Willis McGahee: Help at the Goal Line Is Help Where It’s Needed

Willis McGahee

Willis McGahee runs last October against the Broncos. (PHOTO: DENVER BRONCOS)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – When the Ravens decided to release Willis McGahee, there was probably no group of people happier than fantasy owners of Ray Rice.

McGahee was became the prototypical “vulture,” entering games to finish drives in which the bulk of the ground yards were provided by Rice. In the last two seasons, Rice had nearly three times as many touches (702 to 238) and yards from scrimmage (2,817 to 1,064), but 30 percent fewer touchdowns (14 to 20). McGahee was also slightly more likely to gain a first down on his carries, moving the chain on 22.0 percent of his rushes to 18.7 for Rice.

So there are quantifiable reasons for the Broncos to take the chance on the nine-year veteran, even though he has been mostly a situational, short-yardage and red-zone running back since his last 1,000-yard season in 2007 (1,207 yards in his first Ravens campaign).

McGahee can fill the exact role he held in Baltimore right down to letting Knowshon Moreno handle the bulk of the receiving load out of the backfield. (With the Ravens in 2009 and 2010, Rice had 141 receptions; McGahee had 29.)

Given his experience level and age — he turns 30 in October — t’s unlikely that McGahee will be a long-term answer. But given a lightened workload the last three years, he should be able to handle more than the 8.1 carries per game he averaged with the Ravens the last three years, and gives the Broncos a short-yardage threat that they lacked among their running backs last year (which explains how Tim Tebow led the team in rushing touchdowns even though he only played in goal-line and short-yardage situations until Week 15).

McGahee might not have been the ideal choice, but for his price and the Broncos’ needs, he could be a helpful one.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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