The toughness and ferocity that Hillis has shown is truly reminiscent of former Buccaneer running back Mike Alstott. A tough hard-nose runner and blocker, Hillis plays the game old-school.
Even with a packed backfield that includes Lamont Jordan, Correll Buckhalter, and top rookie selection Knowshon Moreno, Hillis should still figure into the equation on offense. During the teams recent OTA’s Hillis has been seeing a lot of snaps in one back sets and head coach Josh McDaniels, likes his ability to catch the ball.
Like Alstott did much of his career in Tampa, the Bronco’s fullback could serve as a primary blocker in two back sets, but be utilized as the team’s primary short-yardage carrier. The dynamic that could prove most useful for McDaniel’s offense is Hillis’ pass receiving skills.
Last season Hillis caught fourteen passes for 179-yards, which included seven in Week nine against the Dolphins. The following week, because of an injury to rookie running Ryan Torain, Hillis was moved to tailback. From Week ten on he became the team’s primary ball carrier with fifty seven handles over the next four weeks, before his season ended with a torn hamstring.
According to McDaniels, Hillis “is a valuable player and versatile and can create some matchup problems for defenses” if the Broncos use him right. While at Arkansas blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Hillis showed his versatility playing fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and special teams, along with tailback. Over his collegiate career he managed over 2,600 all-purpose yards and scored twenty three touchdowns.
There’s no question Hillis’ presence in Denver is going to upset the fantasy balance of the Bronco’s backfield. However the former Arkansas Razorback is making a strong case to see his share of touches. Fantasy owners had better take note; this Hog is demanding the ball and his 504 total yards (329-rushing, 175-receiving) with six touchdowns in his last six games in 2008 should be enough to merit such a demand.
It’s a good bet that Hillis won’t be the team’s starting tailback in 2009, but by the looks of things in Denver he’s a shoe-in to be fantasy relevant this season.
By David Ortega