Spotlight: Kyle Orton

posted by Mark Wimer on Jul 31st

Mark Wimer's thoughts

Has any fantasy quarterback in recent memory had a worse offseason than Kyle Orton (when he himself hasn't been in the headlines for heading an illegal dogfighting ring or some other such scandal)?

Orton has had to endure watching his team trade away his number one receiver from 2009, Brandon Marshall, who handled 154 targets for 101 receptions, 1120 yards and 10 TDs for the Broncos last year. Not only did his top receiver leave the team, but Denver's best pass-catching tight end, Tony Scheffler, was traded away to Detroit for next-to-nothing. Scheffler wasn't as productive during the first season of Josh McDaniels' reign in Denver (50 targets for 31/416/2) as he had been in previous campaigns (65 for 49/549/5 during 2007 and 60 for 40/645/3 receiving during 2008), but he was still the best receiver at his position last year.

In return for losing Marshall and Scheffler, Orton got rookie WR Demaryius Thomas as Marshall's replacement (round 1, pick 22) - and then received the slap in the face of having his replacement, Tim Tebow, drafted next in the first round (pick # 25). In more good news for Orton, Thomas is missing the start of training camp due to not having his contract situation resolved as of July 28th. WR Eric Decker was also drafted in the third round - but we are all aware of how often rookie wide receivers manage to make a big impact in their first NFL season. For every Percy Harvin there are many Dwayne Jarrett-type receivers who never pan out at this level.

So now, entering training camp, Orton is still in the midst of Josh McDaniel's rebuilding scheme, with quality veteran talent traded away and replaced with green-as-grass rookies - and Orton gets to look over his shoulder at a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings.

There were some good things that came out of 2009 for Orton. He did set career highs in almost every passing category, with 336/541 for 3802 yards, and 21 TDs thrown, with just 12 interceptions. His number one running back, Knowshon Moreno, has a year of experience under his belt now and the early word is that Moreno looks much stronger entering year two of his NFL career - a bonafide featured running back would help take some pressure off of Orton and allow him to utilize play-action passing more effectively. Orton himself will be more comfortable in Denver's offense, simply as a result of having a year's worth of repetitions in the attack under his belt.

There are some veterans on the roster who could help fill the gaps left when Marshall and Scheffler departed. WR Brandon Lloyd has reportedly had a solid spring of workouts ("I had a lot of confidence in Brandon. He's an explosive receiver and can make plays when he's covered," Orton said of Lloyd in mid-June. "He's really coming into his own on this team. Everybody has confidence in him... He's had a heck of a spring."). The team still has Eddie Royal, who is just one year removed from a 91-catch, 980 yards with five TD performance during the 2008 season (he fell flat in coach McDaniel's first year, with 79 targets for 37/345/0 during 2009, but the team is reportedly expecting to utilize Royal a whole lot more during 2010). Jabar Gaffney is a wily veteran who enters the year as a starter for the Broncos. Richard Quinn, the TE that Denver liked well enough to trade back up into the second round in order to draft during 2009, is now backing up veteran Daniel Graham. The cup board isn't well-stocked in Denver, but it isn't entirely bare either.


  • Orton has a year's worth of repetitions in the Denver system now, and should be more comfortable executing the attack.
  • Orton is entering 2010 coming off a career year, and his first season with more than 20 TDs thrown
  • The development of Knowshon Moreno should help establish a solid run threat, which could help Orton find some nice seams in opposing defenses


  • Orton lost a Pro-Bowl caliber starting wide receiver when Marshall left town
  • Orton lost his best pass-catching tight end when Tony Scheffler left town
  • Orton will have to work with rookie wide receivers, and has unimpressive starters to begin the year (Jabar Gaffney and last year's worst fantasy bust (arguably), Eddie Royal)

Final thoughts

The big question is, will the positives that Orton's year of experience in the Denver system brings outweigh the negatives of the personnel churning that the team experienced during the offseason? My analysis is that they will not - Orton's fantasy prospects for 2010 look bleak indeed, folks.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

I am going to continue my Bronco team train wreck discussion here talking about Mr. Orton. He played ok last year for the Broncos, but there were off-season trade rumors about him. They did add Brady Quinn and then moved up to draft Tim Tebow.

This is a team that has all the looks of collapse. I know a lot of folks talked that way a year ago also and they started strong, but crashed down the stretch. Last year, Kyle Orton has Brandon Marshall to depend on and this year, well he has Gaffney, Royal, and the rookie at WR and Daniel Graham at TE.

Just not much studliness to pull his moderate QB skills out of the fire. The Broncos passed for over 700 yards less in 09 than they did in 08 and 1120 yards went to Marshall and another 416 to Scheffler. I think that another decrease in yardage is within reach even though I expect them to be trailing on the scoreboard in the majorioty of their games which typically spells gargage passing yards.

I am just not a fan of Bronco offensive players in 2010 and Kyle Orton is at the top of the non-fan list. I will project him for starting all 16 games, but I truly believe that we will see some of Tim Tebow down the stretch to further water down these numbers.

Ministry of Pain said:

He went QB30 tonight in one of my redraft leagues, 19th round of a 20 round redraft...that's value IMO.

Senior Writer Jason Wood said:

Orton is a guy I just want to completely avoid. To be honest, I thought he played better last year than I would've thought possible, but still not well enough to make me think he can surprise us with a fantasy worth season anytime soon. This year, with the losses of Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, the cupboard appears pretty bare. On top of that, LT Ryan Clady is recovering from a torn patella tendon. And then there's the little matter of Tim Tebow. Orton could always surprise if he plays the full 16 games, but he won't be on any of my teams.

Kyle Orton projections

Mark Wimer29049031001613500
Message board consensus33057034201815801