2013 Fantasy Football Team Preview: The Denver Broncos
Note: This piece was originally written on July 14th by Matt Cott of RotoAnalysis.com and is one of many unique pieces that can be found in our 2013 fantasy football draft guide. None of this information has been updated since it was originally published.
The Broncos lost Tebow and quickly became one of the best offenses in the NFL last season. They scored the second most points in the league and along with that came a ton of fantasy value – Peyton Manning tends to do these things. Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker emerged and both finished as top 10 options at wide receiver, and with Wes Welker aboard this offense could be even more dangerous in 2013. Here’s our breakdown of their team for this season!
Quarterbacks: It’s easy to forget how many doubts there were about Peyton Manning coming into last season. A few weeks in, however, it was clear that his neck was fine and he was back to his old self. He finished the #5 QB in the league and is being targeted as early as the 2nd round this season. While you won’t have him at the discounted price you did last year, Manning is clearly a top tier option at the position.
Running Back: This is where things will really get interesting for this team fantasy-wise. After cutting Willis McGahee there are 3 very solid backs available – this year’s 2nd rounder Montee Ball, last year’s 3rd rounder Ronnie Hillman, and the former starter Knowshon Moreno. Ball should emerge as the lead back and while his college stats were ridiculous (over 4000 yards and 55 TDs in his last 2 seasons), his athleticism and speed are not. Going into the draft scouts posed questions to his speed and size, which are both very average, as well as his pass-catching abilities.
Hillman is the fastest of the group, and Ball said himself that “Ronnie is a lot faster and a lot more agile than me. If it comes down to a 1-2 punch, he’ll most definitely be the lightning.” My guess would be that that is exactly what the Broncos will pursue – Ball getting the majority of carries with Hillman spelling him. Moreno should step in if either is dealing with an injury but is probably going to fail to get regular carries. Lance Ball is also still around but is unlikely to get much work.
Wide Receiver: After placing 5th and 7th among points in wide receivers, Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker are being joined by the 12th place finisher Wes Welker. While an added bonus to the move was pulling him away from their rival Patriots, improving on Brandon Stokley in the slot should be a great move for this offense. Welker has had 110 catches or more in 5 of the last 6 seasons to be a PPR monster and a great option even if he doesn’t score too many touchdowns.
Manning has had a similar set of wide receivers before, and in 2004 Manning had 3 receivers each go for more than 1,000 yards. He is as good as anybody in the league at spreading the ball around and simply finding the open guy. The Broncos should be running 3 wide receiver sets a LOT, and all 3 of these stud wide receivers should be able to get about the same amount of targets as usual. In fact, the one I’m most nervous about would be Welker, not Decker, in terms of getting the same amount of looks as he has in the past.
Tight End: Given how strong the receiving corps that I just went into is, getting many points from the tight ends would be a stretch. Additionally, Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen will help to lower each other’s values. The two combined for 93 receptions, 911 yards, and 7 TDs last year but I’d expect each of those numbers to decline by a little bit as Welker takes more of their looks over the middle.
Defense: Despite losing Elvis Dumervil and DJ Williams, the Broncos rebounded by acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Shaun Phillips. Von Miller anchors a defense that led the league with 52 sacks last season and allowed only 5 rushing touchdowns (lowest in the league). Expect them to be one of the first defenses off the board and after ranking 2nd last season in points, they should be back in the top 5.
Player to Watch: Montee Ball is the clear pick here for me, as he’s the biggest question mark in this offense. His ADP is 19th among running backs right now and he could definitely be a serviceable #2 back if he holds onto the job.
Key Stat: 583. That’s how many attempts Peyton Manning had last year and points to the fact that there should be enough balls in the air to feed Thomas, Welker, and Decker. Manning’s 37 touchdowns from last year should also get pretty evenly spread out among these guys and I think people are overrating how much each of their value falls. There’s a good chance all 3 end up in the top 20 at their position.