ENGLEWOOD - Five weeks, exactly, from the NFL season opener at Sports Authority Field, it's time to confront the burning question on your football mind.
Who should be the Broncos running back on your fantasy team?
I went to the source: the No. 1 running back on the Broncos depth chart.
"What do you expect me to say, man?" Ronnie Hillman told me. "Come on."
I love his confidence.
I love his personality.
I don't love his size.
Right now, Hillman is the projected starter. Every day at Dove Valley, when Peyton Manning takes his first snap in practice, Hillman is the first running back to line up behind him, ready to block.
But Hillman's answer to my question didn't help me out. Not one bit.
"I'll take Jacob Hester because he plays running back and fullback," Hillman joked.
I think he was joking, at least.
We don't know.
After consecutive NFL drafts in which the Broncos used a valuable, high-round pick on a running back, after Willis McGahee was cut from the roster, after OTAs, after a week of training camp, after a playoff loss in which the running game was broken down, injured and virtually nonexistent:
We don't know. We don't know if the Broncos have one running back, three running backs or no running backs good enough to help the NFL's best offense.
That's a problem. It's not a problem for John Fox, who has made a coaching career out of running-backs-by-committee. Fox leans on more backs than a chiropractor.
Frankly, it's not a problem for Manning's offense. I think these Broncos will break the franchise scoring record of 501 points in a season, 31.3 points per game.
The problem is this: the Broncos used the No. 67 overall pick in 2012 (on Hillman) and the No. 58 pick in 2013 (on Montee Ball). Neither has been particularly noticeable on the practice field. Neither has made a strong case for No. 1.
It's early to wonder what coulda, woulda, shoulda been done with those high draft picks.
But it's worth wondering.
After one week of training camp, you shouldn't need a roster sheet to distinguish one from the others. But when Manning hands off the ball, the result is a pile of bodies at the line.
Hillman was wholly underwhelming as a rookie. He's bigger - 200 pounds, he said - and still small.
Ball has been wholly underwhelming in his first training camp. He's bigger - than Hillman, by roughly 25 pounds - and still hesitant.
"He's more of a power back, a bigger back. I'm more of a speed back," Hillman said.
To his credit, Ball got noticed in practice Wednesday. It was his best practice, so far. Ball busted a long run, a rarity in this camp, and said he was more in control of the position.
"Now it seems like I'm not thinking as much, which is good," Ball said. "I'm just reacting."
The running back run-off is cheery and competitive, if not inspiring.
"Once you're on the field, you're trying to be the starter. We're most definitely battling on the field for the spot," Ball added. "But whoever gets the starting job, there's going to be no bad blood between any of the running backs."
In Manning's offense, as Ball said later, the top priority is blocking blitzers and keeping Manning upright.
Long runs are secondary.
Yet the best blocker is Knowshon Moreno, not the draft picks from '12 and '13.
This is Hillman's second training camp, his second season. This is only Ball's first training camp, his first season. Time is on their side.
Perhaps they are Sunday gamers.
But look at the running backs the Broncos coulda, woulda, shoulda drafted.
In Tampa Bay, Doug Martin already is one of the top-five running backs in the NFL, at worst. His 1,454 yards - as a rookie - ranked fifth. His 683 yards after contact - as a rookie - ranked second, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
In Green Bay, in a red-zone drill on Tuesday, rookie Eddie Lacy scored three touchdowns. I don't know if we've seen three rushing touchdowns from Broncos running backs in a week.
The Bays have it.
Both Martin and Lacy were available to the Broncos. Tampa Bay actually drafted Martin with a pick obtained from the Broncos in a trade. Green Bay actually selected Lacy three picks after the Broncos drafted Ball.
The Broncos whiffed on Martin. The finest orange-tinted glasses can't color it otherwise.
Did the Broncos whiff on Lacy, too?
Multiple NFL teams dropped Lacy down their draft board - or scratched him off entirely - out of concern for his bum toe.
The Broncos were one of those NFL teams.
"The bottom line was that we looked at the medical (reports)," Broncos executive John Elway said on draft day.
Elway has the final say on these decisions, for good reason.
"It really came down to the medical side, and that's what tilted the scales to Montee," he continued.
I'm not privy to insider injury reports on draft prospects. Perhaps Lacy's toe made him a no-go. But Lacy, and his toe, hasn't missed a Packers practice.
After watching a small sample size of one week of training camp, I expect Hillman is the starter in the season opener against the Ravens, Knowshon Moreno will start the fourth quarter to protect Manning against the Ravens, and Ball will start by Week 4 or Week 5.
All three running backs will play significant roles in Manning's offense.
But what the Broncos coulda, shoulda, woulda had sure looks enticing now.
In fantasy or real-life football.