Spotlight: Knowshon Moreno

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 29th


Jason Wood's thoughts

Footballguys is a house divided on Knowshon Moreno. As I write this, 17 staffers have Moreno ranked from a high of 7th to a low of 23rd at his position. The average ranking among the staff puts Moreno at RB14, which coincidentally coincides with where he's coming off the board on average. I have him ranked RB11, toward the higher end of the spectrum, but I admit that he's one of the backs who could go either way this year.

Anytime you're evaluating a player's opportunity, I think it's important to look at the positive and negative factors and let that lead you to a conclusion. Far too often we have a bias about someone and then look for stats or video clips or new blurbs to support that bias. Rigorous analysis should be done the other way around. While it's not always easy, I think it's a feasible approach.

To that end, I have NO preconceptions about Moreno this year when I set out to do my projections. I wouldn't have been surprised if my analysis led me down a path that argued he was undraftable at his ADP, nor was I surprised when I ultimately found that I think he'll be slightly better than most expect. So let's discuss the factors I think work against him this year, and then of course why I think the positives offset those risks at his current draft position.

Positive -- He was a Top 20 fantasy back as a rookie
You would think from listening to Moreno's detractors that he was a flop as a rookie. Yet for fantasy purposes, he finished as the 17th best back, a viable #2 in most leagues. He tallied 1,160 yards from scrimmage and 9 TDs. It's fair to say he didn't light the world on fire, but he was a valuable fantasy player by any measure.

Negative -- 35% of his fantasy points came against two attrocious defenses
Moreno racked up 54 carries for 224 yards (4.1 YPR) and 5 TDs in three games against the Chiefs (x2) and the Giants, who ranked 26th and 30th in rushing TDs allowed, respectively.

Positive -- The Broncos have to run the ball a lot this year to succeed
The Broncos have Kyle Orton under center, and a receiving corps that's a real head scratcher. Eddie Royal was the worst starter in the league last year, Jabar Gaffney could surprise but is the definition of a journeyman, Demaryius Thomas is a long-term option but too raw to be expected to help this year, and Eric Decker is banged up rookie. As if that weren't enough, the TE corps is bereft or proven pass catchers. Ergo, the Broncos realize they HAVE to run the ball consistently if they have any hope of remaining competitive.

Negative -- Opposing defenses know it
Defensive coordinators are going to look at the Broncos roster and see a team that has to prove it can throw the ball downfield. As a result, I suspect they will stack the line with regularity and challenge Denver to beat them in the air. If Orton surprises, then defenses will adjust and normalize. But if he can't? And I'm not sure he can...then Moreno is going to face a lot of intense fronts.

Positive -- The Broncos bolstered the interior offensive line
The team emphasized the O-line in the April draft, and came away with three potential contributors. 2nd round pick Zane Beadles should start at LG immediately, while 3rd rounder J.D. Walton and 6th rounder Eric Olsen will, at worst, provide better depth and, at best, work their way into the center/guard battle themselves at some point soon.

Negative -- Ryan Clady is a question mark
Ryan Clady is one of the best young tackles in football and the marquis player on the Broncos offensive line. Unfortunately Clady tore his patella tendon during a basketball game in April. The typical recovery from such an injury is 6-8 months, but the team and Clady insist he'll be back at some point before Week One. If Clady isn't healthy, that's a very big risk to the prospects for the entire Broncos team.

Positive -- Moreno should be actively involved in the receiving game this year
Looking beyond the box score, Moreno was considered a skilled receiver as a rookie by NFL draft scouts. Sometimes we fantasy owners confuse RBs that are skilled receivers versus those who are capable of hauling in a dump off pass for a few yards. Moreno is fluid, and can run routes. Given the lack of downfield receiving options, and Kyle Orton's history (he had the nickname Captain Dumpoff in Chicago), Moreno should catch a ton of passes this year. In points-per-reception leagues, that really helps insulate him from being a disappointment.

Negative -- Scoring opportunities might be hard to come by
Overall, I don't expect great things from Denver this season. So even though I think Moreno will get an overwhelming number of touches and have value, I do wonder how often he'll get into the red zone and, ergo, get goal line carries. Some may not realize that Moreno was 7th in the league last year in red zone carries, and all of his TDs (rushing and receiving) came from inside the 20.

Positives

  • Moreno was drafted by Josh McDaniels and the Broncos personnel department to be the centerpiece of their offensive efforts
  • Moreno has good hands, isn't afraid of contact, and managed a RB17 season as a rookie in spite of hitting a rookie wall in the final month
  • Denver has a fantastic schedule in the all important fantasy playoff weeks of 14-17, according to our Clayton Gray's Ultimate Strength of Schedule analysis

Negatives

  • Moreno hit the wall last year, averaging a disturbing 2.5 yards per carry over the final month of the season
  • The Broncos look to have few other weapons, and opposing defenses may be able to stack the line with regularity
  • OT Ryan Clady could miss a chunk of the season with a torn patella tendon, and there's no one on the roster than can approximate his value

Final thoughts

In a league where workhorse RBs are no longer the norm, Moreno has appealing potential. If healthy, he should be the focal point of the Broncos offense. Unfortunately he's banged up again this preseason and the Broncos have gone so far as to sign the likes of LenDale White and Justin Fargas. Whereas I would've happily targeted Moreno as my RB2 in the 3rd or 4th round with glee a few months ago, I've now downgraded him and need to see him prove himself before I'm willing to commit. As a result, I'll probably not be rostering Moreno on many teams this year, which is OK by me. You can't target everyone, and his risk/reward now seems out of balance to me, particularly when you factor in the questions about the Broncos offensive line.


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:

Denver's QBs are Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and Tim Tebow, so they look to be limited going down the field. Their WR corps are Gaffney (career 12.3 ypc), Royal (career 10.4 ypc), Stokley (career 14.1 ypc) and two rookies. Thomas should develop into a down field threat, but a rookie coming off injury doesn't look to be an immediate impact. They shipped off their good receiving TE. Knowshon Moreno was definitely outplayed a year ago by Correll Buckhalter, a now 31 year old journeyman at best who has missed three entire seasons on IR.

I am just not seeing an offensive juggernaut here in Denver. Moreno should be good for at least 1,000 yards rushing, but it will be tough going with very little spread the field threat. I think that Denver will regularly line up against eight in the box, so I wouldn't be confident in projecting a good ypc for any Bronco RB. In 09, Buckhalter led the way with 5.4 while Hillis with limited chances had 4.2. Moreno had 3.8 in 247 carries and Jordan had 3.4.

I know that some are pointing to an easier schedule, but it looks to me like the loss of Marshall will more than overturn the less demanding schedule. Possibly this is a location where Westbrook winds up as it is obvious that the Broncos need all the weapons they can get.

I think that unless the Broncos add another back that Moreno will be the bell-cow, but it will be a tough year to endure for him, the Broncos, and their fans. At this point, Moreno is going as the RB 15 and 32 overall and though the stats below may match that draft slot, it sure doesn't seem that he should go that high.

SSOG said:

What's athletically gifted about him? Was it the fact that he ran a scorching 4.50 at a whopping 217 pounds? Was it that 9'7" broad jump or the 35.5" vertical?

For some perspective... Ben Tate ran a 4.34 at 220 pounds, with a 10'4" broad and 40.5" vert. Matt Forte ran a 4.44 at 217 pounds with a 9'10" broad and a 33" vertical. Shonn Greene a 4.62 @ 227 pounds with a 10'1" broad and a 37" vertical. Knowshon Moreno's combine numbers are pretty comparable to what you'd expect from a 2nd or 3rd round RB, not the #12 draft pick. I'd call him a pretty thoroughly average athlete.

In case what you're wondering what one of the most athletically gifted RBs in the league DOES look like... Jonathan Stewart ran a 4.46 at a whopping 235 pounds, with a 10'8" broad jump and a 36.5" vertical- superior numbers across the board despite being an inch shorter and 20 pounds heavier.

CaptainHook said:

The stats guys are the only people who could be high on moreno at this point. it would be generous to call him pedestrian last year. buckhalter looked worlds better.

The only things he has going for him are a probable high workload(which is probably the #1 determinant of fantasy value) and the fact that he produced in college so we know he's capable in the right situation.

The running game was obviously very good last year given Buck's 5.4ypc thus we can probably expect moreno's situation to be either the same or worse.

I'll give his ypc a slight bump since to be fair it was his rookie year and he was also a little dinged.

The thing I was most unimpressed with was his short yardage ability and although I don't have any stats handy, what I saw was NOT promising. A slower guy like moreno needs to be able to run through people to be useful and I saw absolutely none of that.

270/1080/5TDs.
35/260/2TDs.

Will put up decent fantasy numbers due to volume as opposed to skill, which can be particularly useful when the rest of your fantasy team is strong since it is stable and predictable and shuold reduce week to week variance.


Knowshon Moreno projections

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