2019 Fantasy Football Team Previews: Broncos trusting in their system

Demaryius Thomas is gone and Emmanuel Sanders is recovering from a torn Achilles, leaving new quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Drew Lock with a less settled pass-catching corps than Denver passers have thrown to in recent years. Courtland Sutton figures to be the early-season No. 1 while tight end Noah Fant should have plenty of opportunity to have an impactful rookie season. The backfield is in better shape for the team if not Fantasy owners, as the workload split between second-year guys Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman is anything but clear.  

2018 Review

Record: 6 - 10 (22nd in NFL)
PPG: 20.6 (24)
YPG: 350.1 (19)
Pass YPG: 230.9 (19)
Rush YPG: 119.2 (12)
PAPG: 36.8 (8)
RAPG: 24.6 (21)

2018 Fantasy finishes

QB: Case Keenum* - QB20
RB: Phillip Lindsay - RB13; Royce Freeman - RB47; Devontae Booker - RB57
WR: Emmanuel Sanders - WR23; Demaryius Thomas* - WR37**; Courtland Sutton - WR50
TE: Jeff Heuerman - TE31; Matt LaCosse* - TE38
*No longer with team
**Played seven games with HOU

Number to know: 23

Of the 84 targets Courtland Sutton saw in his rookie season, 23 were deemed uncatchable by Sports Info Solutions. New quarterback Joe Flacco helped John Brown be a big storyline in the early part of 2018 with the Ravens, and Sutton's 14.0 average depth of target (aDOT) last year suggests he's the guy who will play a similar role for the Broncos in 2019. 

2019 Offseason

"More than anything, I think his skill-set marries very, very well with the type of offense we run. He's tough. He stands in the pocket and he can make all the throws. Those are the things that of course you want in your quarterback, and so [I'm] looking forward to building on that and working with him." - Rich Scangarello, on Joe Flacco

Head Coach: Vic Fangio (1st year - previously Defensive Coordinator, CHI)
Offensive Coordinator: Rich Scangarello (1st year - previously QB Coach, SF)  

Draft Picks 

1. (20) Noah Fant, TE
2. (41) Dalton Risner, T
2. (42) Drew Lock, QB
3. (71) Dre'mont Jones, DT
5. (156) Justin Hollins, LB
6. (187) Juwann Winfree, WR

Additions

QB Joe Flacco, OL Ju'Wuan James, LB Dekoda Watson, DB Kareem Jackson, DB Bryce Callahan

Key Departures

QB Case Keenum, WR Jordan Taylor, TE Matt LaCosse, OL Matt Paradis, OL Billy Turner, OL Max Garcia, OL Jared Veldheer, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Shane Ray, LB Brandon Marshall, DB Bradley Roby, DB Tramaine Brock, DB Jamar Taylor

Rankings and Projections

Player
Joe FlaccoQB30QB28QB32
Philip LindsayRB24RB17RB17
Royce FreemanRB43RB54RB48
Courtland SuttonWR45WR44WR51
DaeSean HamiltonWR43WR49N/A
Emmanuel SandersN/AWR51WR50
Noah FantTE16TE10TE20
Brandon McManusK23K19K21
Broncos DSTDST11DST9DST9
 
Heath Cummings' projected offensive stats
QBJoe Flacco3,400 YD, 18 TD, 12 INT
RBPhillip Lindsay216 ATT, 1,059 YD, 9 TD; 45 TAR, 32 REC, 217 YD, 1 TD
RBRoyce Freeman184 ATT, 736 YD, 6 TD
WRCourtland Sutton100 TAR, 50 REC, 790 YD, 5 TD
WRDaeSean Hamilton100 TAR, 67 REC, 603 YD, 4 TD
WREmmanuel Sanders105 TAR, 63 REC, 725 YD, 4 TD
TENoah Fant70 TAR, 49 REC, 539 YD, 4 TD

Biggest Question

Besides Phillip Lindsay, is there anyone else worth drafting here?  

"Joe Flacco's track record suggests a decent lean on rookie Noah Fant (about 20% of Flacco's completions annually go to tight ends) and second-year receiver Courtland Sutton (Flacco has an eye for the longer throws). They're worth low-expectation picks after 100th overall, but the Broncos figure to be conservative, hurting the upside of all parties involved." - Dave Richard

One sleeper, one breakout, and one bust

Sleeper: Noah Fant

Of all relevant Fantasy positions, tight end is the one where players have the hardest time contributing as rookies. But when they do, it's typically guys with early draft pedigrees and physical traits like Fant's. With 4.5 speed at 6 feet 4 inches, 249 pounds, Fant is a matchup problem for defenses. He's too quick for most linebackers, too big for most defensive backs, a reality that helped him to 18 touchdowns along with over 1,000 receiving yards in his final two collegiate seasons. It may take a little time, but in an offense devoid of clear passing-game options while Emmanuel Sanders rehabs from his late-season Achilles tear, Fant should get plenty of chances throughout the season. 

Breakout: Courtland Sutton

Sutton was frequently used as a downfield threat in his rookie season, posting an aDOT of 14. That can mean a boom-or-bust statistical profile, and he just didn't seem to be on the same page with Case Keenum, as more than a quarter of his 84 targets were deemed uncatchable by Sports Info Solutions. In fact, one of Sutton's two touchdowns of more than 20 yards came from fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Still, Sutton managed a strong 8.4 yards per target as a rookie, and the 704 yards he posted suggests the potential for a 1,000-yard season if he can bring in more balls than the 50% catch rate he posted in year one. He has a strong pedigree behind him as a productive collegiate player, and a quarterback change may be all he needs to ascend in his second season.

Bust: Phillip Lindsay

Lindsay was electric as a rookie, coming in as a sub-200 pound UDFA and completely stealing the show from third-round pick Royce Freeman. He'll be hard-pressed to repeat. A new coaching staff means the potential for a redefinition of roles, and the 45 pounds Freeman has on Lindsay suggests the goal line work might go to Freeman. Four of Lindsay's 10 touchdowns in 2018 came from 25 yards or further, a difficult feat to replicate. And Devontae Booker is still on the roster after leading the backfield in targets and receptions last year. Lindsay is also recovering from offseason wrist surgery, though he's expected to be fine for camp. Lindsay's 2018 was thrilling, but everything from the size of his role to the efficiency numbers he put up will be difficult to match in year two. Tread carefully.

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