Montee Ball RB DEN 6 Days

During the offseason, the Broncos saw "vast improvements" from Montee Ball in his work as both a receiver and pass blocker.

Montee Ball RB DEN 1 Month

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold says the part of Montee Ball's game that showed the most improvement in recent weeks was as a receiver.

Upon tape review of Ball's rookie season, we actually thought he handled himself well as a pass-catcher. The Broncos did not change their running back route tree at all when Ball checked in, allowing him to run the simple flares and check-downs in addition to lining up wide and executing some gos and slants. He even caught a shovel pass. During offseason practices over the last month, Ball has "consistently shown he's ready to participate in long-yardage situations as a receiver" and has "shown better footwork" in pass pro. A projection of 45-50 catches in addition to a starring role in the run game is realistic.

Montee Ball RB DEN 1 Month

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold expects the Broncos to be a "more efficient running team on the inside this season, especially in the scoring zone."

The optimism stems mostly from an improved offensive line. Left tackle Chris Clady is back from a Lisfranc tear, allowing powerful Orlando Franklin to move to left guard while Chris Clark and Winston Justice battle for the right tackle spot. New feature back Montee Ball is also a far better inside runner than departed Knowshon Moreno, and he'll be running against a league-high percentage of nickel and dime looks. Ball's upside is through the roof, especially in the touchdown category.

Montee Ball RB DEN 2 Months

Montee Ball attributes his 2013 late-season improvement and increased playing time to being able to anticipate Peyton Manning's pre-snap audibles at the line of scrimmage.

Audible anticipation is critical for running backs in a Peyton offense because Manning changes to run plays to "exploit off-balance defensive fronts," and will often check into pass plays that require the back to identify and pick up a blitzer. "I started playing better then," said Ball. "I wish that it had happened earlier. I always tell myself, imagine what it would have been like had I begun like this." Ball piled up 337 yards on 52 carries (6.48 YPC) over Denver's final six regular season games, adding 15 receptions. He's looking to build on that momentum in 2014 as the Broncos' clear-cut bellcow back.

Montee Ball RB DEN 2 Months

Offensive coordinator Adam Gase pinpointed Montee Ball as the Broncos player who made the biggest strides over the course of 2013.

"Big strides," said Gase. "He'd probably be the one guy who made the most improvement. And to see him make the next jump in his second year, we're looking forward to that." Gase reiterated the Broncos have faith in Ball as their clear-cut 2014 feature back. "We do have a lot of confidence in him," Gase added. "He brings that full package of a good running back. Running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, and protecting."

Montee Ball RB DEN 2 Months

Broncos OC Adam Gase reiterated that Montee Ball is slotted in as the starting running back.

The Broncos' offseason actions have spoken even louder than their words. They let Knowshon Moreno walk to the Dolphins for pennies, added no backs in free agency and then spent zero of their six draft picks on the position. Gase stated the obvious this week, saying the only job in the backfield truly up for grabs is the backup gig. Supported by the faith of the organization and a Peyton Manning offense, Ball is in for a truly special season. Moreno, a lesser natural talent, was fantasy's No. 5 running back last year.

Montee Ball RB DEN 3 Months7 Comments

Peyton Manning said Montee Ball is ready to be the starting running back.

The Broncos wouldn't have let Knowshon Moreno walk for pennies if Ball didn't have Manning's blessing. We saw that faith in the playoffs last season, when Ball played on 91-of-226 (40.2 percent) of the snaps. Stubborn fantasy owners are going to remember Ball's blown blitz pickup from the preseason and back-to-back fumbles in Weeks 2 and 3, but the Broncos have forgotten about that long ago. Both the coaching staff and Peyton are ready to ride with the physical second-year man as their feature back.

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Montee Ball had zero fumbles on his first 802 touches at Wisconsin.

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Of Knowshon Moreno's 241 carries last season, 192 (79.7 percent) came against defenses playing six or fewer defenders in the box.

Moreno ranked 53rd in carries against seven-plus defenders in the box, despite ranking 13th in the league in total carries. Montee Ball won't necessarily be handed the same exact role -- the sophomore runner must prove to Peyton Manning that he won't fumble and can consistently pass protect -- but this is a mouth-watering situation for Ball's fantasy value. As for alternatives, C.J. Anderson ended 2013 ahead of Ronnie Hillman on Denver's depth chart. Anderson currently holds more Dynasty and re-draft "sleeper" value than Hillman.

Montee Ball RB DEN 4 Months

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Broncos "believe in" Montee Ball.

With Knowshon Moreno now a Dolphin, Ball finds himself atop the depth chart. The Denver Post reported earlier this month that Ball will get the first crack at starting this season. Ball struggled with ball security and pass protection early as a rookie, but closed out strong, averaging 5.87 yards per carry over his final 65 rushes. For the year, Ball's YPC was an impressive 4.66. Ball has monstrous fantasy upside in the Broncos' Peyton Manning-led offense.