This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The Denver Broncos know what they’re doing. Even after putting up record numbers and breaking the NFL record for points in a single-season, they still went out and addressed their offense, both for the interim and the long-term.
Wes Welker is still in tow for another year, but Denver thought ahead this offseason, bringing on the explosive Emmanuel Sanders, while also drafting the equally explosive Cody Latimer.
Landing two solid talents like that at wide receiver should inevitably allow them to let Welker walk in free agency in 2015, which will in turn let them focus on locking up studs like Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas.
Elsewhere, they simply improved from within, as superior talent Montee Ball takes over at starting running back for the departed Knowshon Moreno.
Will the changes make for greatness now or later, and how have the moves affected Denver’s Average Draft Position in fantasy mock drafts?
Let’s take a look at Denver’s top fantasy weapons and where you might find them in fantasy drafts in 2014:
Peyton Manning (Quarterback)
Manning doesn’t have the same arm strength and his passes look like ducks at times, but he continues to have some of the best ball placement in the NFL. Add in his system and awesome weapons, and it just makes sense that he’d tear the league up. It’s completely unrealistic to expect him to turn around and put up 55 touchdowns and 5,400+ passing yards again, but even a drop off of 10 touchdowns and around 1,000 yards would still put him in contention for the top fantasy quarterback. That’s probably close to what we can expect.
Naturally, Peyton Manning’s Average Draft Position (ADP) is at the end of round one in most leagues. Round two is probably the absolute longest you’ll see him last. There is a ridiculous amount of value at quarterback, though, so taking Manning isn’t necessarily suggested by this writer.
Montee Ball (Running Back)
Ball entered 2013 as a hot sleeper but faded fast behind the more effective and reliable Moreno because he had hands of stone and struggled in pass protection. He solved both issues by the end of the year, though, and actually quickly turned into a very solid change of pace back. He’s being handed the keys to the offensive backfield in 2014, which should project to numbers similar to what Moreno produced in 2013. That should mean high-end RB2 value at the very worst, and a real shot for quality RB1 production.
Ball’s value has spiked in mock drafts considerably, launching him all the way up into the first round. That might be his potential, but I’d prefer to land him in round two if at all possible.
Ronnie Hillman (Running Back)
You can throw C.J. Anderson in the mix here, too, but Hillman is the more impressive talent and Denver’s coaches are going to prefer his talent and consistency finally come together. Ball was a nice Flex option some weeks as Knowshon Moreno’s backup last year, so Hillman could produce similar results. He’ll need to alleviate concerns about ball security and blitz pickup first, though.
Hillman isn’t being drafted on average just yet, but Anderson can be found in rounds 13-14. Hopefully Hillman doesn’t win the backup job until late so you can snatch him up on the cheap.
Demaryius Thomas (Wide Receiver)
Thomas is a freak and nothing is changing that. He was the only player who really played up to his potential in Denver’s embarrassing Super Bowl loss and at 26 he’s still getting better. He’s a lock to meet his production of the past two years (90+ catches, 1,400+ yards and 10+ touchdowns) and could once again vie for the #1 overall fantasy receiver ranking. You will probably have to take him in round one if you want him this year.
Wes Welker (Wide Receiver)
Welker is 34 and had concussion issues last year that robbed him of three games, yet he still topped 70 catches, 700+ receiving yards and scored a career high 10 touchdowns in 2013. Considering it was his first season with the Broncos and they have plenty of other weapons, those are impressive numbers. Provided he stays healthy and his play doesn’t suddenly drop off, he’s going to once again be a high-end WR2 in standard league and could vie for WR1 numbers in PPR formats.
Welker should be found in the fourth round in most drafts and obviously a little higher in PPR formats. I’d like to land him closer to round five, though, as guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Victor Cruz, DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson have more overall upside.
Emmanuel Sanders (Wide Receiver)
Sanders careered in a contract year with the Steelers last year, but still wasn’t a dominant player. He has a checkered injury history and has always been inconsistent. The potential of that suddenly changing is very real, which is why we can’t ignore Sanders’ upside. He is potentially coming in to take over Eric Decker’s old role, so depending on just how much of that role ends up being his, he could be a studly WR2. Draft him as a high-end WR3 if you can, and you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Sanders has a fairly rich ADP of round six, but it gets a little murky at that point for wide receiver, so it’s acceptable. He’s definitely worth the risk if you can get him there or a little later.
Cody Latimer (Wide Receiver)
Latimer is an explosive, versatile threat that supposedly is at least going to get a chance to make an impact in the passing game as a rookie. He’s an exciting prospect to monitor and absolutely own in Dynasty formats, but there are a ton of mouths to feed here. He’s going to be worth a late round flier in all leagues. Just make sure you temper your expectations.
Latimer isn’t even being drafted on average right now, yet the likes of Kenny Britt and numerous other rookie receivers are. I’d much rather take a stab at a talented rookie in Denver’s potent offense.
Julius Thomas (Tight End)
Thomas was a mild sleeper heading into 2013, but truth be told, no one really saw him coming. Thomas broke out right away in week one, putting up 788 yards and a whopping 12 touchdowns on 65 catches. He did that all in just 14 games and was banged up for a few others. He’s only scratching the surface of his insane athletic ability at the tight end position, making him quite a TE1 bargain in fantasy drafts.
Rob Gronkowski is not 100%, so it’s coming down to reaching for Jimmy Graham in late round one or early round two, or settling on Thomas in round three or four. I’d much rather wait and pluck Thomas off the board. He’s the better value.