Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on the NFL visit Fantasy Football Overdose – your online source for anything about fantasy football.
The Denver Broncos were amazing on offense in 2013. Peyton Manning was clearly the driving force behind an NFL record 606 points, as he tossed 55 touchdowns and put up 5,477 passing yards (also records, by the way). He wasn’t the only fantasy football stud in Denver, though, as his receiving options tore up the field and written off running back Knowshon Moreno has by far his best season of his career with nearly 1,600 total yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Of course, Denver’s success (going 13-3) made their awesome numbers on offense all the more impressive. In fact, with only a March neck exam standing in the way of Peyton Manning returning for another season in 2014, there is the potential for another epic season. While it may not touch the 606 team points or Manning’s 55 touchdowns, it still should be big enough for fantasy owners to want to get their hands on some Denver fantasy options.
The real question is, though, which ones should you draft? Let’s break down the top Broncos for the 2014 fantasy football season via some early rankings:
Note: To help keep things in line, Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker will not be included in these early rankings, as both players will be free agents.
1. Peyton Manning (Quarterback)
History suggests Manning isn’t about to put up over 5,400 yards and 55 touchdowns again in 2013, much less surpass it. And if we’re being realistic, demanding or expecting over 5,000 yards or 50 touchdowns is just asking a bit too much – even for Manning.
We need to factor in that it’s entirely possible he loses Moreno and Decker to free agency. Even if he gets everyone back, though, there’s also the possibility of natural regression or even injury. That being said, we’ve seen some quarterbacks play elite ball into their 40’s (Brett Favre, anyone?), and as long as Manning can stay healthy, it’s entirely possibly he plays at an extremely high level for another 2-3 years.
He’s already lost something on his deep ball and fastball, but he just has an excellent cast of weapons and executes his offense with top-level precision. If you believe that continues (and I do), he’s a lock for top-five numbers again in 2014.
2. Demaryius Thomas (Wide Receiver)
Thomas was a machine for the second season in a row, putting up his second straight 1,400+ yard season and pushing his career high in touchdowns from 10 to 14. A home run threat every time he touches the ball, Thomas was fully utilized all season, as he appropriately led the Broncos in receptions (92) and averaged over 15 yards per catch for a third straight year.
It’s pretty simple. Thomas is a boss. He has the height and ball skills to win jump balls, while he also has the speed and explosiveness to take bubble screens the distance in seconds. Properly used the last two seasons, there’s absolutely no reason to think he’d go down in any manner in 2014. In fact, should Decker leave via free agency, it’d only make sense for Thomas to get the ball even more. He’s locked in as a top-five receiver and elite WR1 for 2014.
3. Montee Ball (Running Back)
Ball struggled immensely with fumbles and dropped passes as a rookie, which really crushed his preseason sleeper status. Many fantasy experts thought he was going to be primo sleeper and drafted him ahead of Moreno. While that backfired, a potential Moreno departure could turn the tables on that logic right away, come 2014.
After all, despite his struggles and limited action behind a very effective and active Moreno, Ball still carried the ball 119 times for 558 yards (with a healthy 4.7 yards per carry) and four touchdowns on the ground. Again, even though his hands were spotty, he also hauled in 20 receptions for 145 receiving yards.
This was all as a rookie, and it was all as a secondary option in Denver’s rushing attack. Should Ball be suddenly thrust into a major role, there’s no reason to doubt him quickly ascending to RB2 status – if not better. That would put him inside the top-20 or possibly higher.
Translation: Ball’s value hinges heavily on what happens with Moreno in free agency, but if Moreno jets for more cash, he’s going to be coveted fantasy running back in 2014 thanks to his offense and natural talents.
4. Wes Welker (Wide Receiver)
Everyone was wondering what type of production Welker would bring to Denver after averaging well over 100 receptions per year with the New England Patriots. He didn’t hit that mark, as predicted, but no one can say for sure if he could have or not, as he sat out Denver’s final three games with concussion symptoms. In just 13 starts, Welker reeled in 73 balls for 778 yards and actually put up a career high touchdowns.
It’s not all that likely the Broncos let Eric Decker go without a fight, but should he leave, there will be 86 receptions Denver’s receiving corps will have to make up for. Needless to say, a healthy Welker would immediately be a threat for 100+ catches again. We can probably expect a slight dip from his career high touchdowns, but overall he’ll remain a high-end WR2 in standard leagues and a full-fledged WR1 in PPR (points per reception) leagues.
5. Julius Thomas (Tight End)
Thomas was a light fantasy sleeper coming into 2013, but few fantasy experts bit on him hard and truly backed him. Needless to say, he shocked just about everyone with an awesome week one performance, as he hauled in five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He was a weekly play from that point on, finishing the year with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’d benefit immensely from the departure of Decker, but either way he’ll be a top-level TE1 again in 2014. He’s just too explosive to not put up elite numbers in this offense.
Ronnie Hillman and Jacob Tamme could also be considered (or ranked here), but they’re merely speculative options that will have their value 100% hinge on who goes or stays, as well as their exact role. For now, they’re off limits for fantasy purposes.