For the second straight week, the Denver Broncos helped fans forget about that awful Super Bowl loss. The first week of the preseason had Peyton Manning and co. exacting some revenge on the Seahawks, while week two brought another stiff test in the San Francisco 49ers.
The Broncos get to face both teams (and the entire NFC West) again in the 2014 regular season, but if their first two preseason showdowns were any indication, they’re definitely ready for that challenge.
Denver looked even better in week two, as they completely dominated the Niners on both sides of the ball in a 34-0 demolition.
Fantasy football owners were glad to see Manning and the offense executing on an elite level for the second week in a row, making Broncos options once again looking like a safe bet.
Let’s reflect on Denver’s latest preseason contest and see what we learned that we can use in fantasy football this year:
Peyton Manning Might be Worth That 1st Round Pick
Peyton Manning will surely face competition for the top fantasy quarterback spot this year, but he’ll have to drop down from his 2013 numbers considerably to actually lose his grip on the crown. After an insane season of 55 touchdowns and over 5,400 passing yards (both records, mind you), Manning looks as sharp as ever.
Not only did Manning dispatch the Seahawks’ first team defense two weeks ago, but he slapped the Niners around this past weekend, as well. With his system, weapons and personal talent not missing a beat, the 38-year old can’t be expected to drop off all that much. He probably won’t throw 50 touchdown passes again, but in an era where 5,000 yard seasons and 40+ touchdowns are a normal happening, his 2014 numbers could still be pretty epic.
Still not sure if he’s worth that first round pick? Well, once you get past the top five running backs, it’s probably down to Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham or Manning. That makes him arguably the ninth best fantasy option at the very worst. Ultimately, he still has the upside of a first round draft pick, so don’t be bashful if you believe he’s still worth it.
Cody Latimer Needs to be Involved Somehow
Latimer was slowed earlier in summer by a foot issue, and add in that he’s a rookie and buried behind the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders, and few fantasy owners are paying much attention to him. But maybe they should.
Latimer is in the league’s best offense – one in which saw tight end Julius Thomas emerge out of nowhere a year ago – and lost Eric Decker in free agency. Latimer already put his talent on display with a diving touchdown grab against San Francisco and may prove to be too good to keep off the field. In fact, he could be good enough to even push Welker and Sanders for playing time eventually. He’s clearly worth a hard look as a bench stash in deeper leagues.
Don’t Forget About C.J. Anderson Just Yet
Montee Ball is Denver’s main masher for the ground game and it looks like Ronnie Hillman is probably going to secure the top backup gig. If so, that makes Hillman a reasonable Flex play in any given week thanks to Denver’s offense. Even better? If Ball goes down, Hillman would probably lead a rushing attack and offer up RB2 value.
But let’s not leave fellow backup C.J. Anderson to rot. Anderson has come along slowly this summer, but he turned in a decent performance in his last preseason game and could still factor into the running game. He probably won’t be the top backup, but with a touchdown and 40 total yards on 11 total touches this past weekend, he’s at least probably locked up a roster spot and the third running back gig.
For now, that won’t equate to much weekly value – if any. In the event Ball is ineffective or gets hurt, however, it could mean big things. Hillman is still the Denver back to steal in the late rounds of drafts as a handcuff or stash, but Anderson needs to be monitored, as well.
Denver’s System Could Make Backup Quarterbacks Valuable
It’s a reach and a half, but if the 38-year old Peyton Manning crumbles before our eyes and is lost for the year due to an injury, what happens? It’s likely a two door scenario: either the Broncos are still competitive with one of their backup quarterbacks guiding an awesome offense with elite weapons, or Denver goes all 2011 Colts with a Curtis Painter-style crash to the ground.
My guess is the former is what would happen, with the offense likely led by the underrated Brock Osweiler. Osweiler has shown a decent command of Denver’s offense in preseason play, and just wrapped up a fine showing against the 49ers by completing 10 of 13 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He has the size, arm and mobility to make good things happen should Manning ever go down.
That wouldn’t necessarily mean he’d skyrocket to the top of the fantasy ranks, but it could mean the Broncos don’t turn into a trash team suddenly, either. If that event does take place, consider stashing him on your bench until we find out what he’s really made of.
Ultimately, the hope is that Manning will be fine. And if he is, all signs point to him and the Broncos having another excellent season on offense.