Editor’s note: Ignore the fact that I’m drinking out of a Denver Broncos’ coffee mug, sitting next to a Denver Broncos’ blanket, and wearing Denver Broncos Zubaz pants (ok, maybe not that extreme). So, suffice it to say, I’m a fan. Now that I’ve given you that full disclosure, let me also note that I’m the biggest critic of the teams that I follow and can remove any and all bias.
Overall outlook: The fifth-best passing offense added the seventh-highest scoring fantasy wide receiver, Wes Welker, (ironically, sandwiched between Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) in the offseason. Also, the 16th-ranked running offense drafted a running back in the second-round. Aside from the loss of Elvis Dumervil, I’d say the defending AFC West champs are ready to defend that title.
Bye week: 9
Quarterback: Peyton Manning
His arm strength, or lack there of, worried those owners who rolled the dice on the Broncos’ quarterback in fantasy drafts at the beginning of the season. However, as the year played out, Manning compiled 37 TDs and 4,659 passing yards to land fourth on the fantasy QB list (431 points). Adding Tom Brady’s favorite weapon, Wes Welker, to Manning’s arsenal will only boost his passing stats in 2013. Plus, Manning has had over a full year to recover from his most recent neck surgery.
Running back: Montee Ball
Maybe I mention it too much, but I love competing in a college fantasy football league. Besides the obviously thrill of playing MORE fantasy football, you also have the ability to “scout” players before they enter the pros. In the three years that I’ve been playing, Ball has been on the championship-winning team each time. In 2010, as a sophomore, he stepped up when John Clay injured his MCL and rushed for almost 1,000 yards (996) and 18 TDs. The following season, Ball was the full-time starter and racked up nearly 2,000 yards (1,923) and rushed for 33 TDs. During his senior season, Ball suffered a concussion and still managed 1,800-plus yards and scored 22 times.
Running back: Ronnie Hillman
Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno combined for 69 percent of Denver’s running attack, but McGahee is now a free agent and Moreno is relegated to clean-up duties. For my money, I’m thinking Hillman gets the backup carries and possibly earns the starting gig if Montee Ball doesn’t live up to expectations. In his rookie season, Hillman rushed for 330 yards on 85 carries (3.9 yards per attempt) and scored once. Hillman’s main focus in camp must be ball security. With Peyton Manning at the helm, any lost fumble means less rushing attempts the rest of the game (Hillman fumbled twice last year, losing one).
Wide receiver: Wes Welker
It goes without saying, except I’m going to drive the point home, but Denver has one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. Atlanta fans will argue, I’ve noticed, but this is a slam dunk. Reviewing 2012 fantasy stats, the Broncos have three players in the top eight (Roddy White placed ninth and Julio Jones finished 11th in fantasy points scored). I know that Welker’s stats came via Tom Brady, but the matchup issues Denver’s receivers create opens the door for even more fantasy points. Defenses can’t cover all three.
Wide receiver: Demaryius Thomas
Peyton Manning targeted Thomas 141 times last season and connected for 1,434 yards and 10 TDs. Granted, turnovers are an issue for the wide receiver. In his first season with Manning, Thomas fumbled three times (he was the only WR to fumble). His 89.6 yards per game led the team and were 23 more than the No. 2 receiver, Eric Decker.
Wide receiver: Eric Decker
Even as the second option in Denver last year, Decker totaled 269 fantasy points (eighth-most among all wide receivers). Unfortunately, he’s likely to have his numbers drop the most with the signing of Wes Welker. Brandon Stokley was the WR with the third-most targets, receptions, yards, and TDs in 2012. Decker is much younger than Stokley, so I would imagine he would tally better stats at the No. 3 guy.
Tight end: Jacob Tamme
With no clear-cut favorite tight end, Tamme did receive more targets and recorded more receptions than his colleagues on the end. Also, Tamme is more of a weapon when Peyton Manning has more of the field to work with. Tamme had 29 catches that created a first down compared to Joel Dreessen’s 19.
Tight end: Joel Dreessen
Though Jacob Tamme had more playing time, Dreessen was targeted more often inside the red zone. When Denver was within scoring distance, Dreessen received 14 targets (15.1 percent). Tamme only had six targets inside the 20 (6.5 percent). This explains why Dreessen recorded five touchdowns compared to Tamme’s two last season.
Placekicker: Matt Prater
I try not to spend my time breaking down fantasy kickers. Prater ranked ninth in scoring among kickers in 2012 with 144 points. In 2011 P.M. (pre-Manning), he was 29th in fantasy points by a kicker. The offense makes all the difference. Prater is draft-worthy.
DANG YOU, RAHIM MOORE!
Sorry about that.
Denver was third in passing defense (199.6 yards per game) and third against the run (91.1 yards per game). Consequently, the Broncos ranked third in fantasy scoring, too (172 points). However, Elvis Dumervil is in Baltimore and Von Miller could possibly be suspended the first four games of 2013. Those two combined for 29.5 sacks, which is 57 percent of the Broncos’ total.
Denver did add Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to their secondary. That’s a needed boost with Champ Bailey’s talents depleting daily. Prove me wrong, Champ.