Terrell Davis brought us the Mile High Salute, which he then monetized because of course when I think about Terrell Davis, I think about delicious barbeque sauce.
He was also kind enough to give us four seasons of shifting and juking and breaking away in the open field, before injuries zapped his legs of that burst. At his peak in 1998, Davis ran for 2,008 yards with 21 touchdowns, a single-season rushing mark which is still fifth on the all-time list. Even though he hasn’t played since 2001, Davis remains one of just seven running backs in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
The dude could ball, and John Elway — the guy who put the ball in his gut — thinks a guy with Ball as his last name really reminds him of Davis.
Montee Ball. You know, the Broncos’ second-round pick (58th overall), and the third running back off the board two weeks ago.
Elway, the former Broncos quarterback and current suited shot caller, answered questions during a recent fan forum conference call, and he compared Ball to the only other player in recent franchise history who comes close to matching his pristine standing.
No pressure, kid.
“His running style was a lot like Terrell Davis. We hope that Montee has a career and even a longer career than Terrell had.”
High praise indeed. With Willis McGahee both aging and ailing, it was anticipated that Denver would select a running back with one of its early picks. But their eventual direction and decision to go with Ball was, well, odd at first. Or maybe it was our own pre-conceived and cemented notions of what the draft board should look like that were wayward instead.
Eddie Lacy was still on the board, and unlike Ball, he was widely discussed as a likely first-round pick. That didn’t happen, and Lacy tumbled not just beyond the first round, but he also lost his status as the lead running back in the 2013 draft class. That title belongs to Giovani Bernard, the Bengals’ 37th overall pick.
During the same conference call Matt Russell, the Broncos’ director of player personnel, explained the decision. You should sit down for this, because it turns out that running back prospects with owwwys in their bones or muscles already are scary.
“The issue with Eddie Lacy was we were worried about a toe injury that he had which is probably what caused him to slip. And we really felt great about Montee Ball. We feel we have a career back in Montee Ball.”
You probably do, Matt, and in Ball the rest of us will likely have a rookie fantasy running back who’s set to pound away for a whole lot of yards, and score a whole lot of touchdowns. Straight money.
That is, of course, assuming Elway and Russell do the right thing and cut McGahee. He’s had a fine career, but combine his age, his ability to break stuff, and his $2.5 million in guaranteed salary next year with the presence of Ball’s youth, and there’s little reason to keep him on the roster. That’s especially true when Ronnie Hillman — a third-round pick last year — sits behind Ball as the ideal change of pace back.
When that release happens, Ball is immediately the top rookie fantasy running back. Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh is close behind, but he may still have to deal with a committee at first with Isaac Redman that will limit his opportunities. And while Lacy’s upside in Green Bay is arguably higher than Bell’s if we assume he’s healthy, he’ll fight fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin for touches, and to a lesser extent DuJuan Harris.
After he finished off his collegiate career with an absurd 4,131 yards from scrimmage and 61 touchdowns over his final two seasons, Ball could be the only rookie back in a featured role while he runs against defenses worried about Peyton Manning doing Peyton Manning things.
So yeah, the digits he posts by the end of 2013 could be…impressive.