Some Clarification is in Order: Moreno, Labeling and the Future

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 12: Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos runs the ball in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 12, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

This has been a strange season already, but one of the more interesting things to note deals with the resurgence of Willis McGahee. Since Moreno has been injured most of the first quarter of the season, we've seen McGahee have a solid start to the season, and has been impressive for two games out of four. along with this surge in performance from McGahee there have been a lot of Mile High Report members calling Moreno a bust. Not to take anything away from McGahee's success this season, and I expect him to be a big part of this team's run game for the rest of the season, I do want to talk a bit about Knowshon Moreno's future with the Broncos and whether Moreno is a bust.

Definitions:

The real hard part about this is the term "bust" has varied means to fans. So rather than just rely on fans definitions I looked around to see when coaches, players and analysts used the term bust and what type of player they applied it too. So with that in mind I will make a composite of what experts have said about it. The term "bust" has a number of parts to it and because of that, there are multiple types of bust. Let's first break down what goes into a bust:

- Draft Position: No one would call a 7th rounder a bust, even if he never sets foot on a football field because of his draft spot. Similar with mid rounders (3-4), if a mid rounder becomes a starter, that's great, but if he's a solid special teams player or backup, he's meet expectations. For a mid rounder to bust, he'd have to never develop or be cut after a season or too. Players like kickers, punters and other positions are the exception. A 2nd rounder is expected to start, but it isn't required he start right away, but he is expected to have a solid career as a starter. A 2nd rounder is usually a bust if he doesn't ever really develop into a starter or excellent rotational player. 1st rounders vary greatly depending on just where in the round they are taken, though usually a 1st rounder is expected to be a starter or a long term answer at their position.

- Production: As we mentioned above, late rounders don't have to produce, but if they do they are steals, take Syd'Quan Thompson, who has easily outperformed his late round draft position merely by earning the nickle spot last season and this season, prior to his injury. Mid rounders also rarely bust because so little is lost, so a player who underperformers is just cast aside while players who develop are successes. 2nd rounder are where we start to find players who get the label of bust, especially if they are drafted using traded picks. Along with 1st rounders, by the end of their careers they are expected to be starters.

- Growth Progression: This is one smaller, but key, parts of a players labeling. Steve Young is the perfect example of this, he was a bust for the Bucs, there's no denying that because he never developed at the speed expected for a 1st round quarterback. Add in he didn't become a starter until his 30's in San Francisco, had he not been, well a Hall of Famer, he'd have been a bust there as well, because his development never really happened. Ricky Williams is similar, considered a bust by New Orleans because he didn't develop well there. David Carr is a player who might fit here, had he been drafted to a decent team, he might have been average, but because he was on such a struggling team, he never developed good habits and never grew as a quarterback. Slow development by a player has caused some to be labeled a bust.

Now let's take a look at the different type of "busts" and what caused them to bust.

- The Ultimate Bust: This is a player who combines all three categories. JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf fit this category, any player who is on a top 10 list would fit here as well. Russell and Leaf fit this because they combine all three areas. They were top 2 over all picks, meaning they are expected to be solid starters, either right away or be the future of the team long term, neither was able to fit billing. Secondly both underperformed for their draft spot, heck they underperformed at any draft spot, if they had been drafted in the 6th round and had those numbers, they wouldn't be busts, but because of their draft spots, that is so far below what is expected. Lastly they didn't progress. Leaf never managed to develop into any form of a starter, even after a few years in the league. The same can be said about Russell, though is a strong willed coach or program took Russell, that might have changed. This is the trifecta.Vernon Gholston would fit this mold too.

- The Overdrafted, Unlucky, Sad Little Man: This is a tough luck position for the draftee, the team that drafted him took him higher than he was expected to go, "reaching" if you will, and because of that the expectations are unrealistically high. These aren't bad players, just players whose fans had too high over expectations. Some examples of this Tyson Alualu, Aaron Curry, and just about any 1st round running back (I'll talk about that later). Alex Smith might fit this category, had he been a late 1st rounder or 2nd rounder, he'd have been about normal. He has more TD's than interceptions, decent accuracy and has been playing without a quality wide receiver. Had he gone later, he'd be labeled as a normal, average NFL quarterback, but because he was a #1 pick, he is a bust or borderline bust, depending how this season goes. Other examples: Reggie Bush, Brodrick Bunkley.

- Right Place, Wrong Production: This is the player taken where he was expected to go, not a player who was a reach pick, but never lived up to the expectations of their draft spot. These are usually a late 1st rounder or 2nd rounder, but a 3rd rounder could fit into this category. Jerome Simpson, Chad Henne, Vince Young are all players who were drafted where they were expected to go, but struggled to succeed. Others who might fit into this category would include Laurence Maroney, Pacman Jones, and J.J. Arrington.

- The Slow Learner: These are players who were players who weren't bad, but never developed into the player they were drafted and expected to be. Look at players like Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Braylon Edwards, or Mike Williams ( in Seattle). Now these players aren't bad, but guys like Williams are finally getting going, but it took forever. Leinart started at times, but never really progressed into a quality starting quarterback. Cutler and Edwards are decent players, but have never overcome weaknesses in their games that seriously hold them back, Edwards and ball control and Cutler and his decision making.

So from the reading I've done from experts, coaches and players about the term "bust" this is what I've found. Let's take a look to see if Moreno fits into any of those categories.

Moreno:

Let's look at this category by category. I think through basic logic Moreno doesn't fit into the Ultimate Bust category, he has was a top 10 pick, he hasn't sucked at the level of other Ultimate Busts, and he's been getting faster in recent months. He's also still in the league, which is a plus. He's not even close to being on a top 10 list of busts of all time, let alone top 10 Broncos busts.

Next up we have the Overdrafted, Unlucky, Sad Little Man category, he might fit into this one, but for a reason that isn't widely talked about, running backs aren't worth 1st round picks. Now obviously if you need a running back, a team should draft the best one available and as such, a player like Moreno might get taken early. The next grouping Right Place, Wrong Production is also connected to this. Moreno was a 1st round running back according to most draft gurus, so he was the right place, let's look at production. But we'll look at Moreno compared to other 1st rounders to see if he's living up to what other 1st round running backs are doing. We'll go back to 2000 and look at rushing yards per attempt and yards per game, receiving yards per game and total yards and touchdowns per season. By doing this we don't just look at totals, which can be inflated  by long play, this looks at how active they are each game and season. That way we can compare a player like Thomas Jones and Ryan Mathews. Let's take a look:

 

    Misc   Rushing
Rushing
Receiving
Total Average/Season  
Year Player Draft Tm AP1 PB Yds/Att Yds/Game Yds/Game Yards TD
2000 Thomas Jones ARI 0 1 4.0 61 12 1103 6
2000 Jamal Lewis BAL 1 1 4.2 81 14 1249 6
2000 Ron Dayne NYG 0 0 3.8 39 4 508 4
2000 Shaun Alexander SEA 1 3 4.3 77 12 1219 12
2000 Trung Canidate STL 0 0 4.6 24 6 339 2
2001 Michael Bennett MIN 0 1 4.4 35 12 500 2
2001 Deuce McAllister NOR 0 2 4.3 63 18 977 7
2001 LaDainian Tomlinson SDG 3 5 4.3 85 28 1783 14
2002 T.J. Duckett ATL 0 0 3.9 31 3 445 6
2002 William Green CLE 0 0 3.7 46 6 597 2
2003 Willis McGahee BUF 0 1 4.0 59 10 919 8
2003 Larry Johnson KAN 1 2 4.4 72 16 844 7
2004 Chris Perry CIN 0 0 3.4 17 14 216 1
2004 Kevin Jones DET 0 0 4.0 50 16 837 5
2004 Steven Jackson STL 0 3 4.3 79 26 1525 7
2005 Cedric Benson CHI 0 0 3.8 63 9 926 4
2005 Ronnie Brown MIA 0 1 4.3 62 19 1054 5
2005 Cadillac Williams TAM 0 0 3.8 52 13 788 3
2006 DeAngelo Williams CAR 0 1 5.0 64 14 1041 6
2006 Joseph Addai IND 0 1 4.1 61 21 1106 8
2006 Reggie Bush NOR 0 0 4.0 35 36 869 5
2006 Laurence Maroney NWE 0 0 4.1 51 9 593 4
2007 Marshawn Lynch BUF 0 1 3.9 57 14 1051 5
2007 Adrian Peterson MIN 2 4 4.8 95 19 1799 11
2008 Jonathan Stewart CAR 0 0 4.6 58 8 1058 6
2008 Felix Jones DAL 0 0 5.1 48 16 809 2
2008 Darren McFadden OAK 0 0 4.6 56 28 1116 4
2008 Rashard Mendenhall PIT 0 0 4.1 67 12 1002 6
2008 Chris Johnson TEN 1 3 4.9 95 21 1907 10
2009 Chris Wells ARI 0 0 4.2 44 7 801 4
2009 Knowshon Moreno DEN 0 0 4.0 58 21 1184 6
2009 Donald Brown IND 0 0 3.8 32 16 576 3
2010 C.J. Spiller BUF 0 0 4.4 23 11 530 1
2010 Jahvid Best DET 0 0 3.3 38 33 1279 4
2010 Ryan Mathews SDG 0 0 4.3 56 20 1067 4
2011 Mark Ingram NOR 0 0 3.4 46 0 91 0
Average     0.3 0.8 4.2 55.0 15.1

936

5

 

So strictly comparing Moreno to other 1st round picks, Moreno is exceeding the average in terms of rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns and receiving yards per game and touchdowns. In terms of total yards and touchdowns he's beating the average. The only area he is below average is in yards per carry and he's only slightly below average. So Moreno is not a bust in terms of Right Place, Wrong Production or Overdrafted, Unlucky, Sad Little Man.

So that leaves Slow Learner. Moreno might be in this category for two reasons, the first is his injuries have slowed down his development and ability to play a full season. But one key thing is that Moreno's yards per carry went up from 2009 to 2010, his yards per game went up, and his touchdowns per game went up as well. So he's been getting better from one year to the next. So we can't call him a bust because he's not getting better. So that leaves injuries, which have been a concern every season. Now Moreno hasn't missed a full season, he hasn't been forced out of the game permanently.

So Here Are My Conclusions:

Under no category is Moreno a bust, except for his injuries. At this point in his career Moreno is playing at a level that is expected for him, he's producing, scoring and working. So if Moreno plays at his past level for the rest of his career, he won't be a bust, he might not be exceptional but not a bust by any means. What may end up making him a bust will be his injuries slowing him down or ending his career.

So is Moreno a bust? Not that I've found logically, but after this season we will have abetter idea about whether or not Moreno is just another back in the league or whether he's a bust, but if we just measure his career from the past two years, Moreno is not a bust.

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