Knowshon Moreno Shouldn't Expect Favorable Free-Agent Market

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

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Knowshon Moreno enters free agency after the best season of his career for the Denver Broncos.

The former first-round draft pick brought stability, reliability and consistency to the best offense in the NFL last season. Moreno finished the regular season with 241 carries for 1,038 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one fumble.

When Peyton Manning decided to join the Broncos two years ago, the focus was on how he would help the team's young receivers. Not only was Moreno an afterthought in that conversation, he was also an afterthought at the running back position.

Moreno had 138 carries in eight games during the 2012 season. Willis McGahee was the preferred option then, with youngster Ronnie Hillman expected to eventually replace him.

Entering the 2013 season, Moreno was still an afterthought for most people, but he would ultimately become the team's first option. Montee Ball had been drafted in the second round to compete for the starting spot, while the optimism surrounding Hillman had dropped off.

It may have taken over 12 months to materialise, but Manning's presence was about to revitalize Moreno's career.

The 26-year-old has an all-around skill set that allowed him to take advantage of how opposing defenses set up to stop the Broncos passing game. Because the Broncos passing game was so effective and teams were so focused on stopping Manning, Moreno played against more nickel defenses that spaced out the defense.

While that is something he won't be able to find in other situations, Moreno also deserves credit for fitting into the offense. Moreno ran a lot from the shotgun, and he had to be effective in the passing game both as a blocker and a receiver.

Not every back in the league has the resiliency and bulk to carry a heavy load while still being versatile enough to make plays in space or line up as a receiver across the formation.

In a sense, Moreno is the perfect style of back for today's NFL.

Unfortunately for him, being the right style of back doesn't make you a valuable player. Moreno found his perfect fit in 2013, but he will be 27 ahead of the start of next season, and he doesn't have enough ability to be a standout player at the running back position.

You have to be a standout player in today's NFL to be an in-demand running back.

There are very few irreplaceable backs playing today. Unless an Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy becomes available, there will never be a favorable market for any free-agent runner.

Those players aren't hitting the open market this year, but there are backs of similar quality to Moreno whose contracts are coming up.

Each player has their own set of question marks, but each of Rashad Jennings, Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Andre Brown, Donald Brown, Toby Gerhart, Rashard Mendenhall, James Starks and LeGarrette Blount could be considered viable alternates if Moreno's price is deemed too high.

Most of those players have one or two physical traits that make them more appealing than Moreno. What Moreno has to offer is his consistency and all-around ability.



Although he is a shorter back, Moreno is built well to sustain his performances on a weekly basis. He had 349 total touches last season. He had at least 23 touches on six occasions, with an incredible 65 coming over a two-week span during the middle of the regular season.

Moreno had just one fumble, against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, and even though he featured in the offense less during the second half of the season, that was more to do with the emergence of Montee Ball.

The one question mark that could be put over Moreno's stamina is that he was likely being tackled more often by defensive backs. Being hit by linebackers and defensive linemen for four quarters is not the same as running through cornerbacks.

If Moreno was asked to play in an offense that didn't have the same passing threat, would he still be so consistent and durable?



Strength isn't the first thing you think of when you see a player of Moreno's stature. However, his compact build allows him to play with a low center of gravity. That low center of gravity often gives him a leverage advantage, but more importantly it allows him to bounce off contact and continue moving forward.

That low center of gravity is complemented by excellent awareness and foot speed.

Moreno plays with the aggressive streak of a player who understands that every inch is vital. He is able to run through defensive backs in space, but also burrow his way through the line of scrimmage in short-yardage situations.

Much like Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens or Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Moreno's strength is definitely a positive, and his size accentuates his overall power.



Moreno is much quicker than he is fast. He combines decisive cuts with subtle quickness behind the line of scrimmage to set up opportunities. He has enough speed to take advantage of space, but he won't run away from any defensive backs.

Straight-line speed isn't an important aspect of playing the running back position.

Straight-line speed turns long gains into touchdowns, but it doesn't come into play before the line of scrimmage or between the tackles. Quickness, awareness and acceleration are more important for a running back like Moreno.



When Chad Pennington played in the NFL, he did so without one overwhelming physical trait. However, Pennington was incredibly sharp mentally and he could proactively break down plays at speed. It was easier to see with Pennington because he was a quarterback, but Moreno shares that same mental acumen.

Vision is the most important aspect of playing the running back position.

If you can't see where to go, you won't get anywhere. It's that simple. However, different aspects of vision are understanding what the defense is trying to do, understanding how the blocking is supposed to work and then being able to quickly adapt on the move to get the most out of each play.

Moreno shows very impressive poise before the line of scrimmage. He rarely makes a bad decision, and he uses his footwork and acceleration to expose any potential running lanes.

Much like BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals, if Moreno had at least one elite physical trait, then he would be a very valuable player. However, without that trait, his vision can only get him to a certain point.

That point is starter-worthy, but not necessarily above-average starter-worthy.



The Broncos used Moreno in a variety of ways as a receiver. The creativity of the team's screen plays sent him in different directions and asked him to adjust to different situations. When he motioned outside, he was asked to run a variety of routes, but he also played an important role in pick plays.

Moreno both blocked receivers off and ran routes that benefited from blocks in 2013.

He finished the 2013 season with 66 total receptions and six drops, according to Pro Football Focus(Subscription Required).



Moreno will have a variety of different suitors on the open market because of his versatility. Every team would be willing to bring on a player with his consistency, but the reality is that he is still a replaceable commodity.

If Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and Green-Ellis of the Bengals are both released, then Moreno's stock takes another hit. Both players would make sense as cap casualties, and both have proven themselves as capable starters.

A modest market could develop for Moreno, but it is very unlikely to push his value up.


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