Running Backs, the NFL Draft and value

As I noted in The Fall of the Denver Rushing Attack, there's been some romanticism when it comes to evaluating the Denver Broncos and their running backs over the years. Obviously, there are many significant factors that support this sentiment, as Mike Shanahan and Company (Bobby Turner, Alex Gibbs, Rick Dennison) turned Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson from 6th-rounders into elite NFL running backs. Mid-round picks (Denver's and other teams') like Olandis Gary and Reuben Droughns found major success in Denver as well. Clinton Portis and Tatum Bell were also quite productive as Broncos, but they were 2nd-rounders. Therein lies something of a problem. TD and Anderson begot a reputation (or myth) that Shanny and Turner could turn anyone into a quality NFL runner.

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Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

Since everybody likes my stuff at its shallowest and most nearsighted, I am going to try hard to stick with that program this week, as always.  Thing is, to make the point I am going to attempt to make, I'll necessarily be borrowing from some pretty deep and farsighted economic concepts.  Just take comfort in knowing that somebody else thought of them, not me, and try hard to picture me as just the meathead football guy who talks about what players and teams and games look like on video.  Thanks in advance.  Ready,,,,,,,,,, BEGIN.

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The H-Back: Using the magic option

Some posts have recently noted that one option, perhaps our best, would be using Peyton Hillis as an 'H-back'. I did a little digging, asked our resident authorities some questions and came up with a short analysis that I'd like to share.

H-back.  For what it's worth, I'm not sure this is the best role for Hillis this year: at the least, not his only one. We probably are in need of him at RB, but we know that McD does value versatility. If that's the case, there's really no reason to limit Hillis to one role or the other. While his running style might create the potential for some injuries, it does reduce others. It's always better to be the hitter than the hittee, and Hillis likes hitting people when he runs. Since he also catches well and blocks fairly well in certain situations, we can use him in different roles. After all - that's one idea of the function of the H back. But first, let's define our terms.

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2008 season review: Brandon Marshall

In 2008, most people would agree that Brandon Marshall had quite a year.

He started the 2008 regular season off with a multiple-game suspension for several incidents of off-field unbecoming conduct, a suspension which Commissioner Goodell reduced to a single game after an appeal. Earlier in the spring, he gave differing explanations of how he fell through the glass door of an entertainment center, severely injuring his right arm. But Brandon returned from his off-season escapades with a recovering arm and a changed attitude – sort of. As Jay Cutler later put it,

"Brandon will be Brandon."

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Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

Happy Monday to you, or whatever day it might be as you read this, from the Department of Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations.  It's been a slow news week for the Broncos and the NFL, but that can't slow us down.  Ready, begin...

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Tales from the SunnySide: Cody Brown

The change to a 3-4 alignment has become increasingly popular in the NFL, as have integrating the hybrid formations. There are several reasons: Although their roots are several decades old, like all alignments, they are most recently emerging in response to the increasingly complex offenses and to rule changes that favor the offense.

Like every approach, they have strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is the availability of linebackers who are otherwise ‘tweeners' - those who are too big for the more-traditional 4-3 formations, yet who lack the size and strength for the 4-3 DE position, much less the two-gap 3-4. Our colleges turn out many of these players each year, and with the growing 3-4 movement, the best of them can have a solid career in the NFL. And that's where Cody Brown comes in.

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The fall of the Denver rushing attack

From 1995-2008, the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan's leadership were known to run the ball about as well as any team in the NFL did anything. The Denver running game was on a par with the Baltimore defense, the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf, and the KC return games with Dante Hall. That is to say, Denver's rushing attack developed quite a reputation over the years, especially as Shanny turned late-rounders like Terrell Davis and Mike Anderson into stars. The word has been "anyone can run in the Denver offense," and "Mike Shanahan turns watery running backs into wine." Well, perhaps both appear to be true, but we as Broncos fans know the truth - Shanny, Bobby Turner, Alex Gibbs and later Rick Dennison put together a beautiful system to run in and found players to fit that system at relatively low prices in the draft. No, they did not turn bad running backs into great ones - they simply found the best players to feature in their one-cut, zone-block scheme. One of them happened to be an all-time great runner, perhaps the greatest in NFL Playoffs History, Hall of Fame snubs aside. But that, of course, is for another post.

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Things we knew about Iron Clady

Early this season, I published a story about Ryan Clady, comparing him to Joe Thomas (find it here). No one from the MHR was unkind enough to disabuse me of that notion, but I tried not to suggest that he would be as good as quickly. That was a very good thing, since for his first year, he wasn't. Clady was better. Greatly better.

To show just how much, I just caught a link in Walter Football, listing the number of sacks that each LT gave us. We all knew that Clady was the best over the 1st 16 games with 0.5 sacks. Seeing it again in print brought it back to me. Remarkable that one of the Pro Bowl players, Jason Peters had 11.5 sacks in 13 games. The near legendary Joe Thomas? 3.5 sacks, the same as another Pro Bowler, Walter Jones.  At least Michael Roos came close with a single sack.

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Shallow Thoughts & Nearsighted Observations

1.  I decided to do a Pro Bowl edition of ST&NO, to mark the occasion of what I believe is the first time I've ever deemed it worth my time to watch the Pro Bowl live.  I expect that this will be the first of many for Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, and it should have been the first for Ryan Clady also.

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Peyton Hillis: The Hammer in 2009?

There has been a lot of buzz on MHR recently about the RB situation and particularly regarding a central question going into next year: Who will be our RBs? Should we use a high draft pick on the famed ‘Home Run Hitter' running back, or is a different approach a better option? It's a great discussion, and there is a lot to be said on all sides.

The Broncos nearly didn't have the pick that brought Hillis to them. They received it from Tampa Bay in the Jake Plummer trade. While Plummer is happy sticking to handball, the 7th round pick they sent us has produced an exciting and solid performer. Hillis has raised the bar for our RB group. He's going to be hard to stop and hard to top.

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