Montee Ball will be Denver's new lead running back. Is he worth a first-round fantasy draft pick?
Ball is worth first-round risk
A lot of fantasy football fans will argue that taking a player with no real track record for success is too much of a risk to draft in the first round. But guess what happens every year? A player who has never had great success puts up first-round totals. Last year we saw the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Lacy, DeMarco Murray and Josh Gordon all accomplish this feat. I like Ball to be one of those players in 2014. He is in a great situation to succeed in an offense where Peyton Manning's presence keeps defenses honest ... just ask Moreno. Ball might not be the flashiest runner in the NFL, but he runs between the tackles and should see more than his share of goal-line work. He also doesn't have a lot of competition behind him on the depth chart, which makes Ball a good bet to see 300 touches. And for those of you who think he is a fumbler and can't pass protect, just take a look at the tape in the second half of last season. Those labels are unfair and don't fit. So is taking Ball in the first round a risk? Yes, but it's a risk I'm willing to take at a position that comes at a real premium.
Not enough upside with Ball
Absolutely not. I have high hopes for Ball this season, but in no way should he be drafted in the first round. First-round picks should be high-ceiling, high-floor players. Matt Forte is a perfect example. He has the potential to lead all running backs in fantasy scoring. Will he? Likely not. But he's going to score for you consistently, which is what you want in a first-round pick. Ball has a tremendously high ceiling, but could also end up back in a committee by Week 2. You typically don't win your league with a first round pick. But you can certainly lose it by taking too much of a risk when there are bankable players available, and that's what could happen with Ball.
Need to see consistency first
When I'm considering my first-round pick, I want a player I'm certain is going to give me a consistent level of production. While I'm sure Montee Ball is going to put up bigger numbers than he did last year, I'm not sold on his ability to post the kind of weekly totals I'd expect from a top 10 selection. It's not a popular opinion, but I'd rather take a wide receiver like Calvin Johnson near the end of the first round than reach on an unproven talent like Ball.
First round is too rich
There was an establishment in Costa Mesa, Calif., we used to hang out at back in the day. It wasn't much to look at, but it did have shuffleboard! And if you don't know this about me, I'm a shuffleboard junkie.
The only drawback of this place was the jukebox. This was just before the digital jukebox became all the rage and we were subjected to the horrible selections provided by the manager. Actually, the manager was super proud when she bought Collective Soul's "Dosage" when it first came out. And the sad thing was, it immediately became the best album on the jukebox. So was no surprise that we burned many quarters playing "Heavy" on repeat. It wasn't the best song in the world, but it shined compared to the competition. (Yes, pun definitely intended.)
And this all reminds me of Montee Ball. A running back whose value has soared in recent weeks because of the dearth of fantasy running backs. I like him, but I'm not going crazy. I'd be tickled to pick him up as an RB2, but there is no way I will spend a first-round pick on him. The price is too (wait for it) heavy for me.
Ball's a second-tier RB
There are too many RBs I'd take ahead of Ball to make him a first-rounder. In no particular order: LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris, Eddie Lacy, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, LeVeon Bell, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles are definites, and I'd also go Calvin Johnson ahead of him, so that's ten right there.
Ball is in a group with Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Ben Tate and DeMarco Murray for 2014. This doesn't mean I don't like him, I just like him as my No. 2 RB more than my No. 1. He'll come off the board in most drafts by the end of the second round, so if you like him, you can't wait longer than that.