Nothing in life comes easy. Hard work, perseverance and patience are what gets you ahead in the workplace. There is no one who knows this better than Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno.
Moreno was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Denver Broncos. After enjoying moderate success during his first two seasons, he was stripped of his starting duties when John Elway and John Fox revamped the roster. Over the next few seasons, Moreno showcased his lack of maturity, ending up in the doghouse often, while he was also dogged by injuries.
In 2012, Moreno turned himself around. He committed to working, improving and being a professional. He took over the starting role for an injured Willis McGahee and took off, finishing the season strong. The next year, Moreno overcame an off-season injury to claim the #1 RB spot by week 1 and went on to have a career year.
While Moreno was working back from injury, Ronnie Hillman was handed the starting job. He went on to fumble that job away, literally, during the preseason, before also fumbling away his role in the offense during the regular season.
Hillman handled being given a starting running back job in the NFL the way most normal 21 year-olds would; without any maturity or professionalism. Ronnie could have self-imploded. He could have become a huge distraction to the team. Hillman did neither, he took the Knowshon Moreno approach.
Former Denver Broncos interim head coach and current running backs coach, Eric Studesville, played a huge part in Moreno's redemption. He once said "I hope guys, young guys, older guys, anybody, look at what Knowshon did for himself, how he worked, how he carried himself to go from where he was to do what he did, and see that's exactly how you handle football adversity."
Since the beginning of organized team activities, Studesville has been raving about Hillman saying "From when we started this spring in April forward, he has been unbelievable. He's a completely different guy in the best possible way and I'm just excited about what he's doing, how he's approaching it, how he's making plays on the field. It's been great. It's been there the whole time, but we're finally seeing the maximum side of it. I didn't do a good job of bringing it out, but now we are, he's bringing it out."
For his part, Hillman has bought in. He has matured during his tenure with the Broncos and approaches his job differently. On the topic of what he has learned, he said "You have to be accountable. I probably relaxed a little bit last year when maybe I shouldn't have. It won't happen again. I come in here every day with a chip on my shoulder."
This all brings us to October 12th, 2014 and Ronnie Hillman's first start in the NFL. In their week 6 matchup, the Denver Broncos meet the New York Jets. The Jets rank 6th against the rush this season, allowing a meager 83 rush yards per game. They have also been great against running backs in the passing game, with Matt Forte being the only back to gain more than 20 yards receiving in a game, prior to the San Diego game last week. The San Diego game marked an overall disaster for the Jets, as they were not only shut out, but allowed 182 all purpose yards in addition to 2 touchdowns to undrafted rookie Branden Oliver.
Ronnie Hillman and Branden Oliver are similar players. Both are undersized and rely on their quickness and vision to find running lanes. Hillman gained 64 yards on 15 carries against the Cardinals, while looking explosive and finding the few holes the offensive line was able to open up. MHH Director of Video Content, Brandon Perna, took a stab at what the Broncos running game needs most , an analysis I fully agree with and think Hillman will help most with. Moreno caught 60 passes just last year. Hillman is a huge threat as a receiver out of the backfield and should find a ton of open space if the Broncos reintroduce this element to the offense.
The moral of this story: Ronnie Hillman is a solid fantasy start this week, to go along with every other Bronco that should be starting for you.