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 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The Denver Broncos were fantasy football gods in 2013. All most of us can remember at this point is how Peyton Manning and co. failed to show up in last year’s Super Bowl, but come time to draft for your fantasy football league this year, we’ll surely remember the numbers they put up a year ago.
Outside of Manning being a top-three fantasy quarterback, though, do we understand the value of all the offensive players in Denver? Demaryius Thomas is probably a top-three wide receiver and Julius Thomas is arguably even a top-three tight end, but who else is ascending the ranks?
More specifically, where do we draft these guys? Denver probably isn’t going to be better than they were last year, but even if they revert to their 2012 form, fantasy owners are in good hands.
To get a grasp of their value and where we can draft them, let’s break down the ADP (Average Draft Position) or Denver’s top fantasy weapons:
Peyton Manning (Quarterback)
How you value positions will surely play into when you’d be up for drafting Manning, but he’s about as rock solid as fantasy quarterbacks come at an elite level. His neck is good to go and he still has the system and weapons in place to be a beast once again in 2014. Not shockingly, he’s the top fantasy quarterback off the board in fantasy mock drafts right now, and is consistently being taken in the second round.
Some will reach a bit and draft Manning in the first round, but thanks to the value of running backs, round two is where you should aim for him. If you’re hoping for him to slide much further, though, you’ve got another thing coming.
Montee Ball (Running Back)
Ball is arguably the most interesting fantasy option in Denver, and understandably probably the most difficult to place in terms of value and ADP. He’s expected to replace the departed Knowshon Moreno, where he should see early down and short yardage work. It remains to be seen if he is actually up to the massive role, but if he is, his ceiling could even be higher than the production Moreno awarded fantasy owners with a year ago.
At the moment, Ball’s new role is reflected in his current ADP, as fantasy owners are taking him in the second round of most standard mock drafts. In fact, he’s the ninth running back off the board on average, just behind Le’Veon Bell and Arian Foster, and just ahead of Doug Martin and DeMarco Murray.
There are two important things to consider here. First, it’s only May. Value and ADP should fluctuate considerably as we draw closer to the season. The biggest example of that is that Ball is being drafted ahead of Doug Martin at the moment, and that’s pretty much insanity. Martin is the more explosive and more versatile talent. Take away a random shoulder injury in 2013, and he’s an elite fantasy back – a potential top-5 pick.
Ball certainly has the talent and role to rival him, but his ADP might actually be a little too rich right now. More proven commodities like Alfred Morris, Zac Stacy, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller and the aforementioned Martin are being passed over for him.
Selecting Ball over those running backs will be something fantasy owners will have to decide on, but for now you may want to hold off and see if he can slide into the third round. There you will be getting the best value and minimizing the risk associated with a still unproven player.
Ronnie Hillman (Running Back)
Hillman is a different case at the moment, as he’s nothing more than a potential Flex play. He should end up having a role on third downs and in clear passing situations eventually, but his role is far from defined. Without knowing how much he’ll actually see the field, the fact that he’s not even being drafted on average right now shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
With that said, Hillman is a versatile, explosive runner who the Broncos remain high on. If Ball falters (and possibly even if he doesn’t) he could see more touches and end up offering reasonable Flex value on a weekly basis. His sheer potential in such a potent offense should have him being drafted ahead of guys like Vick Ballard and Mike James – guys who are currently actually being drafted.
Demaryius Thomas (Wide Receiver)
Like Manning, Thomas is pretty cut and dry. He’s a stud who is a near-lock for 90+ receptions, 1,400+ receiving yards and 10+ touchdowns. That makes him a top-three receiver in fantasy circles and a potential first round pick.
The first round is a bit rich right now, especially when guys like Julio Jones, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green are being drafted behind him on average. Outside of Green, those guys are available in round two, where it’s probably more ideal to land your stud WR1. Round one should be for your top running back. With that said, if you must have Thomas, the back-end of round one is likely where you’ll have to try to snag him.
Wes Welker (Wide Receiver)
Welker missed three games a year ago, yet still put up 70+ receptions, over 700 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. In a full season, he’s a PPR nightmare and still a top-15 receiver, no matter what. Despite his own talent and amazing offense, fantasy owners are slowly being scared off by his age and issues with concussions in 2013. While there’s not much of a reason to worry about a drop-off, Welker is just the 16th wide receiver off the draft board on average. You can usually find him somewhere in the fourth round, but if you can grab him in the fifth you’ll be getting the ideal value.
Emmanuel Sanders (Wide Receiver)
Out goes Eric Decker and in comes the more explosive Sanders, who can be used all over the field and should help free other Denver receivers by stretching the defense. He’s always been inconsistent and constantly struggles to stay healthy, but he’s also never played in Denver or with Peyton Manning.
There is obvious upside here, and with a sixth round ADP, it’s clear that fantasy owners are paying attention to his potential on his new team. That ADP might be a tad high, though, as it will be hard to justify taking Sanders over guys like Torrey Smith, Eric Decker and Mike Wallace, as they’re more established and more reliable.
Julius Thomas (Tight End)
Thomas is in the same boat as Manning and Thomas in terms of where he ranks at his position. Factor in Rob Gronkowski’s knee injury rehab and Thomas is probably the second tight end in fantasy football heading into 2014. That makes him the second tight end off the board in mock drafts, but not until round three, on average. That’s pretty good value, but if you’re not drafting Jimmy Graham in the top three rounds, you might as well wait until the middle rounds. The difference between Thomas and guys like Jordan Cameron and Vernon Davis isn’t all that great, yet they can be had 2-3 rounds later.