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5 Running Backs to Replace Montee Ball

Montee Ball

Montee Ball

Denver running back Montee Ball suffered a groin injury in the third quarter of the Broncos’ 41-20 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. After the game, Ball was spotted on crutches and on Monday head coach John Fox said Ball's groin strain could cause him to miss up to three weeks.

Entering this season, Ball was a popular choice for a fantasy breakout candidate, considering Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos’ leading rusher and the No. 4 fantasy RB in 2013, signed with Miami as a free agent. His predecessor’s success was one of the reasons why those who used an early draft pick on Ball were at least hoping for Moreno-like numbers: 1,038 yards rushing, 10 TDs, along with 60 receptions for 548 yards and three scores.

Unfortunately, that has not been the case with Ball, who was averaging just 3.1 yards per carry, had one rush of 20 or more yards and just one touchdown before his injury. In fact, he left Sunday’s game after rushing for just seven yards on six carries (also had 2 catches for 11 yards).

So the good news for Ball owners is they don’t have to worry about replacing a ton of production. They do, however, have a potential lineup or roster hole that now needs to be filled. Here are five running backs that could help Ball owners weather the storm as long as he’s sidelined In fact, this list also could be useful to those who have Rashad Jennings, Zac Stacy, Reggie Bush or Donald Brown , other backs who left their game on Sunday due to injury, on their roster.

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Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos

When it comes to productive offensive teams like Denver, the obvious thing to do in case of an injury is to turn to the next man on the depth chart. For now, that appears to be Hillman, who took over after Ball’s injury and finished with a game-high 64 yards rushing on 15 carries (4.3 ypc). Hillman has had his chances to emerge before, but he’s also no stranger to this offense, which should help his chances of securing the starting role. Even if Hillman doesn’t do his best Moreno impression, any player who is a safe bet to get a decent number of touches in this offense is worth consideration.

Chris Ivory, New York Jets

The Jets brought in former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson as a free agent, but Ivory has been the most productive ground-gainer thus far. Ivory leads the team in both carries (59) and yards (318), as he’s averaging a more than respectable 5.4 per carry. He has slowly but surely taken over as the Jets’ No. 1 back and has the ability to get the job done between the tackles as well as break off a long one (71-yard touchdown in Week 1). With the struggles the Jets have had at quarterback, they are going to have to keep running the ball to establish any sort of consistent offense. And that’s where Ivory comes in.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens don’t lack for backfield options, as three different players have already totaled at least 32 carries. But while Bernard Pierce has dealt with injuries and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro has had his moments, it’s Forsett who has been both the most consistent and the most productive. Forsett leads the team in rushing (297 yards) and his 5.9 yards per carry is tied for the top mark in the NFL. He has three rushing touchdowns and also is second on the team with 23 catches (118 yards, TD). This may look like a crowded backfield but for the time being, it appears that Forsett is option A with Pierce and Taliaferro battling for B status.

Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers

Ryan Mathews is out with a MCL injury, Danny Woodhead is on IR with a broken leg and Donald Brown left on Sunday after sustaining a concussion. Oliver was next man up for the Chargers and the undrafted rookie took full advantage of the opportunity, showing both the athleticism and all-around ability that helped him compile more than 4,700 yards from scrimmage at Buffalo. Against the Jets, Oliver ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (6.0 ypc). He also added a touchdown catch (4 rec., 68 yds.) and had two plays that went for more than 50 yards. Even if Brown passes the league-mandated concussion protocols and is cleared to play this week, Oliver figures to remain a part of the game plan too.

Andre Williams, New York Giants

Rashad Jennings left with a knee injury in the third quarter and his team trailing at home to Atlanta. Williams, the Giants’ fourth-round pick, took over and picked up 65 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown that helped fuel 20 unanswered points that led to an eventual 30-20 victory. An MRI on Monday confirmed that Jennings has a sprained MCL and while surgery won't be necessary, he is expected to miss a few weeks. Keep in mind that Cleveland’s Ben Tate suffered a similar injury in the Browns’ season opener and he didn’t get back on the field until Week 5. With Jennings sidelined for the time being, Williams should get his first NFL start this week in primetime in Philadelphia. And a strong showing against the Eagles will only help him secure his role in the Giants' offense, even after Jennings returns to action.