04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Broncos' picks: Round 3/67 -- Ronnie Hillman, RB, 5-9, 200, San Diego State...Denver traded up to take Hillman, dealing its fourth-round pick (No. 120 overall) to move up 20 slots for the speedy back, who is expected to split time with incumbent Willis McGahee and could push out Knowshon Moreno. - The Sports Xchange
Ronnie Hillman signed with San Diego State as a lightly recruited prep prospect. He leaves having broken Marshall Faulk's freshman record for most rushing yards in a season (1,532) and followed that up with a 1,711 yard campaign set earned him All-American honors and broke the WAC single-season record. He rushed for over 100 yards in six games in 2011. In each of the six, he rushed for over 150. He finished the season fifth in the country with an average of 131.62 yards per game and scored 20 touchdowns.
If Hillman did not receive the fanfare one might expect for a back with his staggering production you can blame the fact some scouts never saw Hillman coming. In 2011 he finished just his second season of college football. Hillman is eligible for the draft because he is three years removed from his high school graduation due to the fact that he did not qualify academically in 2009.
Hillman wasted little time demonstrating difference-making talent once he got on the field, however, playing in all 13 and starting eight times in 2010. Defying a relatively slight frame, Hillman again started all 13 games in 2011, ranking among the national leaders with 311 carries on the season. Wisconsin's Montee Ball, by comparison, finished the year with 307 carries.
Hillman lacks the size scouts prefer but there is no denying that he shows legitimate NFL juice as an open field runner. With improved receiving and pass blocking skills Hillman could see the field early in his career. He received a third round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee and could prove quite a value if selected at that point in the draft.
Inside: Lacks the bulk most backs have, but is a surprisingly adept inside runner. Shows the toughness to attack the hole when necessary but generally is a patient runner whose electric lateral agility and burst gain him the most real estate. Only average leg drive overall but plays with good forward lean. Ball security has become a concern. Had two fumbles in 2010 and at least four (two at Michigan, TCU, Louisiana-Lafayette) in 2011.
Outside: Possesses very good speed to beat linebackers to the edge. Turns the corner quickly and accelerates smoothly. Very good vision for the cutback and cuts on dime. Sets defenders up with a stutter-step and go move that can make would-be tacklers look silly. Legitimate breakaway threat.
Breaking tackles: Relies on his agility to make defenders miss rather than brute power to run through tackles. Extremely elusive. Can make defenders miss in tight quarters and has the burst to accelerate past. Though undersized, he finishes his runs with good forward lean to gain maximum yardage.
Blocking: Willing to throw his body into a cut block but gets too low, allowing pass rushers to leap over him. Extends his arms to meet hard-charging linebackers but doesn't have the strength and sand in his pants to hold up.
Receiving: Made significant strides in his second season (24 receptions in 2011 as compared to nine a year earlier) but remains a work in progress. Flashes the hands to snatch passes away from his body. Makes most of his catches on simple flat routes and screens but is occasionally lined up outside or used on wheel routes. Dangerous receiver due to his open field runner skills but isn't always the most reliable pass-catcher. Hears the footsteps when attempting to catch passes in traffic.
Intangibles: Good football intelligence. Saw ball squirt free vs. Michigan, assumed it was a fumble, picked up and ran for first down. Play ultimately ruled an incomplete pass, but Hillman was the only player to react. Wasn't highly recruited out of high school. Received offers from only three Mountain West teams.