The Denver Broncos haven't had a winning season since 2016. Last year, they were pretty close to getting to .500. The Broncos started the season slowly, going 0-4. Then they went 3-4 in their next seven games. After than the Broncos ended the season red hot, going 4-1 in their last 5 games. The Broncos were in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories. They had the 10th ranked scoring defense, 16th ranked rush defense, 11th ranked pass defense, and the 12th ranked total defense. The defense should be much improved in year two under Vic Fangio. The Broncos have a new offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur. Last year, the Broncos ran a lot of 12 personnel, which is 1 running back, 2 receivers, and 2 tight ends. This year, expect the Broncos to spread defenses out by running 11 personnel. 11 personnel has 1 running back 3 receivers, and 1 tight end. The Broncos are much better suited to run 11 personnel with the additions of Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler and the speed of Noah Fant. Expect the Broncos to have a sneaky good offense this year with their new offseason additions. They might even be able to make a playoff push.
Projected Depth Chart:
Quarterback: 1. Drew Lock 2. Jeff Driskel
Running back: 1. Melvin Gordon 2. Phillip Lindsay
Wide receiver: 1. Courtland Sutton 2. Jerry Jeudy 3. Tim Patrick 4. DaeSean Hamilton
Slot receiver: 1. K.J. Hamler 2. Fred Brown
Tight end: 1. Noah Fant 2. Nick Vannett
Quarterbacks - The Denver Broncos have been struggling to find a starting quarterback since the days of Peyton Manning. Since he retired, the Broncos have had seven different quarterbacks start a game. The names of those quarterbacks are: Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen. As you can see, the Broncos have struggled to find their franchise quarterback in the post Peyton Manning era.
The Broncos signed Joe Flacco last year to be the starting quarterback. But, after going 2-6 in his first 8 games, he was pulled for Brandon Allen. Allen was not very good as he had a sub-50% completion at 46.4%. He went 1-2, when he was pulled for Drew Lock. Lock was a second round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He wasn't supposed to start, but played anyway due to terrible quarterback play. Lock led the Broncos to a 4-1 record and showed a lot of promise. If Lock played the whole season and kept his average, he would've been the QB23 in fantasy.
Going into the 2020 season, Drew Lock is the presumed starter. His new offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur will help him develop over the offseason. Lock will benefit a lot from new additions on offense, such as Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy, and K.J. Hamler. I think Lock is a great sleeper candidate at quarterback this year. You can easily get him as a QB2 in most leagues and with all of those weapons, he could be sneaky good.
Running backs - While doing research on the Broncos, I found a very interesting stat. The Broncos have not had a player with 250 or more rushing attempts since Reuben Droughns had 275 in 2004. Most of the years since then, the Broncos have had multiple running backs used. For the last two years, it has been the same with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman sharing time. Over the last 2 years, Philip Lindsay has had 58% of carries while Royce Freeman has only had 36.5%.
Last year, the only fantasy relevant running back was Lindsay. He ran 224 times for 1011 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also caught 35 passes for 196 yards. Lindsay finished as the RB18, but was very boom or bust. Lindsay had under 10 points 7 times, but finished over 15 points 5 times. He only had over 20 carries once. Coincidentally, he finished with his highest point total of the season with 29, when he had 21 carries.
The Broncos signed Melvin Gordon in the 2020 offseason, which will create headaches for fantasy owners. Gordon, Lindsay, and Freeman should have about a 60-30-10 split for rush attempts. Lindsay and Freeman will bust this year with less volume, and I would not consider taking either of these players. Melvin Gordon is going in the 4th round and that is way too high of a price to pay for a running back that is splitting carries.
Wide receivers - In the 2018 NFL Draft, Courtland Sutton was selected by the Denver Broncos in the 2nd round. Sutton was able to make an immediate impact on the Broncos in year 1, as he had 84 targets. Sutton caught 42 of those for 704 yards and 4 touchdowns. Sutton finished as the WR50 with his two best games being where he scored 18.5 points in each.
Year 2 saw a huge improvement for Sutton. He had 41 more targets to bring his total to 125. Sutton caught 72 passes for 1112 yards and 6 touchdowns. He finished as the WR19, but was a very consistent flex option. Courtland Sutton scored over 9 points in 13 games. He was able to achieve these numbers despite having 3 starting quarterbacks.
Before the NFL Draft, I loved Courtland Sutton. But after, I find myself liking him less. The Broncos drafted 2 receivers and a tight end in the draft. Jerry Jeudy was assumed by most people to be the best receiver in the draft, but he fell to be the 2nd receiver drafted. You can get Jeudy very late in drafts, but I think there are better rookies out there. If Lock were to improve, Jeudy could be a deep sleeper. The second receiver they took, K.J. Hamler is a speedster and will play in the slot. Hamler will not be an amazing fantasy option this year but might have a couple of good games if he gets a couple of long receptions. While Drew Lock will probably pass a bit more this year, the offense will really only able to support 2 fantasy relevant receivers and 1 fantasy relevant tight end. Courtland Sutton is going in the 3rd-4th round and I think that is a little high. He will regress with Hamler and Jeudy.
Tight ends - Noah Fant was taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Fant is the type of tight end who will beat you with his speed. He is a lot like George Kittle in the way that he'll take short passes and turn them into big gains. Fant was the second Iowa tight end taken in the first round that year, with TJ Hockenson going to the Lions.
In fantasy, Noah Fant was an average tight end. He caught 40 passes for for 566 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fant finished as the TE16. His best games came against the Browns and Texans. Against the Browns he had 3 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Against the Texans he had 4 receptions for 113 yards and 1 touchdown.
I like Noah Fant as a sleeper candidate this year. Fant should improve a lot in year two with an improved Drew Lock at quarterback. He averaged 14 yards per reception last year, showing how he could stretch the field. Fant is going around the 9th round and that is a great price for him. While I don't trust him a lot as a TE1, he would make a great TE2. Later in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Broncos took Albert Okwuegbunam, Lock's college teammate. If Fant were to go down, I would expect Albert to be a very deep sleeper.
Sleeper: Drew Lock
Deep sleeper: Jerry Jeudy
Not targeting: K.J. Hamler, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman
Keeping my eye on: Albert Okwuegbunam
Overvalued: Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton
I hope you liked 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 10: Denver Broncos. Next up is 2020 Fantasy Previews Part 11: Detroit Lions. Feel free to comment your thoughts on the Denver Broncos offense for fantasy football 2020.