2011 bold fantasy football prediction: Knowshon Moreno won’t make it a full season as top dog in Denver

After weeks upon weeks of hot, dry weather baked the landscape in and around the communities near the chinstrapninjas.com world headquarters, several days of steady rain has helped take the edge off the crispy brown lawns and parched corn fields.

Yet while farmers and gardeners and anyone who has a vested interest in anything outdoors were celebrating, others were quick to complain about the dreary weather and how a trip to the local community pool had to be postponed. No matter what the situation, we as a race can fall on polar-opposite sides. People see things from all different angles. People love to share their opinions. People love a good debate.

Which is why I can’t sit idly by when colleague sockonfl shared his viewpoints that one Knowshon Moreno was primed to be a 2011 sleeper option.

My bold prediction for 2011? Moreno doesn’t even make it to the end of the season as Denver’s top back.

I know. That’s crazy talk. Moreno is young (24), uber-talented and currently considered the clear No. 1 in the Broncos offense. He gained a run-heavy coach in John Fox who made fantasy stars out of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and even Mike Goodson at clips last year.

And, for the moment, Moreno is looking good in camp. According to the Denver Post recently, Moreno is the “healthiest, fittest and fastest” he’s ever looked as an NFL player.

As sockonfl points out, Moreno really came on strong at the end of the 2010 campaign, especially during weeks 10-14 with four TDs, 89 carries, 462 yards rushing and 22 catches for 220 yards through the air. The 5.19 yards per carry clip were easily the best of his young career.

However, it should be noted that this mini-Knowshon revival came against teams such as the Cardinals and the Rams and two times against a middle-of-the-pack Chiefs run defense.

Break it down even further, and you notice that out of that stretch, 267 of those yards came against the Chiefs alone. He ran 22 times for 106 yards in week 10 versus Kansas City and then 23 times for 161 yards at Arrowhead in Week 13.

Take those two games out of the equation and Knowshon finished with just 512 yards on the ground (he didn’t come close to 100 yards rushing in any other game). More importantly, the OK 4.3 yards per carry he averaged during the 2010 season drops to a much less impressive 3.7 yards per tote.

And the yards per carry are an important stat to consider with Moreno after a disappointing rookie season where he managed 3.8 yards per carry and many pundits were calling for his head as a flop heading into last year’s various fantasy drafts.

Like sockonfl does a good job of pointing out, this is the first season that Moreno has entered the campaign healthy. One would expect that to lead to better numbers out of the gate. Then again, the fact that he’s just entering his third season and has been hampered by so many injuries makes one question Moreno’s ability to stay on the field – at least enough to bank on him as a weekly fantasy starter.

And yet, to me, the biggest red flags registered this offseason. It started back in March when Fox admitted there was no doubt the team would make it a priority to bring in another back.

John Legworld, of the Denver Post, suggested in May that the Broncos viewed Moreno as a “situational” role player at best – not an every-down feature back.

A few weeks later, Woody Paige, also of the Post, mentioned that the Denver front office has decided that Knowshon is “not a big-time running back.”

A few weeks after that, another Post writer, Mike Klis, agreed with Legworld and Paige, suggesting that the Broncos were looking at other options.

John Fox himself stated on July 12 that obtaining a running back would Denver’s No. 1 priority once free agency kicked off.

All parties changed their tunes not long after the lockout subsided and teams were negotiating. What changed their minds? It wasn’t as if they saw something big out of Moreno during a practice since at that point players weren’t officially practicing at facilities yet.

Around that same time, teams started negotiating with possible free agents. It was apparent that Carolina was willing to spring quite a lot for DeAngelo Williams and I would argue that Denver’s decision makers realized pretty quickly that they would not be able to afford the type of running back they coveted.

So, they changed gears and started pumping up Moreno as their guy. They were giving him every chance to succeed. He was going to have a “breakout” season. All things that could easily fall into the category of “coach speak.”

Ultimately, there is no doubt that Moreno is an injury risk. There is no doubt he has struggled on the whole to gain a respectable yards per carry total (especially when you remove those two extremely inflated games against the Chiefs last year). There is also no doubt that numerous sources within and around the Broncos organization were not as tickled with Moreno just a month ago when there were possibly better options available on the horizon.

And, to boot, the Broncos drew a much harder schedule in 2011. They have out of division games against the Jets, Patriots, Bears, Packers and other very solid defenses.

I expect Moreno to have a short leash, at best, in 2011. If (and that is a big if) he can stay healthy for a full season, he still will face some adversity. Not many backs have made a successful career at sub-4 yards per carry clips.

Sure there is a lot of potential, but then again, I can draft backs with similar upside and less red flags around the same rounds of my respective redraft leagues.

What do you think Moreno will do in 2011? We’d love to hear your comments in the section below.

3 Responses to “2011 bold fantasy football prediction: Knowshon Moreno won’t make it a full season as top dog in Denver”

  1. Krause

    So… Who do we handcuff?

  2. jzak

    Well, on paper at least, Willis McGahee is the guy. The Broncos nailed down Willis with a four-year deal meaning they plan on using him whenever they can moving forward. He is better suited, however, for short yardage situations. Lance Ball is currently rated the third RB on the depth chart, but it is hard to get too excited about his prospects overall. He averaged under four yards per toe over 41 carries last season and doesn’t have the breakaway abilities you’d hope for in a featured back. LenDale White is yet another big back more suited for short yardage situations. Jeremiah Johnson is expected to be a non-factor at best.

    With all that said, I would gamble the most on the Broncos adding a back at some point this season depending on who becomes available and how they best suit the Broncos needs.

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