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2008 NFL Draft -- Denver Selects FB, Peyton Hillis

The final pick in a nine pick draft.  KC will get a lot of credit for getting a lot of solid picks in this draft, but what else is to be expected of six picks on day one?  Whe it comes right down to it, this pick for Denver is the "Mike Shanahan Approved" stamp that packages up this draft neatly and sends it off to training camp.

Shanny wants nothing more than to score TDs.

He knows he has the most important ingredient for success, a young QB with limitless talent and a drive to be the best.  At this point it is all about building around Cutler.  From LT to insurance on Henry to arguably the best center in the draft to a dynamic player who can single-handedly improve the Broncos starting field position by leaps and bounds, the Broncos are closer right now to scoring in the red zone than they were in over 25 trips insde the 20 last year.

FB is a bit of a misnomer as recent new member hooper recently pointed out:

Part of Hillis's job will be to protect Cutler.

Hillis is listed as fullback for convenience, but Arkansas played him predominantly as the wingback in a modified Single-Wing offense. That placed him right up with the TE and the strongside tackle on a lot of plays. From that position, his assignments varied widely from play to play; he was expected to block linemen, linebackers, safeties and corners routinely. But a wingback is also used a lot in deception in a Single Wing; Arkansas often used Hillis as a blocking decoy, then a pass receiver in the flat. He also made a good “end-around” candidate; run the play to the strong side and hand the ball off to the wing just as the defense takes its first following step. He’s seen a huge range of play responsibilities and handled them well.

Most importantly, he’ll be a good blocker in the backfield for Cutler as some of the new linemen get on-field experience. I would anticipate more players devoted to QB protection this year than what we’ve seen for this reason.

I’m impressed with Hillis. He was lost in the McFadden-Jones hype, but he was very valuable to their success in college. I think this was a great pickup for Denver.

The blocking can't be overrated after a season where our best backfield blocker was a an undrafted rookie named Selvin Young.  And relying on Mike Bell to be an emergency FB?  The thought probably gave Shanahan nightmares.

But Hillis is too versatile to be lined up like Lorenzo Neal was in SD.  He can catch, even if he isn't going to blaze down the field, and he ran A LOT in short yardage sitations, where he proved he could move the chains with consistency.  Add in that he is a one cut back and denver is targeting an ideal player with ideal potential.  For once a FB that the offense can build around instead of collapse around.

We got the second best FB in the 2008 draft, and the reasons he wasn't #1 range from durability questions (had fractured vertebrae in his back, though indications are that it has been fixed and healed properly) to being undersized for a prototypical FB.  I personally don't worry about injuries cleared by doctors, but the size issue could limit his effectiveness in a lot of situations.  While very powerful for a TB, he is only adequately powerful for a FB, and is considered a dreaded 'tweener.  He has difficulty maintaining driving blocks in tight quarters, but could address this easily by focusing on his leg drive and just keeping his legs churning ahead.  When he starts to lag he can be washed out of the lane, and when carrying the ball there are some questions about his ability to control the ball.

One way or another, Shanahan is removing the question marks around Travis Henry.  The line has been upgraded, so the holes should be there.  A big back who can take a pounding has been added to share the grief.  The closest thing to a true FB that Shanny will allow himself has been added to keep Henry clean in the lane and gobble up the LB.  If Henry fails to live up to his end of the deal this year, there won't be a whole lot of other places to put the blame.