2020 Denver Broncos Fantasy Team Preview: The Next Great Offense? - Sports Illustrated

2020 Denver Broncos Fantasy Team Preview: The Next Great Offense?

SI Fantasy's Team Preview series from high-stakes legend Shawn Childs aims to break down the Denver Broncos to evaluate the offense, defense, coaches and everyone in between with a fantasy-slanted analysis.
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Coaching Staff

Vic Fangio returns for his second season as the Denver Broncos head coach after running the 49ers and the Bears defenses from 2011 to 2018. He also has 11 other seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. His success in Chicago in 2018 led to his upgrade in job. The Broncos finished 7-9 in Fangio's first season in Colorado.

The Broncos brought in Pat Shurmur to run their offense after struggling to win as the Giants’ head coach in 2018 (5-11) and 2019 (4-12). He worked as the offensive coordinator over six other seasons for the Rams, Eagles, and Vikings. Shurmur has 22 seasons of experience coaching in the NFL while compiling a 19-46 record as NFL head coach.

Their offense slipped to 28th in points scored (282) and 28th in yards allowed.

Fangio promoted Ed Donatell to the defensive coordinator in 2019. He worked over the eight previous seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Broncos and 49ers. Donatell has 29 years of experience coaching in the NFL, with eight coming as a defensive coordinator.

Denver had a top-four defense in yards allowed from 2014 to 2017 before slipping to 22nd in 2018. Last year, they ranked 12th in points allowed (316) while finishing 13th in yards allowed.

Quarterbacks

Drew Lock (RANK - ADP)

The 2020 excitement for the Broncos comes with the emergence of Lock over the final five games (4-1 with seven TDs and three Ints), but he only averaged 204 passing yards per game and 6.6 yards per pass attempts. His only impact game (309/3) came in Week 15 vs. the Texans.

Denver signed RB Melvin Gordon in the offseason to help on early downs and at the goal line. WR Courtland Sutton (72/1112/6) played well in his second season with growth expected this year. This year Lock should get TE Noah Fant more involved while Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler draft in this year’s draft class set a much higher bar.

I pushed Lock's early projections to 3,991 combined yards with 28 TDs and 12 Ints, making an upside QB2 in the 2020 draft season. Lock has an ADP of 124 as the 21st quarterback drafted in early June.

Running Backs

Melvin Gordon (RANK - ADP)

Gordon held out for the first four games in 2019, which led to almost emptiness in his first four appearances (149 combined yards with two TDs and 11 catches – 2.5 YPC).

Over his final eight games, he gained 759 combined yards with seven TDs and 31 catches while averaging 18.6 touches per game.

Gordon came out of the season healthy, and the Broncos picked him up for $16 million over the next two seasons.

Denver's RBs gained 2,154 combined yards with 95 catches and 13 TDs, and RB Phillip Lindsay scooped up 259 touches for 1,207 yards with seven TDs and 35 catches.

The Broncos want to run the ball, and Gordon should see between 60 and 65 percent of their RB opportunity this year. I set the bar at 1,214 combined yards with nine TDs and 48 catches, making him a top-tier RB2 in PPR leagues with an ADP of 30.

Phillip Lindsay & Royce Freeman

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Wide Receivers

Courtland Sutton (RANK - ADP)

Sutton struggled with his catch rate (50.0) in his rookie season, which wasn’t helped by nine drops.

Last year he blossomed into a second-tier WR while setting career-highs in catches (72), receiving yards (1,112), TDs (6), and targets (125). Sutton had a floor of four catches in 14 games, leading to double-digit fantasy points in PPR leagues in 11 weeks.

Despite a breakout season, his opportunity can’t be as high this year with the Broncos adding WR Jerry Jeudy and WR K.J. Hamler with the first two picks in this year’s draft.

His ADP (46) in early June in PPR leagues priced him as the 16th wide receiver drafted. I have Sutton catching 69 balls for 997 yards and seven TDs, which pushed much lower in my initial rankings.

Jerry Jeudy & KJ Hamler

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Tight Ends

Noah Fant (RANK - ADP)

The Broncos struggled to get Fant involved in the passing game over the first eight games (20/185/1) with Joe Flacco behind center.

He flashed in Week 9 (3/115/1) and Week 14 (4/113/1), but his other six contests offered no playable value (4/60, 3/14, 1/5, 2/56, 2/10, and 1/4).

He averaged five targets per game on the year, which fell almost in line with his college opportunity in 2017 (4.8) and 2018 (5.3).

Fant has the makings and movements of a top tier TE once the Broncos’ offense evolves. Excellent flier as a TE2 if he slides in drafts (ADP – 124). I have him ranked 10th at the tight end position in early June while being projected for 56 catches for 740 yards and five TDs.

Defense

The Broncos bounced back to 16th defending the run (1,783 yards) in 2019 with ball carriers gaining only 4.2 yards per rush. They allowed nine TDs with eight runs over 20 yards.

Denver ranked 11th in passing yards allowed (3,609) while allowing 19 TDs and ten Ints. The Broncos finished with 40 sacks. QBs gained 7.1 yards per pass attempts with 46 completions over 20 yards.

In the premium outlook, on defense you'll find write-ups for DE Jurrell Casey, DT Mike Purell, DE Shelby Harris, LB Bradley Chubb, LB Von Miller, LB Todd Davis, LB Alexander Johnson, CB Isaac Yiadom, CB Bryce Callahan, CB A.J. Bouye, S Justin Simmons & S Kareem Jackson

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Team Defense Outlook

Denver has two impact players (Chubb and Miller) on defense, plus three other players (Casey, Simmons, and Bouye) that have a chance to be assets at their positions. The run defense should improve. The middle of the defense at the first and second level does have some downside. Trending in the right direction while projecting more like a second defense in the fantasy market.

Free Agency, Draft, Offensive Line, Offensive Schedule & Defensive Schedule

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