Denver Broncos: Full Position Breakdown and Depth-Chart Analysis at Running Back
The position of running back is clearly not the focus that it once was in the NFL. That is evidenced by the fact that no running back has been selected higher than No. 37 overall in the last two NFL drafts.
Still, the teams that are able to establish a solid running game in the current pass-happy NFL have a leg up on their opponents.
Despite Peyton Manning setting passing records unlike anything the league had ever seen before last year, the running game will be vital to the team reaching its ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Throughout training camp and preseason this summer, no position battle in Denver will be more interesting to watch than the one at running back.
Here is a look at how the current depth chart should look, but how it looks once the regular season gets underway could be much different.
7. Brennan Clay
Brennan Clay joined the Broncos as an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma. He won't finish training camp at the bottom of the depth chart, either.
At 5'11" and 200 pounds, he is not the biggest running back, but he is very versatile.
He is a patient runner with good vision, but the area that he could benefit Denver, at least in the immediate future, is as a receiver out of the backfield.
He has very good hands and led all Oklahoma running backs in receptions last season. He caught seven passes in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
He can also contribute in pass protection and special teams. During his college career, he averaged 22.4 yards on his 34 kickoff returns.
Clay will be a long shot to make the roster, but don't be surprised to see him snag one of the spots on the practice squad.
6. Jerodis Williams
Jerodis Williams spent time last season with the Minnesota Vikings, but he still brings very limited experience to Denver.
He ran for more than 1,000 yards in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons while at Furman University. He can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Still, he will find it very hard to make the final roster unless he has an exceptional training camp. At 5'11" and 195 pounds, he's likely no more than a situational runner or third-down back at the pro level.
5. Kapri Bibbs
Kapri Bibbs is another player whom Denver brought in as an undrafted rookie. Since he played at Colorado State last season, many Broncos fans in the area are familiar with him.
Despite leading the entire nation in rushing touchdowns last season, Bibbs still was not selected in the draft. Will he use that as motivation in training camp? That will be interesting to see.
He is a tough player to evaluate due to him playing just one year at the college level. Though he did rush for more than 1,700 yards and 31 touchdowns, he did so mostly against inferior opposition.
He does seem to possess good vision and patience, but he will have a lot to prove in order to catch on in the NFL.
Can he break tackles and fight for extra yardage? Can he catch passes in an offense where doing so is a must? Can he protect the quarterback?
Frankly, Bibbs should have stayed in college for at least one more season, but it would be surprising if he doesn't at least get placed on the practice squad.
4. Juwan Thompson
Juwan Thompson signed with the Broncos as an undrafted rookie out of Duke. He should be considered a very good choice to make the final 53-man roster due to his versatility.
He is 5'11", but despite having a little more weight on him (226 pounds) than Brennan Clay, Jerodis Williams or Kapri Bibbs, he has every bit as much speed—and maybe more.
He is also a very good receiver, and coaches in Denver will favor him for his ability to contribute in that area. They will also love his intangibles.
Thompson is elusive for his size, and while he isn't flashy, he can do just about everything well. He was even the captain of special teams at Duke.
David Cutcliffe, head coach at Duke, is clearly a huge fan of the guy.
Denver will likely keep at least four running backs on the roster. The team will find it very hard—if not impossible—not to have Thompson in one of those slots.
3. C.J. Anderson
Denver Broncos fans have yet to see what C.J. Anderson is fully capable of, though they have seen glimpses.
He was given limited opportunities as a rookie in 2013, but he showed that he can be a productive, hard-nosed runner with the ball in his hands.
He can run between the tackles, but he also has great cutting ability. Once he gets into the open field, he can be extremely tough to bring down.
If the Broncos need a running back to pound out a yard or two in short-yardage situations or to drive the ball over the goal line, they need to look no further than Anderson.
He would be a tremendous complement to what Montee Ball brings to the table. Don't be surprised to see Anderson emerge as the No. 2 running back this offseason. In fact, it should almost be expected.
2. Ronnie Hillman
Is it possible for a player to go from the No. 2 running back in June to not even be with the team anymore in August?
In Ronnie Hillman's case, yes.
Though it would be a poor decision for the Broncos to give up on Hillman after just two seasons without exhausting their options, he must show something this training camp.
Last season would have to be considered a complete flop for Hillman, who literally fumbled away the starting position.
He certainly has intriguing ability, but he has to show he can hang onto the ball at the professional level. Once he does that, he will have to fend off a hungry bunch of running backs behind him to remain with the squad.
This will be the most important training camp of Hillman's career, and he is the Denver running back who is facing the most questions heading into the 2014 campaign.
1. Montee Ball
The starting running back position is not up for grabs in Denver. It belongs to Montee Ball, and the organization hopes it will be his for many years to come.
He showed the Broncos enough as a rookie for the team to part ways with Knowshon Moreno and make Ball the running back of the future.
That's impressive, considering he had some growing pains of his own, including picking up the pass-protection schemes and holding onto the football.
But this year, the Broncos will likely try to take some of the pressure off Peyton Manning by establishing a solid rushing attack.
Ball's number will be called early and often. Look for him to have a breakout season in 2014.