Why Cleveland's Peyton Hillis Is Better Than You Think He Is

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Why Cleveland's Peyton Hillis Is Better Than You Think He Is
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
No, that's not The Hulk. That's Peyton Hillis.

A lot can be said about Peyton Hillis, and much to the chagrin of Hillis haters, it's nearly all positive. But after this bruising, powerful back took the league by storm, I came to find a lot of animosity and negativity thrown his way. 

Needless to say, he has some unfair tags considering his status in fantasy football and his ability to run over tough run defenses.

Everywhere you look, you read that Hillis is slow, and if he's not slow now, that he'll be even slower as he ages in the NFL.

If it's not his speed in question, or estimated decline in speed, then it's his tough, physical style that, although currently making him arguably one of the best running backs in the league, will ironically also be the downfall of a career seemingly set up for success.

Naturally, if it's not his lack of speed or physical running style, then it has to be his fumble issues (four lost fumbles in 2010), his inadequate blocking, or lack of elite explosiveness.

What else is wrong with Peyton Hillis? Seriously, naysayers, I would like for you to emphatically bring in the dirty, hurl the bad, and spew out the negative. Send it this way, one last time, and then read the rest of this article so you can find out why Hillis is still not getting the respect he deserves, much less is literally demanding, by beating the snot out of quality NFL defenses.

In order to prove doubters wrong, we'll dive into a checklist of "problems" people have with Hillis, and even touch on things that only a few unintelligent souls dare be fickle about when it comes to the Cleveland Browns' running back's game.

Is Peyton Hillis Slow?

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1. Peyton Hillis Isn't Fast

Tell that to Chris Wells and just about every other running back who runs a 4.50 40 time. Hillis may not be a "burner", but he damn sure isn't slow. If you think he is, then you just don't know the definition of fast and slow.

Fast does not only equate to 80-plus yard touchdown runs. Many would argue and likely agree that one of the great running backs in the game, Barry Sanders, wasn't particularly "fast" but he was one of the shiftiest and quickest players of his era, or you know, ever.

I'm not by any means relating Hillis to Sanders, as that'd be beyond foolish, but it illustrates a point. The point that you can be extremely successful by not being an absolute burner. To further express that point, just look at the careers of, say, Curtis Martin, Eddie George, Jerome Bettis, and so many other backs who had decent (or even below average) speed, and found great success with punishing running styles.

There's also the argument that cries out, "Well, 40 times don't always mean you're fast". To that I say touche, and also, that actually helps my argument in reverse, as many backs are hyped up to be something they're not, simply because they are "extremely explosive" and (insert potential-ridden hype adjective here).

Peyton Hillis isn't a burner. He has decent speed. Then again, he doesn't have to be amazingly fast. Not now, and really, if we're being honest, not ever. As long as he can truck people over with his strength and power and be anything above the speed of a "not at all moving rock on a ground", he should be just fine.

Don't agree? That's fine, but there's not much evidence there for anyone to prove it wrong. Short of Hillis losing the speed he does have and dropping off into offensive tackle-mode, you'll just be stuck predicting (or hoping, shame on you) that this hard-working beast loses his speed and quickness faster than J.P. Losman lost his starting job in Buffalo. 

2. Peyton Hillis Isn't Durable

One hamstring tear on a fluke (and awesome) catch in 2008, plus a thigh injury in 2010, and suddenly this guy can't carry his weight as an NFL rusher in terms of durability.

Firstly, go back and check the news wire from 2008. Hillis was placed on injured reserve with a torn hamstring, despite stating that he'd like to try to play, whether it be that next week, or at some point in the season.

Then, with a thigh injury earlier this year, the bruiser didn't take a game off, he merely just had a bit of a lessened load for a couple of weeks.

Translation: The guy has only missed time due to A) a freaking torn hamstring and B) he was placed on injured reserve against his will.

Which brings us to our next point...

3. Peyton Hillis Is His Own Worst Enemy

This actually has some staying power, but again, like most of the knocks on Hillis, it has everything to do with crystal balls and psychics, rather than any actual evidence to prove something today.

How many more season do you think Hillis will play?

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Hillis runs hard, creates contact as much and as often as possible, and does his damndest to make sure one or two defenders come down to the earth with him.

He chooses to inflict punishment and make contact, rather than evade rushers (oh, and we'll get to that, don't worry). However, just because his running style causes for some ice and band-aids for his opponents after the game is over, does not mean he's guaranteed to break down after one season of rugged play.

But that's not what his haters will say. Believe it or not, Hillis isn't just a wrecking ball crashing into defensive lines. Well, he is, but he's so much more. He's also a really tough dude. He can handle the load, the punishment, and the injuries. He's proven it this season, and on top of his production in 2010 (and back with Denver), he also hasn't played enough for this to be a viable concern.

In all reality, unless you're actively looking for weaknesses in his game, this is a silly thing to use against him. Think about that logic: Peyton Hillis won't be a good running back in three years because he's too good right now.

Considering the average shelf life of the average NFL player (or running back, for that matter), well, isn't very long, this is decent logic to start with. But you could say that about anyone

Boy, that Tony Romo won't last much longer if he keeps getting sacked, concussed, and having his collarbone broken in half. Really, are you sure?

Common sense will only take you so far. Hillis is an unstoppable force, and whether or not that means he'll continue to be one in his 30s obviously remains to be seen. But with history and predictions to the side, are you really about to bet against this beast of a man being able to stay healthy for at least another 3-4 years? I'm not.

4. Peyton Hillis Is One-Dimensional

Clearly, if this is a line of thinking you are subscribed to, you haven't seen much of Hillis on game tape. Contrary to the belief of his critics, Hillis can block, catch, run, and actually even throw.

He literally does it all. More specifically, he has a pair of the softest hands you'll see in the NFL, and isn't just a great receiver out of the back-field (although he definitely is that, too), as he's shown on several occasions that he has the talent to make catches down the field, past linebackers, and over the middle in traffic.

You name it, the guy has done it, can do it, and more than likely will do it. This also applies to the notion that his running style is limited and one-dimensional. If you watch tape on Hillis, you'll quickly find out that he doesn't merely lower his head like a battering ram and spear-dive into his opponents. While he does do that from time to time, he's actually a very gifted runner in the open field, showing solid agility and visions.

More importantly, Hillis does a great job behind his run-blowing, is a patient runner, has a nice initial burst, and knows how to use his running lanes. He's not invincible or perfect, but he's also not even close, in any way, to being one-dimensional.

Is Hillis one-dimensional?

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5. Peyton Hillis Will Drown in Fumbles

Sure, Hillis could do a better job in protecting the football. But they said the same thing about Adrian Peterson. No, Hillis isn't as good as Peterson, and we're not comparing them to each other.

However, Peterson got away with fumbles (a whole lot of them) for quite a few seasons, so it'd only be fair (considering how good he's been) to at least pretend to give Hillis the same mulligan(s). The fact is, he's lost four fumbles on the season. When factoring his running style and amount of touches, this shouldn't be that big of a surprise.

Again, there's no doubt Hillis wants to hang onto the football and that he should work at finding ways to ensure that happens, but there's also little doubt that using this as a major knock is a bit of a joke.

We're fairly certain everyone in the Cleveland Browns organization agrees, too.

6. Peyton Hillis Needs Help

Well, he does and he doesn't. Many backs can carry the load by themselves, and continue to do so, so it doesn't make much sense that all of a sudden Hillis needs a speedy back to complement him.

Sure, it wouldn't hurt to get another back in the mix, but if guys like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Michael Turner (can I stop yet?) and so many other running backs are readily OK'd to carry massive loads all by their lonesomes, then why should Hillis be any different?

Would you rank Hillis among the top 5 of the NFL's running backs?

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Could he use the extra help? Sure. Does he need the extra help? Absolutely not.

Seeing as this article has gone on a wild tirade, much like Hillis on the field on Sundays, it's time for a conclusion. If there's something left uncovered and you'd like to fight Hillis supporters to the death, the comment board below awaits you. However, much like defenders trying to take down Hillis on the first try, something tells me you don't stand much of a chance.

For weekly fantasy football advice, head over to NFL Soup. And check out Peyton Hillis on Twitter!

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