buckhalter.
Until Hillman can get into a preseason game and prove he can take over as the pass-catching running back, the Broncos need to keep Moreno around.
That poses a bit of a roster dilemma for Denver, as the third running back typically needs to play on special teams. Lance Ball is a good player on special teams, and Moreno doesn't play special teams at all.
The Broncos could keep four running backs, but it would come at the expense of another position. Of course, with McGahee's age and Hillman's hamstring, it could be wise to keep another player who can effectively run the ball.
Peyton Manning might need the running game, and the Broncos shouldn't release a serviceable reserve because he's been a disappointing draft pick. The Broncos should keep Moreno around, because his skills might come in handy if Hillman's hamstring injury lingers or the Broncos have any other injuries to running backs.
Moreno also has two more seasons on his contract and could potentially fetch a late-round draft pick after he demonstrates his knee is 100 percent healthy. Moreno is just 25, and he's got plenty of miles on his tires. The Broncos should think twice before giving up on Moreno.
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