2020 Fantasy Preview: Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos

 

2019 was a tale of two seasons for the Denver Broncos. A disappointing 7-9 season ended on a high note when a young quarterback took over the team and closed out the year strong. Denver could not have been unluckier in close games, losing at least four games after leading in the 4th. Hopes are high in Denver after a solid draft, a strong nucleus of offensive talent, and a surprising young quarterback. Let’s look at what that means for fantasy owners.

 

Quarterback

 

Drew Lock

ADP: 152, QB20

Drew Lock, the Broncos second-round selection in 2019, closed out the season winning four of five games for the Broncos. More importantly, the team responded to his leadership and swagger. The team has already come out and said he is the starter heading into the year and they have focused on providing him weapons to thrive. Lock is a favorite at QB List and he is a solid late-round target for owners waiting on the position. The Broncos made the right choice in strengthening the offense around a young quarterback and Lock has shown the toughness to survive adversity. Look for him to take another step, perhaps not into the elite category, but certainly as a fantasy starter. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Lock finishes close to 4,000 yards passing and 22 touchdowns. Most weeks are a solid 250 yards and 2 TDs with a few big games sprinkled in, finishing as the QB10.  

 

Worst Case Scenario

Lock is up and down all season, with a handful of 300 yards passing performances but more performances of less than 200 yards passing. While he doesn’t get benched he isn’t the consistent fantasy starter owners drafted him to be. 

 

2020 Projection: 3,717 yards passing, 19 passing touchdowns; 140 yards rushing, 1 rushing touchdown

 

Running Backs

 

Melvin Gordon

ADP: 35.4, RB21

Melvin Gordon signed as an unrestricted free agent this off-season, a two-year 16 million deal with $13.5 million in guarantees. For years now, Gordon has been one of the more productive backs in the league when he’s on the field. However, he has missed an average of 2.5 games each of his five seasons. Gordon’s role should be secure as the lead back since the team paid him well, and he will dominate the carries if healthy. Gordon will almost certainly be on the field on passing downs and could have his most productive season as a receiver, and 60+ catches are within reach. Gordon has always been solid in the red-zone, as evidenced by four straight years with at least eight rushing touchdowns. Gordon should finish no lower than RB16 but he may not have the ceiling he has in the past. He’s a safe selection at his ADP and a steal should he fall but there is too much injury risk to reach. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Gordon plays a full 16-game season for just the second time in his career, and tops 1,000 yards. He adds 65 receptions and double-digit touchdowns, vaulting him into the top-10 of fantasy running backs. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Gordon misses four games and splits the early-down work with other backs when healthy. He rushes for less than 1,000 yards for the fifth time in six seasons and finishes as the RB24. 

 

2020 Projection: 1021 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns; 389 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

 

Phillip Lindsay

ADP: 102, RB44

The real tragedy of the Broncos off-season may be the fate of Phillip Lindsay. After two highly efficient and productive seasons, the team went out and signed a big name back in the off-season. Lindsay again rushed for 1,000 yards, finishing 2019 with 1,011 yards on just 224 carries. He added seven touchdowns and continued his high yards-per-carry marks. Still, the Broncos felt his work as a pass-catcher left something to be desired. It is possible that Lindsay gets a timeshare as the early-down back and could collect 180+ carries. In that role, he would be a bargain. Gordon could also miss time, which would cause Lindsay’s value goes through the roof. Lindsay is a prime mid-round target at running back and one of the best handcuffs available regardless of owner. Lindsay is good enough to well outperform his #43 ADP, as he’s finished RB13 and 19 in two seasons while dealing with another back stealing carries. He may even need to be secured a round or two earlier than ADP, but he will provide an excellent return on his value. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Lindsay maintains his role in the system, earning 200 carries and finishing with similar production as previous years. Lindsay finishes at RB16 and well out-performs his ADP. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Lindsay loses a significant amount of carries and snaps to Gordon, earning just a fraction of the opportunity in the backfield. Lindsay finishes as the RB36. 

 

2020 Projection: 678 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns; 262 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdowns

 

Wide Receivers

 

Courtland Sutton

ADP: 58.7, WR25

Courtland Sutton took a big step forward in his second year in the league, earning 26% of the team’s target share and finishing with 72 receptions for 1,112 yards. Sutton added six receiving touchdowns and finished as the WR19. Where Sutton struggled was with consistency as a whole and in his production with Lock. In 9 of 16 games, Sutton was only startable as a flex. He also struggled to score better than a WR3 in four of five games with Lock. If he hopes to take the next step as a top receiver option in the league, Sutton must show improvement here. Still, his cost is cheap at WR25 and he is almost certain to out-perform that cost as the primary option in the offense. We will just need to see Sutton and Lock develop chemistry in their first full season together.

 

Best Case Scenario

Sutton becomes a more consistent target and thrives with Lock as the QB. Sutton tops 1,400 yards and ten touchdowns and finishes inside the Top 12 at the position. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Sutton remains a focal point of the offense but is still just average in the red zone. Lock struggles as a quarterback and Sutton suffers as a result. Sutton again finishes as a WR2, with below-average games more than half the time causing frustration for those who drafted him.

 

2020 Projection: 72 receptions, 1,061 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns

 

Jerry Jeudy

ADP: 106.7, WR42

Denver used their first-round pick, number 15 overall, to select Jerry Jeudy, the precision route runner out of Alabama. Jeudy joins a group of young Broncos playmakers that the team has surrounded Lock with. Denver plans to compete with Kansas City by building up their offense, and that may be the best decision they could have made. Jeudy should have little competition for snaps and quickly slot in as the starter beside Sutton, and Jeudy might be the perfect complement to Sutton. He will enter the league as one of the better route-runners day one and should make a living in the short to intermediate game. The question will be how much of the target share can Jeudy take in his freshman year. Conservatively owners should expect about 80 targets or about 15% of the share. With that, he should return his draft price pretty easily and is all upside after that. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Jeudy quickly earns the trust of Lock and thus a larger target share than is typical of a rookie receiver. Jeudy finishes just north of 100 targets and finishes inside the Top 24 at his position but not the Top 16. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Jeudy struggles to adjust to the league, with limited practice and pre-season, and splits time with veteran options as the second receiver. He finishes with just 500 yards and a handful of touchdowns. 

 

2020 Projection: 59 receptions, 728 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns

 

Tight Ends

 

Noah Fant

ADP: 124, TE12

Noah Fant finished a fine rookie season with 40 receptions for 562 yards and three touchdowns. To surpass 30 receptions as a first-year tight end is quite an accomplishment, less than 60 tight ends have done that previously. The true test will come in his second year and whether or not he can add to his production. While he flashed at times in 2019, 40% of his season-long production came in two games. That means in 88% of his starts, fantasy owners were starting a TE2 or worse. Fant struggled to find favor with Lock, earning under three targets per game with the quarterback. If Fant is to take the next step, his rapport with the young signal-caller must improve and he will need more consistency. Fant has the talent to vault himself into the top-6 at his position, he just isn’t a lock to do so. Still, at his draft position, he makes for an excellent target for those owners waiting on a tight end. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Fant takes a second-year jump, similar to the second-year jump Mark Andrews or Geoge Kittle made, and increases his production by 40%. Fant becomes the secondary target on the team with 90+ targets and over 800 receiving yards.  He propels himself into a top-6 finish. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Lock considers Fant the third or fourth option in the passing game with the additions of Jeudy and Gordon. His production doesn’t look much different than the previous season but he still manages a handful of big games. Other young tight ends take a step up around him and Fant finishes as the TE16.  

 

2020 Projection: 50 receptions, 675 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

 

Marc Salazar

Born and raised in Texas, and naturally a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan. I love everything about the strategy and complexity of NFL football, no other sport compares. I've been playing some form of fantasy football for 15+ years and I run dynasty leagues that include individual defensive players, contracts, free agency, and rookie drafts. I hope to introduce at least one of you to the joys of this format. I live in San Antonio, TX with my wonderful fiance and awesome daughter.

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