2014 Draft Prep: Montee Ball ready for star status

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Broncos second-year running back Montee Ball is a somewhat-polarizing player in Fantasy this draft season. If you love him, he's a first-round pick. Otherwise you'll let someone else deal with his perceived flaws.

I'm a believer in Ball, so I would draft him in Round 1. I'm banking on a breakout campaign.

Last year, Ball couldn't hold onto the starting job in the preseason and he was replaced by Knowshon Moreno . Anti-Ball Fantasy owners use that as an argument against him -- that he was beat out by an inferior talent, which is true. He had fumble issues and struggled in pass protection and he clearly wasn't ready for the job.

But he excelled during the season in a reserve role behind Moreno with 120 carries for 559 yards and four touchdowns and 20 catches for 145 yards. Ball played well when he had touches with at least nine Fantasy points in four of the six games he had double digits in carries.

Moreno, however, was dominant in 2013 with 241 carries for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns and 60 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns. He had 11 games with double digits in Fantasy points and was the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

That's the hope for Ball this year. In fact, he could have even better stats based on his ability. He also gets an improved offensive line. Ryan Clady is back and Orlando Franklin will move to guard. That should make the Broncos more physical. And if their defense improves as expected with the additions of DeMarcus Ware , Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward , we could see them sitting on leads late in games, with Ball earning additional work.

His biggest benefit is playing next to Peyton Manning . In 32 games as the starter for the Broncos in the regular season, Manning has helped Denver's running backs reach double digits in Fantasy points 23 times. Moreno never had extra defenders at the line of scrimmage because of the passing game, and that allows for plenty of open lanes for Ball to exploit.

He's also over his appendectomy in training camp since he played in the third preseason game against Houston.

"I wanted to get hit again and get that tempo back," Ball said in the Denver Post. "It's funny. After my plays, I was talking on the sideline, telling them that the speed of the game is fast right now. I have to get that back. I will be ready to go."

We're not worried about Ball, and neither should you. He's set up for a tremendous year and we're counting on him finishing as one of the elite running backs. Ball is someone to target on Draft Day since he could become a star.

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