During the Mike Shanahan era, Denver Broncos players dotted the fantasy football landscape with regularity. The offensive starters could be counted on for a solid season, and previously unknown running backs would become fantasy saviors who could lead your team to a surprising fantasy championship. Shanahan would also become the master of tormenting fantasy owners by employing a strange “rotating RB platoon” where you never knew who was going to get the nod on any given Sunday. Still, during most of his time in Denver, you could count on productive fantasy seasons from most players.
But just as the wins have been harder to come by in recent seasons, so have the number of fantasy contributors on the Broncos roster. There still have been some bright spots worthy of consideration for a fantasy team; they have just been fewer and farther between.
Despite sitting during the final 3 games of the 2010 season, Denver quarterback Kyle Orton had a great year in terms of fantasy production. He finished 10th in the league with 3,653-yards passing and he threw 20 touchdowns against only 9 picks. Brandon Lloyd had had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 and ended up with more receiving yards than any other player in the NFL. So despite the horrible results in the win-loss column lately, all has not been lost for Broncos players in the fantasy world.
So what is the outlook for Broncos players in 2011? The following is a breakdown of our fantasy talent by position. The fantasy player rankings are from ESPN.com (Current as of August 9th) and are shown next to each player along with a quick analysis. Enjoy!
- Kyle Orton (#136 overall, #22 QB): It has been a crazy couple of weeks for Kyle Orton. For several days rumors were rampant that he would be starting for the Miami Dolphins this season. But the trade never materialized, and it now looks like he will once again be under center for the Broncos when the regular season kicks off. But the uncertainty around the quarterback position has really driven down the value of both Orton and Tim Tebow. Last week it was commonplace to see articles proclaiming Tebow a fantasy dark horse for the 2011 season assuming he would be the new starter, but those articles have all but disappeared. Because of this drama, both quarterbacks are ranked outside the top 20 and will not be in many starting lineups for the foreseeable future. Drafting Orton late as a back-up looks like about as good as it’s going to get for either of the Broncos quarterbacks right now.
- Tim Tebow (NR overall, #34 QB): See above. But realize that Tebow will be a hot commodity when he becomes the starter.
- Knowshon Moreno (#38 overall, #18 RB): The fantasy gurus still believe in Moreno because they have him ranked higher than any other Bronco. But does anyone else think this is the make or break year for him? First of all he needs to stay healthy, and then he needs help from someone who can stand up to the pounding that is inherent on short-yardage plays. Welcome Willis McGahee! I think the McGahee addition is huge and will give Moreno the chance to flourish in his 3rd season. The offensive line is also coming into the season healthy, something that didn’t happen last year, but it will likely include the rookie Orlando Franklin. It is very important to get him up to speed quickly because we need him to be effective right away. I see Moreno as the big-play back that can be effective in the passing game, while McGahee is the bruiser who will help keep Moreno fresh. If these things come to fruition, and if Moreno can avoid the injury bug, I say this could be a bounce back year for him. Take Moreno if you get the chance.
- Willis McGahee (#102 overall, #42 RB): Mcgahee’s value will most likely be as a flex type guy who hawks some touchdowns during redzone possessions. Those type players are most effective when they play on a team that scores a ton of points. Obviously, more redzone possessions equal more opportunities for that one touchdown that will make or break a flex player’s Sunday. Because of this, my initial feeling on Willis was buyer beware. But since Orton will be starting and has looked good during camp so far, I now say McGahee is a good pickup in the middle rounds. He has a ton of upside considering John Fox loves the 2-back system that we have seen in Carolina over the past few seasons, and if Moreno misses time with an injury (knock on wood), he will be highly coveted in all fantasy leagues.
- Brandon Lloyd (#46 overall, #17 WR): The thing that makes me nervous about Lloyd is that it will be almost impossible to duplicate a season where you lead the league in receiving. But with that said, his relatively pedestrian ranking means that he will be picked in the 3rd to the 5th round in most leagues. That is quite a deal as far as I’m concerned. You still have the upside of having a top line WR, yet you don’t have to overpay for him. I am guessing this is fallout from the new regime and all the drama with the quarterback situation, but I love value picks and this one will be hard to beat.
- Eric Decker (#250 overall, #84 WR): I think I would take a wait and see approach with Eric Decker. He’s currently a second-stringer on the depth chart behind Eddie Royal, and I honestly am not sure how much playing time we can expect from him. I am guessing he will be on the field in 3-receiver or spread formations until Demaryius Thomas is healthy, but he will also be pushed for playing time by veterans David Anderson and Matthew Willis. I would pass for now because he will most likely be available as a free agent.
- Eddie Royal (#272 overall, #90 WR): Does anyone else sigh when they think of Royal torching the Raiders secondary during his first NFL start, and then wonder how in the heck he is ranked #272 overall in 2011? For whatever reason Josh McDaniels strayed away from anyone associated with Shanahan, with Royal being one of the most glaring examples. His production the last 2 seasons has been well off his 91-catch effort of 2008, but he did manage to finish with 59 receptions last year, and that is nothing to sneeze at. I just don’t understand why he is ranked so incredibly low. As I said above, I think all the uncertainty around the franchise is hurting all of our player rankings this year, but #272? I say he is worth a flyer this season at the very least. He has a Pro-Bowler protecting him on the other side of the field and he has another season with Orton (allegedly). I say he finishes above at least a third of the wide receivers ranked above him.
- None of Denver’s tight ends are ranked in the top 300 overall. Until Dante Rosario, Daniel Fells, or one of the rookies emerges during the preseason, it would be a big reach going after one of these guys right now.
- As has been the case for many years, do NOT draft the Denver defense. One day soon the Orange Crush Defense will return, that much is certain. But until then look elsewhere for a fantasy defense.
- If you are honestly looking for advice on kickers, then you need more help than I can provide.
Good luck to all the fantasy football players out there in 2011!
Tags: Brandon Lloyd Daniel Fells Dante Rosario David Anderson Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos Eddie Royal Eric Decker Josh Mcdaniels Knowshon Moreno Kyle Orton Matthew Willis Mike Shanahan Orange Crush Defense Orlando Franklin Tim Tebow Willis Mcgahee