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2016 Team Report: Denver Broncos

Quarterbacks

Starter: Trevor Siemian
Backup(s): Paxton Lynch [R]

Starting QB: Mark Sanchez has been an absolute disaster for the Broncos, so they will turn to 2015 seventh-round Trevor Siemian to start Week 1 against Carolina. Siemian has been more under control with the exception of an egregious pick six. He won't elevate the pass offense, but the hope is that he doesn't lose games with turnovers.

Backup QB: The Broncos moved up in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft so they could secure Paxton Lynch. After Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler chose to move on in free agency to the Houston Texans, the Broncos were left scrambling at the most important position on the roster. They did a great job landing a passer like Lynch. He's tall (6'7"), sees the field well and is not afraid to challenge the edges of the defense. A former high school Wing-T QB (basically a RB who would throw once in awhile), Lynch is an incredible athlete who is a threat to run. That's going to benefit him greatly in the Gary Kubiak offense. Lynch is going to take away the unblocked back-side defender on play-action fakes, bootlegs and rollouts because he's a very good runner. He needs to prove that he can work from under center and make complex reads at the pro level after playing in a pass-happy, shotgun-only spread system at Memphis. The Broncos are microwaving Lynch's learning curve, and we think he works his way into the starting lineup at some point this season.

Running Backs

Starter: C.J. Anderson
Backup(s): Devontae Booker [R], Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs, Cyrus Gray, Ronnie Hillman
Fullback(s): Andy Janovich [R]

Starting RB: The Broncos paid C.J. Anderson a premium price earlier this offseason when they matched the Miami Dolphins four-year, $18 million tender for the veteran back. Not only did the Broncos give Anderson a pile of money, but this is also a sign they're going to give him the largest workload of his football career--even dating back to college at Cal. Over the last two years, Anderson has proven to be one of the most valuable fantasy RBs in the league as his production level is near (or at) the top of the league during that time. However, Anderson has not been able to stay healthy for a full 16 games. Last year, Anderson began the season as the starter but a Week 1 ankle/turf toe injury robbed him of his ability and he didn't look the same until the last month of the season. Anderson led the league in rushing during the postseason and had 24 carries for 90 yards and one rushing touchdown in the team's Super Bowl 50 victory. That game gives us a clue as to what Anderson's workload could be this year. He's the smartest RB in the league, great in pass-protection and a really good receiver out of the backfield. Anderson could be picked up in the third round as fantasy owners may be gun-shy when considering him. If he stays healthy, Anderson will produce like a top-10 fantasy RB at least in the run-heavy Gary Kubiak offense.

Backup RBs: Booker does a lot of things like Anderson. He's a power back who is an incredible receiver out of the backfield. Booker is patient...sometimes too patient...but should be a great fit for the zone-blocking system. The Broncos are unlikely to use a RBBC, so fantasy owners need to consider Booker a three-down-back-in-waiting, and the rookie is a must-handcuff for any fantasy owner willing to take a chance on Anderson. Juwan Thompson is a big power back with little wiggle in the open field. He can't play fullback, but the team could keep him around for his work on special teams. Kapri Bibbs has been on the team's practice squad for two years because he struggles in pass-protection. He may be running out of chances if he can't prove that he's capable of protecting his QB. Cyrus Gray is a good all-purpose RB with no skills that standout. Hillman has had a lackluster camp and is in danger of being released.

Fullback: The Broncos system needs a fullback like rookie Andy Janovich. He'll be asked to blast open holes for Anderson, and the rookie thumper may lighten the beating that Anderson would take without him. If they need him to, Janovich can pick up short-yardage situations as a runner. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield, so watch for that "spider-2-Y-banana" play call from time to time.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders
Backups: Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood, Jordan Taylor, Bralon Addison [R], Mose Frazier

Starting WRs: Demaryius Thomas was impacted the most by the team's inconsistent play at QB last year. He finished the year with 105 catches, 1,304 receiving yards and six touchdowns in what will be remembered as a "disappointing" year. He had four, 100-yard games last year but only had one game with multiple touchdowns. This year, his numbers (aside from TDs) may go down as the team is intent on running the ball as much as possible. We still see Thomas as a WR2 for fantasy owners, and if he finishes the year as a top-20 fantasy WR in 2016 we won't be surprised. Emmanuel Sanders can do it all. He's fast and can take the top off the defense when the team wants to take some deep shots. Sanders is small, but he's fearless when running routes over the middle of the field. He'll sacrifice his personal safety to make a difficult catch and move the chains. With the changes to the passing game we see Sanders as a reliable low-end WR2 or a great flex play for fantasy owners in 2016.

Backup WRs: This is a make-or-break year for Cody Latimer. The Broncos moved up in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft (which had a GREAT wide receiver class) to secure his services, but Latimer only has eight catches in two seasons as a pro. Latimer had bad chemistry with Peyton Manning, but he showed better confidence when catching passes from Brock Osweiler. His chemistry with Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch is unknown at this time. Latimer is a 'bad ball' receiver who can make difficult catches seem routine. In this offense, the third WR doesn't do much so even with a 'breakout' 2016 we don't see Latimer as much of a fantasy factor. Bennie Fowler is a strong receiver who makes his living in the middle of the field. He can move the chains regularly, and Fowler will push Latimer to be the team's third WR. Jordan Norwood has hung around in the league for a long time, and he's stuck with the Broncos due to his ability as a return man. Jordan Taylor aka 'Sunshine' was a fan-favorite player last year in training camp. He's big and fast, and his flowing locks certainly stand out when he's blazing down the field. Taylor spent last year on the practice squad, and he may be there again if he can't beat out Norwood. Bralon Addison was an undrafted free agent out of Oregon this year. He's incredibly explosive and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Addison could beat out Norwood to be the team's return man. Mose Frazier was Lynch's favorite target in college at Memphis. The Broncos add Frazier as a college free agent after the draft this year, and he provides instant chemistry for their first-round QB.

Tight Ends

Starters: Virgil Green
Backups: Jeff Heuerman, Garrett Graham, Henry Krieger-Coble [R]

For years, Virgil Green has been horribly underused as a receiver. He had a career-high 12 receptions last year and may have an opportunity to destroy those low numbers. Green was a great receiving TE in college at Nevada where he was Colin Kaepernick's favorite target. The Broncos added him in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL draft, and Green then developed into a fantastic blocker. His blocking ability has since overshadowed what he can do as a receiver. In the Gary Kubiak offense, the TE is an incredibly important position. We could finally see Green get his chance to prove himself as a pass-catcher. Jeff Heuerman is basically a rookie (again) this year. A third-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Heuerman injured his knee only a few days into rookie minicamp and had to miss the entire season. If healthy, Heuerman can stretch the seam to be a vertical threat for the passing game. The coaching staff really likes Heuerman, but he is running behind Green entering the season. Garrett Graham was signed as a free agent earlier this year. He's worked under Kubiak before when both were with the Houston Texans. Graham knows the system like the back of his hand and gives the team quality veteran depth at the position. Henry Krieger-Coble was added as a priority free agent after the draft this year. The former Iowa TE only got one year to show what he could do as a receiver, and he could be an emerging talent on the Broncos roster. Dynasty owners should take note given Krieger-Coble's skill set and Kubiak's TE-friendly offense.

Place Kicker

Brandon McManus: McManus emerged from a preseason kicker battle and ended up #10 in scoring, making every field goal attempt under 40 yards and 35 of 36 extra point attempts. His accuracy was middle of the road at best at 30-for-35, but 35 attempts was seventh best in the league, and the defense/running game nature of the Denver offense should give him a good chance to stay in the top 10 scoring kickers again this year. He has no real competition heading into camp and should be one of the drafted kickers in most leagues.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Kalif Raymond, Jordan Norwood, Bralon Addison

Undrafted rookies Kalif Raymond and Bralon Addison are both fighting to make the final 53-man roster as a return specialist. Should either do so, it will almost certainly as Denver's dedicated return specialist. If they get caught in the roster crunch, though, expect veteran Jordan Norwood to handle returns for Denver again in 2016.

Punt Returners: Kalif Raymond, Jordan Norwood, Bralon Addison

Undrafted rookies Kalif Raymond and Bralon Addison are both fighting to make the final 53-man roster as a return specialist. Should either do so, it will almost certainly as Denver's dedicated return specialist. If they get caught in the roster crunch, though, expect veteran Jordan Norwood to handle returns for Denver again in 2016.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Russell Okung, LG Ty Sambrailo, C Matt Paradis, RG Max Garcia, RT Donald Stephenson
Key Backups: Connor McGovern [R], James Ferentz, Michael Schofield

The Broncos' offensive line is undergoing an overhaul after their Super Bowl winning run. Left tackle Russell Okung signed an incentive laden deal, and is currently the best lineman on the roster. Okung is talented but has only once played a complete 16 game season. His durability is a factor to consider. Left guard is a free for all between Ty Sambrailo and fifth round rookie Connor McGovern. Projecting former left tackle Sambrailo is a guess at this point in the process, it could very well be McGovern, whom the team is hyping in media as if he was a second round player. Donald Stephenson was signed away from division rival Kansas City, and should be an instant starter at right tackle in the Broncos' zone scheme. Matt Paradis does a decent job at center and the team hopes that Max Garcia can take the next step at right guard. Michael Schofield should be the swing option, and James Ferentz will back-up at center. There's tons of uncertainty with this group, and they come into the year graded among the weaker groups in the league. Tier Ranking: Low Tier.

Team Defense

The 2015 Broncos defense ruled the NFL world, and that translated to a top three finish in D/ST scoring, with a slight boost in leagues that weighted points allowed heavier. As with most Super Bowl winners, the Broncos could not afford to keep their top free agent talents, with DL Malik Jackson heading to Jacksonville and ILB Danny Trevathan joining his old head coach John Fox in Chicago. The team will have to cultivate replacements for those starters, and settle the Von Miller contract situation, but as long as Miller doesn't hold out into the season, they should be able to deliver another top five finish to provide return on picks that likely select them as one of the first two D/ST's off of the board.

Defensive Line

Starters: Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams, Jared Crick
Backups: Adam Gotsis [R], Darius Kilgo

Starting DL: The team's second-biggest offseason loss - rising star Malik Jackson bolting for Jacksonville - will be felt, but it's not as though Wade Phillips can't reload his talented unit. Former early second-rounder Wolfe has blossomed into an exceptionally valuable player. He broke out in 2015, grading No. 10 among 3-4 DEs per Pro Football Focus and providing 5 sacks (and a solid 15 hurries) over a suspension-shortened season. In fact, he's averaged 5.8 sacks per 16 games over his four seasons. He makes for a very solid DL2 choice as a candidate for 6-8 sacks and strong tackle numbers. Former first-rounder Williams has disappointed mightily - the team declined his 2017 option and will likely seek an upgrade next year. He remains penciled in as the 2016 starter, but provides zero fantasy help (1.9 tackles/game and 4.5 sacks over three shortened seasons) and could lose his job outright to new addition Taylor. That said, Williams is not a prototypical NT; he could also be shifted outside for snaps when Taylor comes in to man the nose. That would further damage the near-zero appeal of Crick, who's in the mix to start but never topped 56 tackles or 3.5 sacks in Houston.

Backup DL: Gotsis, the 64th pick of the draft, could find his way into the lineup sooner rather than later. The try-hard Gotsis, if recovered from a senior-year knee injury, could gradually prove a better option than Crick. He's not much of a pass rusher, though, and would likely need a full slate of snaps to produce notable tackling. Expect Kilgo to back up Williams.

Linebackers

Starters: Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis
Backups: Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett, Zaire Anderson, Corey Nelson

Starting LBs: Danny Trevathan has moved to Chicago, but this remains a deep and talented unit. The crown jewel is Marshall, who was fantasy gold in 2014 with Trevathan out of the lineup and a solid LB2 last year. A three-down ILB who contributes in both phases, Marshall looks primed for a borderline-LB1 year. He's averaged 7.4 tackles per game across two starting seasons, with a fair smattering of splash plays thrown in. Those should be even more plentiful with the Broncos breaking in a new talent next to him, one who'll presumably lack Trevathan's talent. The other starting job is as wide-open as any in football, but Davis is a fair bet to claim it. He saw the most snaps (130) of the holdovers and is expected by beat writers to enter the season atop the depth chart. But he doesn't intrigue me as a fantasy drafter. Trevathan saw good, not great, tackle opportunity in Denver, and Davis is a third-year UDFA special teamer with marginal measureables. Miller, arguably the second-best defensive player in football, enters his age-27 season with murky fantasy value. Primarily an edge rusher, Miller lacks sufficient tackle opportunity (just 3.1/game over his last 30) to draw LB2 consideration. Still, the potential for more is there - Miller averaged an acceptable 4.2 over his first three seasons - and he's as strong a candidate as any to make a run at 15-18 sacks. Don't let name recognition suck you in, but invest confidently as a LB3. On the other side, Ware is clearly declining as an all-around LB but remains effective rushing off the edge. Limited to just nine games in 2015, Ware posted 10 hurries and 7.5 sacks across just 399 snaps. That makes him a great investment for the Broncos - who just restructured his deal - but an unworthy one for fantasy owners. Ware is a strict pass-rush specialist who doesn't cover nor play the run (just 2.8 tackles/game as a Bronco) and will turn 34 before the season.

Backup LBs: Anderson's is a name to file away. A second-year practice squad call-up, he's drawn positive press this offseason and likely provides an athleticism upgrade on Davis; he could win that battle outright in the preseason. If he falters, expect special teamer Nelson to back up Davis, to underwhelming fantasy results. Ray impressed as a sub-package rookie, notching 4 sacks and 8 hurries on very limited snaps. He'll again serve as the top piece of pass-rush depth, and any extended time to could allow for a run at 8-10 sacks. Barrett will also rush the passer in a reserve role, and he's also one of the better ones (5.5 sacks in 2015).

Defensive Backs

Starters: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart
Backups: Bradley Roby, Justin Simmons [R], Shiloh Keo, Kayvon Webster

Starting DBs: Starters Harris and Talib took statistical steps backward from great 2014 seasons, but either (or both) could easily post solid splash plays. Neither is a tackle monster, though, so they're not especially useful in fantasy. Talib is probably the best bet; he gambles more on the ball and is thrown at more often. Risk-taking fantasy owners could target him as a sneaky DB2 option on the back of his ball skills, but his June shooting incident clouds that. His quick release from the hospital suggests the injury itself may not be season-threatening, but Talib may have broken a number of Texas gun laws and could face suspension. Given his extremely checkered history, it's safe to assume he'll see near-maximum punishments from the NFL and could miss much of 2016. That would put Roby into the starting lineup with a similar fantasy outlook. Harris is more of a shutdown man in the slot, which typically affords solid volume, but he's avoided just enough by opposing QBs to make him a risky DB3 choice. Most of the fantasy value in this unit comes from the safeties. Ward bounced back after a rough first season in Denver to post 5.2 tackles/game in 2015. He generally provides a handful of splash plays - nothing major, but generally enough to combine with his tackles and create solid DB2/3 value. He's an especially adept pass rusher who could crank out 3+ sacks, as well. You could do significantly better or worse, however; don't feel the need to make Ward a draft pick. You might actually be better served looking at Stewart, who posted a great year at FS and will see more pass-game opportunities than Ward. His 2015 numbers don't leap off the page, but note that he was credited with 12 pass breakups over the team's final nine games (including playoffs). He's also not deserving of a draft pick, but belongs on watch lists during the season.

Backup DBs: Roby's playing time took a small step back in his second year; it'll likely soar in his third. Talib's shooting and possible missed time would afford the impressive young Roby a starting outside job to showcase his ball skills. Roby has broken up 22 passes and intercepted 3 across two part-time seasons. Rookies Simmons (third round) and Parks (sixth) will vie to provide depth. Simmons is by far the more intriguing name; a long, rangy centerfielder type with a nose for turnovers, he'll likely open the season behind Stewart. Keo is also in that mix, but has played in just three games since 2013 and loses the talent battle to Simmons. Current No. 4 CB Webster is primarily a special teamer.

Last modified: 2016-09-03 18:32:15