Faceoff - RB Ron Dayne, Denver Broncos
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Upside - by Cecil Lammey
To quote SSOG from the Shark Pool , “You can hate Ron Dayne all you want, but once he steps into the starting job in Denver, he's no longer Ron Dayne. He's suddenly "RB Denver" (Super Tecmo Bowl style)... and "RB Denver" is a stud.” I love that quote and it perfectly sums up the Ron Dayne that we will see in 2006. Forget everything that you’ve known about Dayne. Let other owners in your league believe that Dayne will still be an out of shape slob. Let’s go over what we do know about Dayne currently.
He is a powerful runner that is hard to bring down once he gets a full head of steam. He plays more like a tailback despite his size, and is surprisingly nimble for a big man. Unlike most big backs Dayne can challenge the edges of a defense, which only makes him a more dangerous runner in the one-cut system. During his days at Wisconsin he tore up opposing defenses, and ended his collegiate career as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher. He has good vision, patience, and instincts for running the football.
Mike Shanahan can transform nearly any type of RB into a 1000-yard rusher for the Broncos. There are certain rushers that are better suited for the Denver offense, and Shanahan knows that Dayne is that type of back. He specifically sought out Dayne after he was released by the Giants, and he re-signed him after seeing him for one year in Denver. Dayne will take over the Mike Anderson role in this offense and looks to have the most productive season of his career.
I am not a Ron Dayne fan. I feel he has been a huge bust to this point in his career. But now he’s getting a chance that not many do. He is hungry, capable, and has the support of the coaching staff. Denver didn’t draft a RB, and have conveyed the message that Dayne is their guy no matter what. He will get every opportunity he’s ever dreamed of, and should make the most of it in 2006.
Downside - by Jeff Pasquino
HC Mike Shanahan loves to keep everyone guessing who will be the featured running back in Denver each year. In 2005, the speculation was between Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson. Both wound up splitting time in the backfield and still were Top 25 running backs for the season.
With all that production for the Broncos running game, it is no wonder that Ron Dayne is considered to be a good value this season. After all, two backs shared duties for Denver in 2005, so even if Dayne gets just some of the production and shares time with Tatum Bell this season he should be worth an early 2006 draft pick, correct?
There are a few arguments against doing just that – so let’s talk about them.
First is Dayne’s history. Aside from a stellar performance last Thanksgiving, Dayne has been a considerable disappointment as an NFL rusher. He has never had a 500+ yard season, nor has he averaged over four yards a carry until 2005. In five years with the Giants, his yardage production decreased every (active) season.
What about 2005? Dayne did have 56 touches for 287 total yards and a rushing average over five yards. However, digging deeper reveals that 24 of his 52 carries were for two yards or less, a 46% clip. Everyone remembers his Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys, as he broke off three carries over 14 yards including a huge 55-yard run in overtime. Looking at his other carries for last season reveals a truer glimpse of the future for Dayne in Denver – a back that produces two yards or fewer almost half of the time.
Coupling with Dayne’s track record are the other running backs in Denver this season. The obvious incumbent for the feature back role is RB Tatum Bell, who put up respectable numbers in a shared role with Mike Anderson, but even he had issues hidden in his statistics. Exactly 50% of his 184 carries last year were for two yards or less.
So who else is there to consider? Mike Shanahan loves to find diamonds in the rough, so you cannot dismiss dark horses such as Cedric Cobbs or rookie Mike Bell. Both could find themselves entrenched in the backfield this season, rendering Dayne as an afterthought on the depth chart.