By now we know the usual suspects in fantasy football. When it comes to the Denver Broncos, it’s even more obvious. It’s pretty hard for that to not be the case, too, considering Denver is fresh off of a record-breaking season thanks to their offense.
Fantasy owners naturally were pretty thankful for that, as the likes of Peyton Manning Demaryius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno helped them go on championship runs. However, there’s been some changes in Denver. A couple of guys have left and some lesser known talents could be getting a crack at making a difference in the fantasy realm this year.
Some of these guys you may already know, but in terms of fantasy value, they’re either slightly unproven or we don’t know anything about them at all. Let’s break down the top five players in Denver we’ll want to pay close attention to during the preseason:
Brock Osweiler (Quarterback)
Peyton Manning is 38 years old. While it’s unlikely, it’s certainly not impossible a big hit could send him to the sidelines at some point in 2014. If that time ended up being extensive, it might be good to know if his backup, Osweiler, is worth taking a shot on.
Anyone running Denver’s well-oiled offense is probably worth a stab at least once, but fantasy owners may want to tune into a few of Denver’s preseason games just to see if he has made improvements in his development.
Ronnie Hillman (Running Back)
Getting to a guy who could have some serious fantasy value right away, possible even in week one, Hillman figures to have a shot at the top backup running back gig behind starter Montee Ball. If that’s how things go down, Hillman could carry similar Flex value we saw out of Ball during his rookie season a year ago.
While Hillman might be worth a shot from week to week, depending on matchups, his value would surely soar if Ball either falters or gets hurt. In either case, Hillman’s role could grow significantly and would make him a must-own commodity. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we should just be sure to check him out during preseason action to see if he has improved his fatal flaws that have so far hindered his NFL progress.
Specifically, we’ll want to keep an eye out on his ball security and ability in pass protection. If Hillman can show great strides in both areas and continue to flash his impressive speed and agility, he could lock down that #2 gig.
C.J. Anderson (Running Back)
If Hillman isn’t the guy to watch, then it will be Anderson. Anderson isn’t as impressive of a talent as Hillman, but he’s got a better build and isn’t such a liability in pass protection or when it comes to fumbles. He’s still unproven and not overly special, though, so he’s not a lock to be the first guy off the bench behind Ball.
He still can nail down that backup role, though, and if he does he will have some random weekly value. That’s good enough reason to tune into his preseason appearances to see how he fares in this running back competition.
Emmanuel Sanders (Wide Receiver)
Sanders isn’t an unknown player by any means, but he really hasn’t broken out to an elite level of play yet and he’s brand new to this Denver offense. He’s theoretically taking over for the departed Eric Decker, but no one really knows for sure what that constitutes as in terms of a role.
The Broncos could be fading out Wes Welker and preparing Sanders for a mega role, or they could just rotate Welker, Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer (we’ll get him in a second). The point is, the preseason is the first chance we really get to see this offense regroup and see how Sanders meshes with the other guys. Watch him closely in preseason action. If he’s getting targeted heavily, his ADP will only rise.
Cody Latimer (Wide Receiver)
Latimer is right up there with Sanders in terms of pure upside. He’s just as explosive and versatile, giving him a chance to make a real impact in his first season with the team. The rookie has had some mixed practices, but early reports have been mostly positive. Will he be a return man who helps out here and there on offense, or will he explode as a key part of the Broncos air attack as a rookie?
Anything is possible in an offense that saw tight end Julius Thomas bust out after doing nothing through his first two seasons. Naturally, someone as talented as Latimer needs to be watched during preseason play.