After an outstanding season that led up to an ultimate Super Bowl defeat, many of the Broncos felt that horrific feeling only reserved to the unlucky few. Many who have made it that far, but do not bask in the ultimate glory describe it like a death. With such macabre momentum, they were thrust into a long, cold summer. Well, here are some things to do in Denver when you are dead. First, take a listen to some Warren Zevon.
Perhaps, take in a nice Andy Garcia flick.
As far as talent, Denver has it in spades. In fact, if you look at the top 60 fantasy performers, the Denver Broncos have 5 players that made the list. That is more than any other team.
Pyro pioneered Power Rankings. This is a fantastic tool that will help you set your line-up week in and week out. Essentially, it tells you how a team ranks at each position. In 2013, the Denver Broncos ranked 1st at the QB position for fantasy points scored. The running backs came in at the #3 spot. The wide receivers finished 1st, the tight ends finished 2nd. Heck, ever their kicker was ranked 2nd. Finally, the defense came in at #16.
Having one of the best play callers and pass tossers to ever suit up on an NFL field must certainly give the Denver Broncos a resounding boost of confidence. Despite his recent… display?
Alright, so Peyton is no Chili Palmer from “Pulp Fiction”.
But on the grid iron, now that is a different story. The stats from last year are amazing: 659 attempts and 450 completions that totaled 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. What is really phenomenal, is that despite having the second most attempts for his career, he threw only 10 INTs. He is well balanced, out of 410 fantasy points, 53.4% came from yardage, and 53.7% came from TDs. I know, it amounts to over 100, but you have to factor in negative points for sacks and INTs. He outscored the next highest quarterback in fantasy by 52.1 total points. He outscored #3 by 112.1 points. That is a huge advantage. To exemplify this, the difference between the #4 fantasy quarterback and the #12 fantasy quarterback is a mere 32.2 points. This is clearly why that top tier for quarterbacks is two, maybe three guys. Personally, I do not think you can trust ADPs when it comes to quarterbacks. As of early August, 12 team league mock drafts have him going in the 2nd round. I would be amazed if he is still around by pick #9 in most leagues. My suggestion, run some mock drafts of your own, see how your team looks when you start by drafting a quarter back. Just keep this in mind, you are drafting for 2014, the year ahead, not the year behind. Last year, the Broncos enjoyed the best schedule for the QB position. This year, Denver has the 24th best strength of schedule for the quarter back position (#27 in the fantasy playoffs). It is highly unlikely Peyton will put up those numbers again, the question you have to answer: How much of a drop off will he endure?
In the backfield, Montee Ball enters his second season in the NFL. In 2014, he will be the lead back for Denver. He should be a top 10 back, with potential to land in the top 5. The biggest asset he has is indeed Peyton Manning. Statistically, running backs behind Peyton always perform. The fact is, defenses have to prioritize and Peyton is the number one threat. This often gives his backs room to run. Denver gets plenty of chances to score. In fact, in the red zone last year, they were #1. They scored a touchdown 72.73% of the time. Those duties should fall to Ball this year. Last year, he averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and all of his scores came in the red zone. In the last six games of the regular season, he averaged 5.78 yards per carry. It gets even better. Ball does his best against his own division, the AFC West. Last year, he averaged 5.88 yards per rush against AFC West opponents. His average here is higher than his averages against any other division. Last year, he was behind Moreno and so he just did not have the attempts needed for fantasy domination. This year, he is the clear starter. He has worked on his pass blocking, something that should keep him in the game longer, as well as his hands. He suffered three costly turnovers last year during the regular season. The one bit of concern, Ball went under the knife for an appendectomy on August 4th. While he is expected to recover fully in time for the regular season opener, it may open the door to something of a time split if Hillman makes the most of this opportunity. Before the surgery, Ball’s ADP showed him going as the 10th pick in the first round in 12 team leagues. In just a few days, Ball’s ADP has dropped, he is now going as the last pick of the first round. Personally, the farther he falls, the better the value. He has the club all to himself in mile high. Speaking of which, Houdini stands alone in his own little version of the mile-high club…And that’s just the way he likes it!
Back on terra firma, Ronnie Hillman steps in to play with the ones for now, as Ball is recovering from surgery. C.J Anderson has also seen some increased action, but Hillman is the one to watch. Anderson may get some play up the middle during preseason, while Hillman will get the majority of the work. Hillman was actually slated as the number one spot on the roster at this time last year. As Moreno showed his skills, and Hillman developed a case of the drops, he was quick to be passed over. This is his third year in the system. He had a lot of promise coming out of college. It is a long shot for him to make the most of this opportunity. Chances are, he may be a change of pace back during the year, but the job should go back to Ball when he returns.
As far as receivers go, Demaryius Thomas is a tier I player. Last year, if he would have had 5 more yards, he would have been the highest scoring fantasy wide receiver. Demaryius finished with 227 fantasy points and Josh Gordan had 227.4. Calvin was #3. That is not the only way that Thomas looks better than Calvin on paper. Demaryius caught 65.2% of his passes. Calvin Johnson had a 54.2% catch rate. Demaryius had 14 touchdowns, 2 more than Calvin. Demaryius had 92 receptions to Calvin Johnson’s 84. Demaryius is a deep threat that has explosive potential. Demaryius was targeted 10.14 yards from the line of scrimmage on pass plays, Johnson was targeted 9.61 yards downfield on average. In fact, looking at the 50 most targeted receivers in 2013, only 3 guys were targeted farther downfield. Now that Decker is gone, Thomas should have a larger piece of the offensive pie. The one place Calvin seems to be leading Demaryius is in ADP. As of early August, Johnson is going approximately 5th and DT is going two picks later at the #7 spot. Mmmmm? Thomas should come out strong this season. This happens to be a contract year for him. Statistically, players up their performance during contract years. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why. But, all it takes to figure out which guys are starting a contract year is to purchase the latest version of the Pyro draft kit. One of the new wrinkles in version 3 allows you to see who is playing in a contract year.
Wes Welker, the “slot machine”, is back again. In 12 team leagues, he is currently going in the middle of the 4th round as of early August. Welker should easily land in the top 20 this year for fantasy wide receivers. He has a chance to land inside the top 15. Similar to DT, Welker is also playing in a contract year. Plus, the sting from losing the Super Bowl should provide extra incentive. This could be Manning’s best chance to win another one, the team is fully aware of this. They need to strike this year. Welker had 10 TDs last season, the most of his career, despite missing three games. You can never seem to count him out. He always manages consistent fantasy production. Last year, he still managed 111 receptions in just 13 games. The guy is money in PPR. That said, you need to be cautious when drafting him so high. Welker is entering his 10th season. Age could be catching up to him. Last year, he missed 3 games due to injury. He totaled 778 yards, his lowest total since he left Miami in 2006. He tends to drop big passes. In 2013, he had a 9% drop rate. He seemed to slow down towards the end of the season. He only crossed the end zone once in his last five games. Welker finished without a 100 yard performance what so ever. The biggest thing for me is watching preseason and training camp. Does new edition Emmanuel Sanders seem to have chemistry with Peyton? If not, Welker could easily have a bounce back year.
Well, Emmanuel Sanders had no sooner got off the bus in Denver before he threw his old quarterback under it. Sanders recently commented on the stark difference between Peyton Manning’s preparation versus the lack there of when it came to Ben Accosthisfurberger. Sanders came into the league riding a huge hype train. Many analysts felt he was the most NFL ready for a receiver at that time. Well, it has never really panned out. Last year was his most productive: 112 targets, 67 receptions, 740 yards, and 6TDs (that is more scoring than he did in his first three years combined). Although he replaces Eric Decker, Sanders will not have the same amount of impact on the offense. For me, he is a wide receiver #4 at best, even then I’m not too happy. The games he will be worth the start will be few and far between, and good luck knowing when which Sundays those will be.
Finally, the Broncos drafted a rookie wide receiver from Indiana named Cody Latimer. In his last year for the Hoosiers, he caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards, and 9 TDs. He broke 100 yards in five different games. He scored a touchdown in 7 games. As of early August, he stands at number 4 on the depth chart. If Sanders flakes out, he could move up. But in all likely hood, only an injury to one of the starting receivers would put him on the fantasy map, outside of dynasty leagues that is.
As far as tight ends go in the world of fantasy, the position is deep, however, there are two top tiers of guys, and then the rest. Orange Julius Thomas can be a top tier II tight end. Low and behold, he too is playing for a contract. Damn the Bronco boys are going to be laying it on the line this year. Gottsa ta get those ends. If Thomas continues to trend upwards and improve upon last season, he could end up in the top 3 for fantasy tight ends this year. This year will be his 4th in the league. In 2013 he played 14 games. He amassed 65 receptions for 788 yards, and 12 touchdowns. The guy crossed the goal line in 10 of 14 games last season. He is a go to guy for Manning in the red zone. We already established that Denver was the most successful team in the red zone in 2013. Well, Julius Thomas scored 8 of his 12 TDs inside the red zone. He is a huge target that draws Manning’s attention and holds his confidence. While he has the toughest schedule on paper for a tight end (last year, Denver had the 8th best schedule at the position), it is doubtful other teams will be able to keep him out of the end zone.