Despite Breakout Game, Broncos Ronnie Hillman Still Fantasy Fool's Gold

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2013

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 23:  Ronnie Hillman #21 of the Denver Broncos rushes for a first down against the defense of  Lamarr Houston #99 and  Tracy Porter #23 of the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Every fantasy football owner is looking for the next great breakout star.

From returning favorites Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas to budding tight end Julius Thomas, the 2013 Denver Broncos are certainly full of them. (For the record, Wes Welker is hardly a breakout candidate.)

After all, any offense led by the illustrious Peyton Manning is sure to score plenty of points, both on the field and on the fantasy scoreboard.

So after watching second-year running back Ronnie Hillman bust out against the Oakland Raiders on Monday night, it's easy to assume that the former San Diego State standout is on his way to fantasy stardom.

Just don't be too quick to throw him into your starting fantasy lineup.

While Hillman did have an impressive showing against the Raiders (nine carries for 66 yards and a touchdown, one reception for 12 yards) it is important to look at the big picture when analyzing the Broncos offense.

The most important factor to consider is that Denver utilizes a three-back rotation featuring Hillman, veteran Knowshon Moreno and rookie Montee Ball

Moreno has received the bulk of the carries thus far this season, gaining 160 yards on 34 attempts through three games.

Ball was nearly as impressive (61 yards on 11 carries on Monday night) against the Raiders as Hillman and is likely to see an increased role as the season wears on.

Meanwhile, Hillman received all of five carries through the first two weeks of play, averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt during that span.

While his performance on Monday night is likely to get him a few more touches moving forward, he is anything but an unquestioned starter, which is what fantasy owners are looking for at the running back position.

Also consider that the Broncos will clearly be a pass-first team as long as Manning is under center. Despite holding a lead for virtually all of Monday night's game, Denver passed the ball 37 times while running it just 34.

If the Broncos ever find themselves in a real offensive shootout this season, the ground numbers are sure to be even less impressive.

Even in goal line situations, the Broncos appear more likely to rely on Welker or Julius Thomas than they are any of the backs on the roster.

When Denver does decide to run the football, they will probably go with the hot hand in the backfield, which is likely to vary from week to week and drive to drive.

At this point, the backfield situation in Denver is simply too unpredictable to pencil in Hillman, even as a flex starter. 

Feel free to pick up Hillman if he is available—and if you have a player wasting space on your bench—in order to see if the situation changes over the next couple of weeks.

Just don't be surprised if a different Denver back has a big game against the Eagles next week and becomes the topic of this very same discussion.