May 1st, and it's a cold, snowy day in Colorado Springs. Very few fellow employees are in today (for reasons not related to the snow.) I have a Nalgene bottle full of warm green tea. Yep, time to put down some thoughts on a draft pick that has my attention: Peyton Hillis, FB out of Arkansas.
6' 3/4" 240 lb, 31.5" arms, 9" hands
Schmitt: 6' 2" 247 lb, 32" arms, 9 3/8" hands
Hestor: 5' 10.5" 226 lb, 31" arms, 10.5" hands
40 time: 4.58 (Schmitt 4.70, Hestor 4.60)
Benchpress: 26 reps (Schmitt 26, Hestor 23)
Vertical: 30" (Schmitt NA, Hestor 27)
The scouting report on Hillis labels him as a 'tweener: he's faster than most fullbacks and a better blocker than most running backs...but he's not exceptionally fast, and he's not as strong as the stereotypical fullback. He can run the ball, but isn't the best power/short-yardage back you will see. He projects more as Brian Leonard of St. Louis.
What does he bring to the table then? In a single word: versatility. Sharing the backfield with Darren McFadden AND Felix Jones (both 1st round selections this year), he still managed to rack up 347 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. He also snagged 49 catches for 537 yards and 5 TDs. He has lined up at fullback, H-back, tailback, tight end, wide receiver, kickoff returner and punt returner for the Razorbacks. Peyton is smart, with good awareness and a non-stop motor. He has had some injuries, but I do not get too concerned with injuries (it is football, after all) until a single injury becomes chronic.
So, what does this mean for Bronco fans? Initially, his best bet for playing time will be on special teams (as is the case for most lower-round picks and UDFAs.) But the big hope relates directly to something HoosierTeacher has been discussing for quite awhile: the near-mythical 3-TE Set (if you haven't read this piece, please do so!) To run 3-TE sets, you need (ready?)...three good tight ends! HT points out that both Denver and Pittsburgh are the teams most likley the field the 3-TE Set soonest, with both teams capable of running effective 2-TE Sets right now. Denver has aniel Graham (excellent blocker, respectable receiver), and Tony Scheffler (so-so blocker, excellent receiver.) Peyton Hillis could be the hyprid do-it-all in this set. He could potentially line up anywhere (out wide, in tight, as an H-Back, or back as a Fullback.) He could motion out to any other spot, creating mismatches and improving Cutler's reads on the defense.
But that is probably still a year to so away. In the mean time, Denver has a fullback that can block better than the converted RBs over the past couple of years, and is a legitimate play action receiving threat in the redzone. While the improved blocking is nice, I see the receiving threat out of the backfield as being even more important. Once a staple of the Denver offense, the play-action pass to a fullback out of the backfield has been a rarity lately. WIth Hillis, I see it coming back.
Okay, I think that's it for now. My curiosity was piqued with the Hillis pick, and I've cleared my head (for now.) I love the discussion of defensive vs. offensive systems...if I've missed something (likely), let me know!