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Spotlight: Knowshon Moreno

posted by Cecil Lammey on Jul 25th

Cecil Lammey's thoughts

I had high hopes for Knowshon Moreno coming out of college. I was the first person in the Denver media to interview him once he arrived at Dove Valley after being selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Sure, Moreno wasn't the fastest back, nor was he the biggest. I felt he would overcome those shortcomings with instincts, heart, and determination. That hasn't happened so far over the last two years and I find myself ready to give up on Moreno. The Broncos may feel the same way and it's why RB is their top priority in free agency according to head coach John Fox.

So what happened? I pride myself on knowing RB talent, and usually identify stars (or busts) at the position quickly. Several things could be pointed out as to why Moreno has failed to play like a number 1 back.

First, durability has been a major concern for Moreno. He suffered a knee injury during training camp of his rookie season. Then last year he battled through two serious hamstring injuries. The back that was the picture of durability in college simply hasn't stayed healthy as a pro.

Second, Moreno has appeared out of shape during games. Too often during his first two seasons we would see him break off a 'big' 5-yard run then wave for the sidelines because he was tired. Former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels gave Moreno every opportunity to perform like a true workhorse back and too often Moreno failed to produce. Rumblings have come out from people close to the organization that Moreno may lack the work ethic to succeed as a pro.

Finally, his skill set just isn't that of a featured back in the NFL. He's not fast or sudden. Thus he is often too slow to hit the hole or get to the cutback lane. He's not big or elusive either. Running the ball in the pros is all about creating space. Backs can do that by running over or around people. Moreno has struggled to do both. He's certainly not a big play back. Over two years he has only had 5 runs over 20-yards. By comparison, undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount had 7 carries over 20-yards in his rookie season last year. Fantasy owners also need to note that Blount is purely a power runner and didn't start producing until week 7 of last year.

So that leads us to 2011, a true make or break year for Moreno. The Broncos are going to add at least one veteran RB in free agency and may add a couple of undrafted free agents at the position too. The team needs better depth and more competition for spots on the depth chart. Moreno is set to face stiff competition for the starting job and may be relegated to a change of pace back this season. Let's take a look at the cloudy outlook for a back at his career's crossroads.

Questions about Knowshon entering the 2011 season:

Who do the Broncos add at the RB position in free agency?
The caliber of RB the team adds will show what they truly feel about Moreno. Recent reports indicate they are not ready to give up on Moreno - yet. Their top target in free agency is superstar RB DeAngelo Williams, who produced big numbers under John Fox in Carolina. There's a good chance the Broncos land him soon after free agency opens. If Williams is indeed on his way to Denver it will signal the end for Moreno as the team's featured runner. Williams is also a good receiver out of the backfield, which may limit Moreno's numbers as a pass catching back. If they're unable to get Williams we could see them make a move for a guy like Jason Snelling or Ronnie Brown. Adding one of those backs would signal the team's intention to use a RBBC with carries split almost evenly between the two backs. Snelling would make sense because Broncos GM Brian Xanders was with the Falcons when Snelling was selected in the seventh-round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Moreno's fantasy value takes less of a hit if a secondary back like Snelling is added.

Can Moreno stay healthy in 2011?
This is a huge question mark for Moreno entering this year. He was tough and durable in college, but can't seem to catch a break in the pros. Big hits have certainly taken their effect on Moreno over the last two years. Lack of proper conditioning might have also led to the injury bug infecting Moreno during his pro career. This offseason Moreno has lost 15 pounds in order to be quicker and faster. Better conditioning and sharing the workload could equal a full season of action for Moreno in 2011.

If the team does use a RBBC how productive can Moreno be?
In 2009 John Fox used both RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams extensively, and both rushed for over 1,100-yards each. Moreno is not the same talent as Stewart and Williams, so expecting him to produce at a similar clip is a stretch. Going back to 2006 and 2007 (with DeShaun Foster in the lead role and DeAngelo Williams in the secondary role) John Fox gave his secondary back 144 and 121 carries respectively. If the Broncos add DeAngelo Williams then Moreno is probably in line for about 140 carries and 30 receptions. The reduced workload would help keep him healthy, but he wouldn't exactly be a fantasy stud with those numbers.

Is Moreno's lost weight a good or bad thing?
Moreno wants to be quicker and faster but losing 15 pounds may not have been a good idea. Lack of durability has plagued Moreno and losing weight won't help him hold up to the beating one takes in the NFL. Sure, he's lighter but his footwork is what needs the most improvement. Moreno has always had good instincts but his feet can't keep up with his brain. This is why he's good at anticipating a hole but lacks the change of direction skill to get there in time. Losing weight is good for Moreno as a pass catching back, but it's bad for him if he's asked to carry a majority of the role.

Will Moreno improve his work ethic and preparation this year?
Every player needs to learn how to become a professional. Moreno is no different. He's been working very hard this offseason and wants desperately to prove his critics wrong. Moreno knows this is a make or break year and his career could be defined by what he does (or doesn't do) this season. He's taken his conditioning more seriously this year than ever before. That could pay dividends in a higher yards per carry in 2011.


  • Good receiver out of the backfield
  • Protects the QB with pass blocking skills
  • Motivated to prove doubters wrong


  • Likely to be replaced by free agent RB as team's starter
  • Not a big play threat
  • Durability a major concern

Final thoughts

New Broncos head coach John Fox wants to build a sophisticated ground game in Denver. He knows how to find RB talent and went four deep in Carolina with quality backs like DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Goodson, and Tyrell Sutton. This is the perfect situation for a RB capable of carrying a big load at the pro level. So far Moreno has failed to prove that he can do that. Yes, Moreno's working hard this offseason but might be replaced by DeAngelo Williams if the Broncos can get him in free agency. His current ADP is RB20 which is simply too high for a back on the verge of losing his role. Moreno can have a role with the Broncos but it may be only as a change of pace back who comes in to give Williams a breather. Again, the caliber of back the Broncos add in free agency will tell you exactly what they think about Moreno. It's a make or break year for Moreno to be sure, just don't let him break your fantasy heart. Proceed with caution when considering the oft-injured underachieving back.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

In his two previous seasons, Knowshon Moreno has failed to live up to expectations. In his rookie campaign, he averaged just over 15 carries per game with a high of 23 and only four games with over 20. A year ago, he missed three games and averaged 14 carries per game with a high of 24 and only three games with over 20.

He has been a fairly reliable receiver averaging 33 catches per year and 9.0 ypc with 5 TDs on receptions. However, with his inability to take charge in his first two seasons and now being coached by John Fox, it appears even more likely in 2011 that he will see a shared back-field which will continue to limit his chances.

I see Moreno as a good, but not great back in the NFL and like someone stated above, I think this situation definitely needs to be revisited after free agency because I think that there will be another RB added to the mix.

As of now, I will project a similar season to what we have seen in the past two seasons, with a slight downtick based on presumed better competition that Buckhalter, Maroney, Lance Ball or LaMont Jordan. Sounds sadder that he could not command more carries against that illustrious competition.

footballsavvy said:

Man, people are so biased based on stat lines. You can not overlook critical factors that play a huge role in those stat lines. Just like everyone writing off LT as if his "decline" in SD had nothing to do with a drop in o-line performance and his injuries. Then when he busts out the gate last season everyone starts backpedalling.

Moreno started the 2010 the season with a hamstring tear and returned to action Week 6, fresh off a major injury against the Jets. By all account he should struggle immensely coming off of that injury against one of the leagues best defenses. He is given 12 carries and manages 48 yards. Not a bad comeback-from-injury game.

So that game initiated his streak of mostly-helathy games last year. Here are those games...

6 4.8 vs Jets (P) 12 48 1
7 24.0 vs Raiders 14 53 0 3 37 2 6
8 9.9 at 49ers 11 40 0 4 19 4
9 Bye
10 24.6 vs Chiefs 22 106 0 3 50 1 3
11 25.0 at Chargers 13 58 1 0 7 62 7
12 23.8 vs Rams 12 56 1 1 6 62 9
13 18.5 at Chiefs 23 161 0 1 14 3
14 22.3 at Cardinals 19 81 1 0 5 32 7

So over an 8 game stretch he had: 126 Carries for 603 yards and 29 receptions for 276 receiving yards and 6 total TDs

Yard per carry were 4.78 (you still guaranteeing he won't sniff 5 ypc in a better running offense? that's a pretty bold prediction to me)

Over 16 weeks those stats would have been 252 Carries 1204 yards 58 receptions 552 receiving yards with 12 total TDs. That's 305 fantasy points which would have landed him as the #2 RB in the nfl last year. And that's behind one of the worst run-blocking teams in the NFL.

Their o-line will presumably start the season healthy. Half the existing o-line were originally selected to be zone blockers before McDaniels tried to convert them. Now they are going back to zone blocking. Moreno's 2011 season could be absolutely massive. I know that's just upside and speculation, but it is not based on whims and gut. It's based on logical extrapolation.

Even in a committee, if he gets around 200 rush attempts and 40-50 receptions he would still be considered a "buy low". As it stands now, however, he is very likely to see 250+ rush attempts and represents one of the biggest Buy Low players in fantasy football right now.

Moreno can play ball. That's why scouts were willing to draft him so high. Elways is rpedicting a breakout season. His stats during healthy streaks, behind a horrible run-blocking line, back this up. I don't know if he can stay healthy, but at his current asking price his injury risk is almost an irrelevant issue.

fightingillini said:

Maybe you should look at last year's stats.....Tebow scored 6 TDs. Before the end of the year, Tebow came into games for Orton near the goalline.....defenses knew what was coming.....and he still scored 6 times.

I highly doubt DEN isn't going to allow Tebow the option of running it in near the's a strong part of Tebow's game. Tebow can flat out punch it in near the goalline. So I can't see a scenario where Tebow doesn't score at least 5 TDs on the ground. I would probably project 6 rushing TDs for Tebow, but I wouldn't be surprised if he scored 9 like Vick did last year. That is certainly enough vulturing to severely limit Moreno's upside. To get into the top 10 RBs, you generally need to score 10+ TDs or in PPR leagues catch 50+ passes. Moreno is highly unlikely to do either of these.

Knowshon Moreno projections

Cecil Lammey1455902302731
Message board consensus2209767393071