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 Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The Denver Broncos were insanely good in fantasy football in 2013. We all expected Peyton Manning to be pretty good after putting up 37 touchdowns and over 4,600 passing yards in 2013. In his second season back, he was sure to be about as good or a considerable amount better heading into last season.
He met expectations and then some with 55 touchdowns and over 5,400 passing yards (both NFL records). We really didn’t know what to expect out of slot receiver Wes Welker in his first season with the team. Nor did we know what to expect out of guys like Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno.
Ball was the hot sleeper going into last season, and instead of rising to the top of the running back depth chart as a rookie, it was the often injured Moreno who took over. Not only did he steal Ball’s starting gig, but he also careered with over 1,600 total yards and 11 total touchdowns.
And the biggest shocker of all? How about Portland State product Julius Thomas busting out as an elite weapon after doing next to nothing through his first two NFL seasons?
These types of meteoric rises are awesome when you nail them down in fantasy drafts, but they also give way to the possibility of epic collapses.
After all, age, injury and roles come into play at some point, while opposing defenses and schedules can also affect how things go down the next season.
With 2014 just around the corner and Broncos players still hyped beyond belief, let’s take a look at three of their fantasy weapons that might carry a little more risk than you want to take on this year:
Peyton Manning (Quarterback)
Manning was amazing in 2013 and he can certainly do it again. I’m not saying at all that you shouldn’t draft him or he’s suddenly going to drop off to a nothing man. However, there is some very real risk here.
There is certainly the age factor, as Manning is 38 now and eventually every player hits some sort of a wall. Manning himself has admitted his arm strength hasn’t been the same since his neck issue, so as the arm goes, other parts of his body could go, as well.
With age can come decreased awareness, poor reaction time and further injury. Manning’s offensive line lost a couple bodies during the off-season, too, which could open the door to some more hits.
At 38, Manning could be just that one hit away from the end – especially when you factor in a serious neck injury that could pop back up out of nowhere.
There have been many greats that had killer seasons at an advanced age and seemed like they had beaten Father Time into the ground for good. However, guys like Steve Young, Brett Favre and Rich Gannon (to name a few) still got hurt and regressed eventually.
Even if Peyton Manning doesn’t get hurt or feel the affect of age in 2014, it’s still a good possibility that he is negatively impacted by his own roster’s changes, or at least his schedule and defenses adjusting to the Broncos.
Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno were to very safe, reliable options on offense. Now they’re gone and being replaced by two less experienced guys that have some flaws (we’ll get to them).
In addition, Denver has arguably a tougher schedule in 2014 than they did a year ago. Their own division will be looking to lop their heads off even more this season, while they have to take on the brutal NFC West, as well as several other tough opponents.
Overall, it’s a lot to ask to think Manning will come out and just dominate everyone like he’s the guy who invented the game and they’re just a bunch of newbies. I don’t think he’ll fall off the face of the earth, but stats much closer to his 2012 seasons are the safer bet.
Montee Ball (Running Back)
Ball has the potential to be awesome. If he can exactly duplicate or exceed what Knowshon Moreno did in 2013, he will be every bit worth the first round asking price he comes at right now.
But what if he doesn’t? If you think back to last summer, Ball was a pretty hot topic, as many saw him as the main man in Denver’s backfield. It wasn’t at all possible a veteran back with a shaky injury history like Moreno could keep him from crushing it as a rookie.
And then it was. So, it’s not at all possible that Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson could cut into his touches or that defenses could penetrate and blow up Denver’s rushing attack, is it?
Sure it is. But even if the world around him doesn’t crumble, we still need to worry about the flaws we saw from the fledgling Ball not coming out of nowhere again in 2014.
After all, haven’t we been here before with David Wilson and Lamar Miller? Those guys were also highly talented players entering their second seasons and they face-planted last year.
Ball seems to have figured the NFL out. His catching, blocking and ball security all improved as the year went on. The thing to remember, though, is this all happened in a backup/change of pace roll.
When the lights go on and Ball is a 20+ touches per game guy, is he really that elite option the Broncos need him to be? I think he can be, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some serious risk involved.
Emmanuel Sanders (Wide Receiver)
You might throw Wes Welker in the mix due to age and concussions, but Sanders is easily the third Bronco that strikes me as a big risk.
This is the guy who is coming in to replace Eric Decker, yet he’s nothing like Decker and is an inferior player. Decker was more reliable in every sense of the word, in terms of health, ball skills, route-running, red-zone ability and consistency.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Sanders’ best year in the league came last year during a contract year – yet it wasn’t even all that great!
Sure, he’s replacing a guy that was awesome the past two seasons in this system, gets to catch passes from the great Peyton Manning and obviously operates out of a system in general that produces great results.
But this is still Emmanuel Sanders. If he blows up and careers on everyone, it’ll be by far his best season ever. That’s if he gets Decker’s role completely down and fends off rookie receiver Cody Latimer, and if he can stay healthy, and if he can actually meet expectations.
He’s a very explosive and versatile receiver, but he lacks size and won’t be able to do the things Decker did. In some ways he could be better than Decker, but through his career so far, all that physical ability hasn’t really equated to much.
I like his upside, but Sanders is a bit of a red flag. I wouldn’t be all that shocked if he flopped – even with the Broncos.