When Knowshon Moreno reeled off back-to-back 100-yard games against the Raiders and Ravens last December, it seemed that Willis McGahee, a Pro Bowler just a year earlier, had become a forgotten man among observers while he recovered from a knee injury suffered in a Week 11 win over San Diego.
But in the Broncos’ offices, McGahee was very much in their plans. Had Denver defeated Baltimore in the divisional round, McGahee would have been eligible to come off of injured reserve the following week, having received the one designated-to-return exemption teams were allowed last year. And even though Moreno answered questions about his durability and consistency in his six-game starting stint, he hobbled off the field in the playoff loss with an knee injury.
McGahee never had the chance to return, but as the Broncos look at their pre-draft roster, the 31-year-old running back has a prominent place.
“Well, with where we are right now, with (Willis) McGahee, he is that big back for us right now,” Elway said. “But, I think that if you look at what we have with Ronnie Hillman, he is that 190-pounder, that change-of-pace-type guy.”
That isn’t to say the Broncos won’t look for a big back in the draft — as Elway emphasized, the big-back role is McGahee’s “right now.” But if they pick one from a group that includes Alabama’s Eddie Lacy (5-foot-11, 231 pounds), Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (5-foot-11, 214 pounds), Arkansas’ Knile Davis (5-foot-10, 227 pounds), Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and Texas A&M’s Christine Michael (5-foot-11, 215 pounds), they’ll do because they feel he’s the best player available, not because they’re pressured to replace McGahee.
“We look at Willis as being that guy who is going to be the big back for us right now,” Elway said, “and then we’ll see what happens in the draft.”