2013 Team Outlook: Denver Broncos
There is no question that Denver will be the team to beat in the AFC West and likley the AFC. Under Manning's direction, this offense should be potent and there should be some solid fantasy numbers to capitalize upon, especially in the receiving core. Look for Denver to control the pace of every game this season and play smart. Denver's 13-3 record last season before their divisional exit from the playoffs was impressive. There are some excellent fantasy options coming out of Denver this season. I think the interesting things to watch will be the Montee Ball, Moreno and Hillman with the exit of McGahee in the running schemes and the depth at receiver beyond Thomas, Welker, Decker and Tamme. It will be very interesting to see if Welker detracts from the production of Thomas and Decker or if his presence helps boost their numbers by opening coverage options. From any vantage, players in Denver this season will have some very positive fantasy value.
Update 8/23/13 - Hillman's fumble - Ball or Moreno better? TE Julius Thomas should be on your radar.
The running game in Denver is under question. The two young backs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball split first-string duties in pre-season to-date and have both proved valuable. However, both have their faults - Hillman's goal line fumble really hurt, but then Peyton Manning felt Montee Ball's error of missed blocking coverage. The big question now is: Can Hillman stay at the top or will there be a Hillman - Ball committee? or maybe a Knowshon Moreno comeback? All three backs will be drafted, but in what order appears to be across the board in mock drafts and reports.
Update 8/31/13 - Hillman has been named the Week 1 starter atop the depth chart. This does not mean he is a better play than Montee Ball, especially since the team reports state that the offense will feature a running by committee approach. Hillman, Ball and Knowshon Moreno will all likely be utilized over the first few weeks of the season. Most experts are predicting that Ball will see the majority of the carries, but you have to wonder if Ball's inexperience and Hillman's lost fumbles will continue to plague their grasp on carries. Moreno is still a gamble, although he could surprise.
Update 9/4/13 - Knowshon Moreno may be the primary back in Week1 according to sources.
Update 9/12/13 - Knowshon Moreno and Julius Thomas are on most fantasy watch and add lists after Week 1. Peyton Manning looked every bit of his old self and ready for a playoff run even in Week 1. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are guys that are sitting fantasy benches this week as Denver's running game is focused on picking up coverage and running when needed. This role should go to Moreno until he is injured or fails to produce. Watch Hillman and Ball as the weeks progress, but they have disappointed so far given their hype in the preseason. Julius Thomas is the guy I think you should grab if you can. He looked like a young Antonio Gates last week and I think his productivity will continue.
Update 9/25/13 - Ronnie Hillman jumps back onto the fantasy radar this week after a solid outing in Week 3. Hillman will likely split more time with Knowshon Moreno in coming weeks as Montee Ball's fumble woes continue. I like Hillman as a deep league option at flex as he will see action in the backfield on third downs and goal line looks. Keep an eye on Hillman as the weeks progress. He might be worth more in the coming future, but for now he is just one cog in Denver's ever-evoling running-back-by-committee approach.
Julius Thomas continues to impress and moves from sleeper to solid/safe pick and maybe even to fantasy stud status.
QB Brock Osweiler, CLE - Not Draft Worthy
Brock Osweiler is not draftable simply because of Peyton Manning. Osweiler and Zac Dysert will be Manning's back-up options, but will not see the field unless Manning is injured or being rested late in the season. At 6-8, you won't be able to miss Osweiler on the sidelines.
QB Peyton Manning, --- - Stud (low risk)
Peyton Manning's return to the NFL was a triumph. Throwing for over 4,600 yards with 37 TDs made him a desireable fantasy stud once again. There were skeptics last season, but I think any doubts are erased moving forward. Manning will control the pace of his offense and challenge any opponent this coming season. He should be back near the top of your fantasy radar and picked with confidence.
RB Montee Ball, --- - Gamble (high risk)
Update (8-28): No news is bad news for fantasy owners in the case of the Broncos backfield. Head coach John Fox remains non-committal to any of his three options as his starting RB. Ball remains the best bet followed by Ronnie Hillman. Knowshon Moreno might receive the most snaps early in the season. That says more about the young player's pass blocking than Moreno's rushing. With his nose for the end zone, Ball is 5-6 round option in 12-team leagues. Hillman goes about 3-4 rounds later.
Montee Ball is being listed as the RB 1 in Denver at the moment, but that can easily change with the likes of Moreno, Hillman and Hester on the roster as well. Watch the depth chart and see how it shakes out, but it appears the Terrell Davis-like rusher will see quite a bit of action in Denver's revamped blocking schemes and with Thomas, Decker and Welker opening running lanes with solid receiving. I am looking forward to seeing Ball this season and currently predict he will split time with Hillman as the main rusher.
Update: Ball's value takes a hit as Hillman is named the starter. I still think Ball will get touches and have an impact, but his ADP drops here. He might move to more of a sleeper pick, but I think he will be a safe addition to rosters.
RB Ronnie Hillman, --- - Sleeper (undervalued)
Update (8-28) - Hillman is on top of the depth chart, but in the pre-season he has been working to out-perform Montee Ball, who has been sharing time. Hillman's goal line fumble this past game was brutal, but Ball matched strides with his dropped blocking coverage that led to Peyton Manning getting dropped by the defense. Hillman and Ball will likely go before Moreno in your drafts, but all three should be drafted. I still think Hillman will see primary duty, but Ball could steal some thunder. Moreno is a draft-day gamble who should also see some of this time share.
Hillman also factors into the running mix in Denver. His season last year was marred by hamstring issues, but he did carry the ball well when called upon. Hillman has gained weight and is going to be a solid option for Denver this season to split time with Ball. Only time will tell, but the added weight might even displace a player like Hester in third down and goal line situations. This would mean increased fantasy value for Hillman.
Update: Hillman now appears atop the RB depth chart in Denver. This moves his status from super sleeper to solid/safe. Montee Ball's value may drop given this move.
RB Knowshon Moreno, --- - Solid/Safe Pick
Moreno is still being held out of practice following the knee injury that took him out of the divisional playoff game at the end of last season. Moreno should be ready to go for the start of the season, but Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman will be in action as well. It is highly likely we will see a three-pronged running attack this season and that means Moreno could be hit or miss fantasy-wise. Watch his injury updates and you have to consider he is the best blocking back out of the top three, meaning he might not see as much rushing action.
Update 8/23/13 - It appears Denver is in need of a blocking back following Montee Ball's missed coverage. Enter Knowshon Moreno - Denver's best blocking and most experienced back. I think Moreno might get his chances after all. I am not sure where he lands in your draft as he, Ball and Ronnie Hillman will all likely be drafted. Moreno might not be the long-term fantasy gamble as we anticipated, but he might be a gamble pick in your draft at this stage.
Update 9/4/13 - Sources are reporting a three-pronged attack from the Denver running game. Named starter Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Moreno will split carries. However, recent comments suggest that Moreno will see the bulk of the action. He might be worth a serious look at this stage and loose his gamble status quickly if this proves true in Week 1.
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN - Stud (low risk)
Thomas is by far Manning's best target. Look for this relationship to only build as time goes on. Manning and Thomas will be working on their timing and be ready to crush opponents downfield with Thomas' speed and Manning's arm. I do not think you can go wrong with having Thomas on your fantasy roster.