Montee Ball left Wisconsin as one of the most productive running backs in college football history. He established NCAA career marks for touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, and during his junior season tied Barry Sanders’ single-season touchdown record while leading the nation in yards from scrimmage. While Ball benefitted from playing in a run-oriented offense behind a consistent parade of behemoth offensive linemen, he was not merely a product of the system. Ball combined the patience to follow his blockers with an understanding of the scheme and where holes would develop, then burst through those holes with balance and agility. Though Ball lacks pure breakaway speed, he does not go down easily and picked up plenty of yards after contact.
Ball also demonstrated an understanding of pass protection and showed good hands at his pro day workout, but due to the system he played in and the fact that he wasn’t always on the field in passing situations he lacks experience in the passing game. Ball logged over a thousand touches in college, so for a running back his odometer is already on the high side; it’s worth noting that he put the ball on the ground just five times in those thousand-plus touches, so ball security is not a concern.
The easy comparison for Ball is fellow Badger Ron Dayne, but Ball dropped 20 pounds prior to his senior season to play at 214 and show he’s more than just a banger. Scouts draw more similarities between Ball’s game and current NFL backs Knowshon Moreno and Stevan Ridley; the use of a second-round pick suggests the Broncos tend to agree, and subsequently Ball may wind up displacing Moreno on the Denver roster.
Ball’s ability to handle all aspects of the passing game as well as his ball security should endear him to Peyton Manning, which will be key to his seeing the field on a regular basis as a rookie. While the offense still revolves around Manning, his teams have historically produced double-digit touchdown backs—and Ball clearly has a nose for the stripe. Moreover, he won’t see defenses stacked against him like he did at Wisconsin. It’s an excellent opportunity for Ball, who won’t have to shoulder a heavy workload like in college yet will be afforded a legitimate shot at fantasy productivity.