Offseason Primers: Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning elevated all of his Denver teammates in 2012, much to the delight of Fantasy owners. Our Jamey Eisenberg says the Broncos will once again be a major Fantasy factor in 2013.
The Broncos were definitely exciting in 2012. The addition of Peyton Manning was a success as Denver ran away with the AFC West title, was the No. 1 seed in the AFC with the best regular-season record and had an 11-game winning streak going into the playoffs.
While the reality is the Broncos under Manning went as far as they did under Tim Tebow the year before -- which was the Divisional Round of the playoffs -- Fantasy owners definitely benefited from Manning's presence. He turned the Broncos into a tremendous passing team and proved he's back as an elite Fantasy quarterback.
|Willis McGahee||193 (167 car., 26 rec.)||18.0%|
|Knowshon Moreno||159 (138 car., 21 rec.)||14.8%|
|Ronnie Hillman||95 (85 car., 10 rec.)||8.8%|
|Demaryius Thomas||94 rec.||8.7%|
|Eric Decker||85 rec.||7.9%|
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker blossomed into stars thanks to Manning, and we got success from two running backs. Willis McGahee started off the year with some positive moments before suffering a broken leg in Week 11, and Knowshon Moreno helped many Fantasy owners win a title with a strong finish, including double digits in Fantasy points in five of the final six regular season games.
This year, the Broncos hope to build off last year's success, and Manning and Co. should return for another solid campaign, especially with the addition of Wes Welker . Manning is locked in as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, Thomas, Decker and Welker are Top 20 receivers and we might have a new featured running back in Ronnie Hillman , depending on what happens with McGahee and Moreno this offseason.
It should be another exciting year for the Broncos in 2013.
Peyton Manning -- Still getting better
Can Manning be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012? Denver coach John Fox thinks so, and the addition of Welker will help. Fox said this offseason that Manning will be healthier this season as he continues to improve following his neck issues in 2011. That could make Manning a candidate to be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year because he was impressive in 2012, his first year with the Broncos. Manning completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was the 12th time he passed for 4,000-plus yards (third time with 4,500 yards) and the seventh time he's thrown for 30-plus touchdowns. Manning will be 37 when the season starts, but he continues to play at a high level and defied all skeptics with his performance last year. He has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL with Thomas, Decker and Welker to go with a solid running game behind a stout offensive line. We consider Manning a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback on Draft Day, and he's worth drafting with a pick toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all formats.
Demaryius Thomas , Eric Decker -- Worth the price
We like to point out third-year breakouts whenever possible, and Thomas and Decker were two of the best we've ever had. Getting Manning in their third year didn't hurt their chances of having a big season, but they definitely lived up to the billing. Decker set career highs in catches (85), yards (1,064) and touchdowns (13), while Thomas was right behind in leading the Broncos with 94 catches for 1,434 yards, and he finished second to Decker with 10 touchdowns. Thomas (23.9 percent) and Decker (20.7 percent) accounted for the majority of Manning's targets in 2012, and both should continue to improve this season – especially if Manning is getting stronger with his neck. The addition of Welker will cut into what Thomas and Decker are able to do, but don't be scared off by Welker joining the mix. Thomas is still the big-play threat on offense, and Decker is the red-zone option. Welker will definitely play a prominent role, but he's the third option in this passing game. You'll have to draft Thomas toward the beginning of Round 3, and Decker will likely be drafted in the middle to the end of Round 4. They are worth the price tag. Thomas is among a group of five receivers ( A.J. Green , Dez Bryant , Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones ) vying for the No. 2 spot behind Calvin Johnson , and Decker is right behind that tier as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver. Both should once again dominate in 2013.
Ronnie Hillman -- Breakout
|Peyton Manning||22-27 overall|
|Willis McGahee||58-66 overall|
|Ronnie Hillman||100-108 overall|
|Demaryius Thomas||23-28 overall|
|Eric Decker||36-44 overall|
|Wes Welker||38-46 overall|
Hillman is expected to take on a bigger role in his second season, and Fox indicated this offseason that Hillman is capable of being an every-down back. That's encouraging, but we don't expect Hillman to take on that kind of a workload this year -- at least when everyone is healthy. McGahee will likely get the most work, and Moreno could return as a reserve option. But Hillman will be No. 2 on the depth chart and get plenty of looks. His best game as a rookie was his last game in the playoff loss against Baltimore. With McGahee out and Moreno going down with a knee injury, Hillman had 22 carries for 83 yards and three catches for 20 yards. Overall, he finished the season with 85 carries for 330 yards and one touchdown and 10 catches for 62 yards. Pass protection was an issue for him, but the Broncos are excited about his potential. He is worth a mid- to late-round pick in the majority of leagues, and Hillman could develop into a quality Fantasy option as the year goes on. He's someone to monitor from training camp on, and we hope he has a breakout campaign in 2013.