The Denver Broncos are awesome. It’s been long enough that we can all agree to forget how not awesome they were in last year’s Super Bowl, so we can once again focus on how awesome they’ll surely be in 2014.
As awesome as they’ll be (okay, last time I say awesome), they will have a much tougher schedule this year than they did in 2013. For one, they’ll take on the NFC West (you know, that team from Seattle and such), so crushing heads and taking names won’t be quite as easy.
Still, this is the Broncos and Peyton Manning didn’t die. He’s 38, but he looked plenty fine the past two years. Barring his body being folded like a lawn chair, he’ll probably survive the 2014 season and still put up pretty sick numbers (notice how I worked away from “awesome”?).
In fact, even he Manning tossed 25 less touchdowns and 1,000 less yards in 2014, he’d still be a pretty darn good fantasy quarterback. But that’s an unlikely insane drop-off.
He’ll still be good, and so will the rest of his weapons. The question is, just how good will they all be? Let’s break down Denver’s top fantasy weapons and offer up some season projections for the upcoming year:
Peyton Manning (Quarterback)
Manning was impressive in 2012, when he posted 37 passing scores and nearly 4,700 passing yards despite playing in a new city and missing a year of football. Then he put up 55 touchdowns and over 5,400 yards last year. We can expect a mild regression and things to even out somewhere in the middle. He still has elite weapons and is healthy.
Projection: 4,750 passing yards, 41 TD, 13 INT
Montee Ball (Running Back)
Ball isn’t Knowshon Moreno. He’s better. He’s the better short yardage and goal-line back, and he has developed into a fairly well rounded player in just over a year. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll magically come in and put up the exact same numbers as Moreno did in 2013.
In fact, Moreno was fantasy’s 5th best running back. That’s asking a lot for a second-year guy. I think Ball has the upper hand in inside running and touchdown scoring, but he’s still not the receiver Moreno was. That could take him off the field more than we think, which should impact his overall value a bit. With that said, he’s a borderline elite talent in an elite system. He’ll produce quality numbers without a sweat.
Projection: 1,120 rushing yards, 11 TD, 30 receptions, 255 yards, 1 TD
Demaryius Thomas (Wide Receiver)
Thomas is really the freak that makes this offense go. Many think Eric Decker’s role will be swallowed up mostly by newly added faces, but instead a lot of those red-zone looks will simply go to Thomas. He’s going to go out and put up even better numbers than we’re accustomed to seeing, which should give him a legit crack at the #1 receiver spot in 2014.
Projection: 95 receptions, 1,505 yards, 15 TD
Wes Welker (Wide Receiver)
Welker randomly turned into a red-zone factor last year, as he busted out of the gates in his first season with the Broncos by scoring nine touchdowns in his first eight games. His role gradually lightened after that, though, while he also missed the season’s final three games with concussion symptoms.
Welker is still a dangerous weapon and will be a factor, but he’s in a contract year and could slowly be phased out to a certain degree. He’s also going on 34 years old, with health concerns starting to become an issue. I still think he can be a solid WR2, but he isn’t historically a big touchdown scorer. As the scores drop, so, too, will his overall value.
Projection: 75 receptions, 805 yards, 6 TD
Emmanuel Sanders (Wide Receiver)
Sanders isn’t Eric Decker. He doesn’t have his size, his reliability or his red-zone chops. However, he is the better pure athlete and brings more versatility to the table. He was at his best when he was trying to get paid in a contract season last year, while he also has a checkered history of injuries and inconsistent.
I’m not enamored with him, especially with so many other weapons in Denver, but fantasy owners also can’t ignore the upside within the offense. There’s a real chance he could be a complete bust, or he could blow up for a huge season. I think he’ll fall in line somewhere in the middle.
Projection: 55 receptions, 655 yards, 6 TD
Cody Latimer (Wide Receiver)
Latimer is an interesting prospect, and merely by being a member of the Broncos that has talent, we need to keep an eye on him. He’s still a rookie, though, and there is too much talent ahead of him. He’ll need an injury to obtain a secure role as a rookie. He’ll flash nice ability, but he won’t be a weekly fantasy contributor until later in the year – if at all.
Projection: 30 receptions, 325 yards, 3 TD
Julius Thomas (Tight End)
If Sanders isn’t going to crush it and Latimer doesn’t have a big role, who will? That should go to the freakishly athletic Thomas, who is already one of the most talented tight ends in the game after just one full year as a starter.
This guy has a very high ceiling and will only get better with a vastly enhanced role. I might be shooting a bit high, but he really does have rather insane upside.
Projection: 80 receptions, 955 yards, 12 TD