For all of those who thought Peyton Hillis was forgotten in our running backs segment, fear not—he essentially has his own briefing as the Broncos' starting fullback.
Hillis broke onto the scene as a rookie in 2008 when he unexpectedly had to fill in at tailback for the Broncos due to a barrage of injuries.
The seventh-round pick out of Arkansas did not disappoint.
Broncos fans knew he was something special when he converted on a key 4th-and-1 against the Cleveland Browns late in the game to keep the Broncos alive for their eventual victory.
Hillis scored five rushing touchdowns in a mere four starts and averaged five yards per carry on 68 touches, totaling 343 yards. The 6'2", 250-pound beast also proved to be very valuable as a receiver, catching 14 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown.
In my humble opinion, Hillis is the most versatile player on the Denver Broncos, and I defy anyone to not be impressed by the kid's YouTube heroics.
Sadly, Hillis' stellar rookie campaign was cut short by a freak hamstring injury he suffered in a 24-17 victory over the rival Kansas City Chiefs, and many NFL analysts felt the Broncos were a more complete offense—a more dangerous offense—with Hillis behind the quarterback.
Hillis is a rising star in this league, and I fully expect him to be a very valuable weapon on the Broncos' offense this year thanks to his ability to run, catch, and block with the best of them. He has great size and great speed (runs a reported 4.58 second 40-yard dash) and plays the game with a chip on his shoulder.
Behind Hillis on the Broncos' depth chart is converted linebacker Spencer Larsen, who is also a very versatile player.
Like Hillis, Larsen does just about everything well, except for the fact that his natural position is middle linebacker instead of fullback. He is a great special teams player, and while he may seem like a teddy bear off the field, he is a ferocious hitter on it.
With Hillis and Larsen paving the way for the Broncos' deep crop of running backs, the running game figures to flourish once more for Denver.
Projected Starter: Peyton Hillis (Acquired via 2008 NFL Draft)
Projected 2009 Stats: Car Yds. Avg. TD Rec. Yds. Avg. TD
80 400 5.0 7 30 300 10.0 3
I fully expect Hillis to get 90 percent of the carries inside the 10-yard line, and quite possibly 80 percent of Denver's carries from inside the 20. He also figures to have quite a few receptions on play-action fakes and screen plays split out as a wide receiver and as a tight end.
2008 FB Grade: A
2009 Roster Spots Filled by FB: 1/54 (Larsen will be included as LB)
2009 Roster Spots Filled Total: 8/54