With the start of the NFL season just a few weeks away, many fantasy football leagues are preparing for their annual draft. Having elite fantasy options at every position, the Broncos are a powerhouse and their players will be highly targeted in every draft.
Peyton Manning is the overall team leader and the NFL’s current MVP. He will likely be the first quarterback drafted. In standard scoring leagues, he scored over 500 fantasy points last season, while passing for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both NFL records. His closest rival, Drew Brees, finished almost 80 points behind. The return of Ryan Clady, one of football’s top tackles, should give Manning even more time in the pocket than he had last year. With a strong receiving corps, Manning should again throw for 5,000 yards and 35-40 touchdowns in 2014.
Last year’s top-five running back, Knowshon Moreno, is now a Miami Dolphin. The Broncos running back to own this season is Montee Ball. Last season Ball received half as many touches as Moreno, and still rushed for 559 yards with three touchdowns, while grabbing 20 passes for 149 yards. Ball is a top 10 running back option in all mock drafts and is usually gone by the end of the second round. Denver’s running backs will face a steady diet of six man fronts that will open up a lot of running lanes. Ball should come close to Moreno’s production by rushing for 1,200 yards and 300 receiving yards with 12 touchdowns. C.J. Anderson, not Ronnie Hillman, has been the primary backup in pre-season and should be considered as a handcuff for Ball.
But what makes the Denver Broncos a fantasy football powerhouse is their receiving corps. Demaryius Thomas is an elite pass catcher and finished last year as the second leading fantasy receiver. He caught 92 passes for 1,430 yards with 14 touchdowns in 2013. He is big, strong and will gain extra yardage after the catch. A repeat of 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns is a conservative estimate for this upcoming season. He has been drafted in the second round in most mock drafts.
Julius Thomas, the Broncos tight end, is the second best tight end in the NFL behind Jimmy Graham. His 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns made him one of Manning’s favorite targets. Thomas should again wind up with close to 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. In most mock drafts he has been the second tight end drafted and is usually selected before the end of the third round.
What makes the Broncos receiving corps special are the rest of their receivers. Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer, a late round sleeper, should have very productive seasons with Manning throwing them the ball. They are each capable of a 1,000-yard season with 10 or more touchdowns. Last year Eric Decker caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Welker missed three games and still caught 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sanders is expected to replace Decker in the offense. He has more speed and is a greater vertical threat. Latimer, the rookie second round draft choice, has great potential. He may not put up huge numbers while learning the offense early in the season, but should become more productive as the season progresses. With Welker’s history of concussions, selecting Latimer in the late rounds may pay dividends.
Last season the Broncos defense was ranked 22nd with 399 points allowed. They were scored upon early and often. After their Super Bowl demolition, John Elway spent the greater portion of free agency fixing his defense. Adding DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward has given the Broncos defense a new agressive look. Returning starters Von Miller, Chris Harris, Derek Wolfe and Rahim Moore, who all missed the Super Bowl, can make this one of the top fantasy defenses to own. While they are not in the top echelon with the Seahawks and 49ers, they can, however, be a top five defense in 2014. Their 34-0 blowout of the 49ers in the last pre-season game, gave an indication of the unit’s capabilities.
Matt Prater is one of fantasy football’s top kickers. Last season he made 25 of 26 field goals including an NFL record 64-yarder. Earning extra fantasy points, he made 14 out of 15 field goals from 40 yards or more. He will be one of the top three kickers chosen.
This season, the Denver Broncos provide top options for fantasy football owners at all positions. They were an offensive, record setting powerhouse last season, and should again be the top offensive team in football in 2014.
Commentary by Hans Benes