Aug 13, 2010
Last year was a year of change for the Denver Broncos. They had a new head coach (Josh McDaniels replaced Mike Shanahan) and a new quarterback (Kyle Orton replaced Jay Cutler). The early success was shocking to some, as the Broncos rolled off six straight wins to start the season. But after losing eight of their finals 10 games and missing the playoffs, questions began to surround what McDaniels was telling his guys on the field.
For fantasy owners, the players on the field produced a mixed bag of results. Orton had a great year, throwing for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns. He connected early and often with stellar wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who had 101 catches for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns. One wide receiver who did not get open much was Eddie Royal, who after a rookie season where he had 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns, only nabbed 37 passes for 345 yards and not scoring a touchdown. With the additional passing the running game never blew up, as rookie Knowshon Moreno ran for a mere 947 yards and seven touchdowns (and not one 100 yard game) and his backup Correll Buckhalter ran for 642 yards and one score. It also didn’t help that the Broncos split the carries two to one, an approach many in fantasy football didn’t expect.
A big positive from last season was the defense for Denver. A unit that was ranked so low by many that it was believed any offense facing the Broncos would have a field day ended up being one of the best in fantasy football. One big reason was the addition of both a veteran defensive back in Brian Dawkins and another was the defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The defense was able to total 39 sacks and 37 turnovers on the season, good numbers from a unit projected at the bottom to start the year.
Jamal Williams (DT) – After spending his 12-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers, Williams moves to archrival Denver, attempting to comeback from a terrible injury of a year ago. Williams missed all but one game last season due to an elbow injury and was deemed too old to be kept around by his old team. The Broncos are hoping Williams can clog the middle of their defense, freeing up space for their defensive ends and linebackers. While he doesn’t blow up the stat sheet (394 tackles and 13 sacks in his career), his presence is all that’s needed to give the defense a ton of flexibility.
Brandon Marshall (WR) – While you may wonder why a team would consider trading away yet another franchise player with Marshall dealt to the Miami Dolphins, you must remember not only how many headaches Marshall caused but the amount of money that he was asking for. In four years, Marshall has caught 327 passes (3-100 reception seasons) for 4,019 yards (3-1,000 yard seasons), and 25 touchdowns. He wanted to be paid like the best in the game, and Denver was not prepared to make a huge commitment to a guy who has gotten into trouble in the past. His numbers shouldn’t dip too much in Miami, though it depends on how much the Dolphins go away from their stellar running game. In Denver, Marshall’s presence will be sorely missed. It is tough to replace a game changing player like Marshall, and the Broncos will try to do so with veterans Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, and Brandon Lloyd plus rookies Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
Andra Davis (LB) – One of the more underrated players on the defense that surprised many folks last season was Davis. He ranked third on the team with 90 tackles (and first with 10 tackles for loss) while being third with 3.5 sacks. His one successful season in Denver (after 7 years with the Cleveland Browns) allowed Davis to sign with the Buffalo Bills. While the Broncos felt he could be replaced, it will be interesting to see how the team responds without Davis making the little plays no one talks about.
Tony Scheffler (TE) – In his fourth season in Denver, Scheffler had his worst pro season since his rookie year, only catching 31 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns. A big reason for the drop in production was due to the role Scheffler played. He was kept in to block more, as head coach Josh McDaniels is not a fan of having his tight ends be big time playmakers. That’s the big reason why the team dealt the disgruntled tight end to the Detroit Lions, a place where he will now have to split the pass catching duties with second year pro Brandon Pettigrew. The Broncos meanwhile will not sorely miss Scheffler, considering they do not feature pass catching tight ends.
Mike Nolan (DC) – Outside of the loss of Marshall, the defensive coordinator may be the biggest loss to the Denver Broncos entering the 2010 season. Although the presence and play of safety Brian Dawkins played a big factor in the defense doing so well, it was Nolan who molded a bunch of individuals into a complete defense. He decided to leave after one season, accepting the same position with the Miami Dolphins. Nolan will be replaced by linebackers coach Don Martindale, who will try to keep the same type of defense together that Nolan implemented last season. How the unit responds to a new coordinator will result in how much you will want to own the defense in fantasy football this year. If you plan on selecting Denver remember that Elvis Dumervil is done for the season withva torn pectoral muscle but it could be as low as the bottom tier of defenses in the league.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Demaryius Thomas (WR) – The first wide receiver off the board at the 2010 NFL Draft (22nd overall), Thomas’ career will likely be compared to that of Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys. He has all the physical tools to be a good player including size, speed, and ball skills. Denver will ask Thomas to be the same type of player Marshall was for the team, going deep while making plays over the middle. The big question is whether or not he can improve on his route running, which may limit his production early on. Even with some work still needing to be done, Thomas should compete with Eddie Royal to see who will be the first Denver Broncos’ wide receiver drafted in fantasy football drafts.
Tim Tebow (QB) – Have you had enough time to swallow the fact that Denver traded up in Round 1 (No.25 overall) to draft Tebow? Who knows how successful he will be in the long term but one thing is for sure and that is with his work ethic. Denver got one of the hardest workers coming into the draft and if his mechanics are brought along properly, there is no doubt this athletic guy can pick everything up. When he does eventually become the full time starter, Tebow could put up numbers as a passing and running quarterback. In the short term, the team wants to bring him along as a quarterback, meaning Tebow has no real fantasy value for the 2010 football season as they try to teach him what it takes to be an effective NFL signal caller.
Eric Decker (WR) – This was a great value pick at No. 87 overall in Round 3 of the draft. Decker may not have the best speed, but he has good size with athleticism and toughness to make catches over the middle of the field. His hands are excellent and he can make just about any catch that is near him. That makes Decker the ideal possession wide receiver in this offense, perhaps the Wes Welker type many believed Eddie Royal could become. His biggest problem though (outside of speed) is his health, but if he can stay injury free Decker has some value and he should be on your deep sleeper watch list.
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BRUNO BOYS SPOTLIGHT
Knowshon Moreno (RB) – Last season, the rookie out of Georgia never quite got his feet under him, as he never had a 100 yard rushing game and only had four games with 20+ carries. It didn’t help that Moreno split carries with Correll Buckhalter and was not a focal point in the passing game. Even with all that being said, Moreno will be one of the first 25 players taken in most fantasy football drafts due to his elusiveness and quickness. While his touches may look the same, Moreno should show more explosiveness (tired out at the end of the year) leading to better statistics. Still, with a current hamstring injury you would be taking a real chance on drafting him in the first two rounds this fall
Eddie Royal (WR) – There may not have been a bigger disappointment on Denver’s team than Eddie Royal, who went from a rookie stud with 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns to 37 receptions for 345 yards and not a single touchdown. Expectations went sky high for Royal when head coach Josh McDaniels came to Denver, because many envisioned him being the next Wes Welker. However, the team never used him in that role, instead sending Royal on deeper routes. Kyle Orton rarely made a lot of deep passes, which is why his numbers took such a big dip. It’s really hard to say what we can expect from Royal in 2010. Thomas will replace Marshall in the flanker position, meaning Royal will continue to play out of the slot. While you’d expect Royal to have a bounce back season, if the Broncos continue to misuse him, his numbers won’t see much of an upgrade from last season.
2010 FANTASY PREVIEWS PREVIEWS
AFC WEST: DEN | KC | OAK | SD
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