2019 Fantasy Football: Denver Broncos Expanded Team Outlook
Denver Broncos Team Outlook
In this Denver Broncos Team Outlook, I will focus on each key aspect of the franchise: coaching, the draft, free agency, offensive line, schedule, defense and of course, each relevant Fantasy Football at the key positions: QB, RB, WR, TE and K.
Denver Broncos Coaching
After making the playoffs for five straight years with a Super Bowl title, the Broncos missed the playoff for the third consecutive year. Vance Joseph coached his way out of Denver with an 11-21 record. Vic Fangio takes over as the 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 last year was the reason for his upgrade in job.
Broncos Offensive Coordinator
Rich Scangarello takes over running the offense. Most of his experience comes in college for smaller schools. Over the last two seasons, Scangarello was the quarterback's coach for the 49ers. Rich has a lot to prove his rookie season as the offensive coordinator. Last year the Broncos ranked 24th in points scored (329), and 19th in offensive yards gained.
Broncos Defensive Coordinator
Fangio brought in his defensive backs coach (Ed Donatell) over the last eight seasons to run the Broncos’ defense in 2019. Donatell has 28 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 last season. In 2018, they ranked 13th in points allowed (349).
Denver Broncos Free Agency
Denver addressed their QB issue by acquiring Joe Flacco via a trade with the Ravens in the offseason. The only other additions to the offense were WR Aaron Burbridge and RT Ja’Wuan James. James projects to be a starter.
The Broncos moved on from WR Andre Holmes, WR Jordan Taylor, TE Matt LaCosse, T Jared Veldheer, G Max Garcia, G Billy Turner, C Matt Paradis, and C Gino Gradkowski. All losses were minimal.
On the defensive side of the ball, Denver took three swings to upgrade the cornerback position – KareemJackson, Bryce Callahan, and De’Vante Bausby. Jackson should start while Callahan has ties to the new coaching staff in Chicago. DT Mike Purcell was added for bench depth.
They lost DT Domata Peko, LB Shaquil Barrett, LB Brandon Marshall, LB Shane Ray, LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams, LB Deiontrez Mount, CB Darian Stewart, CB Bradley Roby, CB Tramaine Brock, and CB Jamar Taylor. Both Marshall and Roby were vital pieces of the Broncos defense when they ranked at the top of the league.
Denver Broncos Draft
First Round pick, 20th overall: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
With the 20th pick in the first round, the Broncos added TE Noah Fant. His skill set projects well in the NFL where his speed, strength, and quickness will create an edge. Joe Flacco used his TE a lot in Baltimore, which is a big win for Fant in his rookie season.
Second Round pick, 41st overall: OT Dalton Risner, Kansas St.
Risner projects well as a run blocker with value on the move. His hands create an edge while owning strength in his technique. Dalton lacks range and foot speed in pass protection. Risner needs to improve his square footage in his blocking area.
Second Round pick, 42nd overall: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock garnered plenty of interest in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he does have plenty of questions about his accuracy and playability in the NFL. His vision and arm strength grade well while owning a quick release. Drew can make plays with his legs while extending the passing window. Lock needs a better command of his throws plus improvement in his mechanics while cleaning up his errant throws.
Third Round pick, 71st overall: DL Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio St.
Jones has a beast feel while underachieving his upside at Ohio State. Dre’Mont fires after the snap creating a winning edge with the follow through to attack the QB and tie up the run game. His lack of weight (281 lbs.) tends to be an issue on the interior of a defensive line. Jones is a tweener who needs to find his identity on the right defense.
Fifth Round pick, 156th overall: LB Justin Hollins, Oregon
Hollins brings an exciting combination of power and speed to the Broncos' defense. He attacks the QB with the skill set to help in pass coverage. His next step is adding more fight to his attack when matched up with stout offensive linemen — more of a rotational player on passing downs early in his career.
Sixth Round pick, 187th overall: WR Juwann Winfree, Colorado
In the sixth round, the Broncos selected WR Juwann Winfree. His college resume shines of inconsistency with too much missed time due to injuries and commitment issues. Winfree offers size (6’1” and 210 lbs.) with enough speed to make plays in the deep passing game.
Broncos Offensive Line
The Broncos finished 12th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,907) for the second straight season with 18 rushing TDs. Their ball carrier gained 4.9 yards per carry with only 12 runs over 20 yards.
QB plays was a problem for Denver again last year. They ranked 19th in passing yards (3,695) with 19 TDs and 15 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 34 sacks and 91 QB hits. The Broncos gained only 6.7 yards per pass attempt.
LT Garett Bolles
Bolleswas the Broncos first-round selection in 2017. He’s a talented player with plus speed and quickness for his position. Garett plays with vision while playing with an edge, but he needs to add bulk and power to his game. His style works for a quick-hitting rushing offense. In his rookie season with 16 starts, Bolles played well in run blocking while struggling in pass protection. Last year his game improved slightly in pass protections with fade in run blocking.
LG Ronald Leary
Leary signed a four-year $36 million contract in 2017. He had the best success of his career over the last two seasons while also having a high floor over his five seasons in the NFL. Leary tends to have an edge in both run and pass blocking. He missed five games in 2107 with a back injury and ten games in 2018 due to an Achilles issue that required surgery last October.
C Connor McGovern
McGovern split time between right guard and center in 2018. Over the last eight games while playing at center, McGovern struggled in pass protection for more of last year while being a liability in run blocking. Denver needs to find an upgrade at this position going forward.
RG Dalton Risner
Risner should move into the starting lineup in his rookie season. His game projects well in the run blocking while having some question with his value in pass protection.
RT Ja’Wauna James
James is a former first-round draft selection (2014) who signed a $51 million four-year contract in the offseason. James looks to be a neutral player with more upside in his pass blocking skills.
Broncos OL Outlook
Denver did run the ball well last year even with a questionable offensive line. They have a weakness at the center position, while the right side of the line is in transition. The direction of Bolles and Leary paired with changes in the offseason give the Broncos a chance to be about league average.
Offensive Schedule Outlook
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2018, which will work as our starting point for 2019. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
- LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2018.
- Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
- Adjustment is based on the 2018 league average and the 2018 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Offensive Schedule Outlook
The Broncos have a neutral schedule for their rushing offense. Their biggest challenge will come vs. the Bears and the Texans. They have five games (CLE, OAK X 2, and KC X 2) against teams who ranked below the league average defending the run.
They have a tough schedule for their passing offense. Denver has three matchups (BUF, JAX, and MIN) vs. teams that had success defending the pass in 2018 plus four mid-tier contests (TEN, CHI, and LAC X 2).
Broncos Offense Outlook
The Broncos have talent on defense, which points to them running a ball controlled offense. Even with success running the ball last year (4.9 yards per rush), the Broncos only managed 24.6 rushes per game due to game score. They finished with a 40/60 run/pass split, which may become more fun favoring in 20189 based on their coaching chances and Joe Flacco starting at QB.
After a successful career over 11 seasons with the Ravens, Flacco starts the back nine of his career with the Broncos. With the Ravens, he went 96-67 in the regular season and 10-5 in the playoffs that included a Super Bowl title in 2012. Only once in his career has Joe passes for over 4,000 yards (4,316 in 2016) while consistently ranking below the league average in TDs. Last year he missed seven games with a hip issue. His completion rate (64.5) spiked from 2015 to 2017 due to more short passes to the RB and TE positions.
2019 Joe Flacco Fantasy Outlook
Flacco will dink and dunk with the best of them, which is why he averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempts in his pro career. Denver has questions at the WR position, but they did add a TE with upside in this year draft. The wrong kind of Fantasy bet in 2019. Joe works only as a one-week bye cover while expecting below league average stats in all areas. I only see 3,500 passing yards with a max of 23 TDs.
As a four-year starter for Missouri, Lock improved his accuracy in each season (49.0, 54.6, 57.8, and 62.9) while still falling well below the success of Kyler Murray (69.0) and Dwayne Haskins (70.0). Drew played his best ball in his junior year (3,964 passing yards with 44 TDs and 13 Ints). Overall, he passed for 12,193 yards in his college career with 99 passing TDs and 39 Ints. Lock won’t be a threat in the run game (202/437/9). At times, his setup appears to be lazy with too many throws coming from a flat-footed position creating lag in his timing while trying to overcome his tick window by velocity in his throws.
2019 Drew Lock Fantasy Outlook
The scouts love his size (6’4’ and 225 lbs.) and his field vision, which is helped by a low sack total and a quick release when under duress. I view him more as a project than a plug and play in 2019. The Broncos will keep him on the bench this year until they fall out of the playoff hunt.
Other Options: Kevin Hogan, Brett Rypien
The best RB in Denver in 2018 shined from Week 1 of the season. Lindsay signed with the Broncos after being undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. Over his last two seasons at Colorado in college, Phillip gained 3,476 combined yards with 32 TDs and 76 catches. In his first season in the NFL, Lindsay started eight of 15 games. He finished with 1,278 combined yards with ten TDs and 35 catches while averaging 15.1 touches per game. His yards per rush (5.4) ranked highly, but he failed to make as many big plays in the passing game (6.9 yards per catch).
Lindsay gained over 100 combined yards in six games while scoring six of his ten TDs from Week 11 to Week 14. His season ended in Week 15 due to a broken wrist. Last year the Broncos’ RBs combined for 2,518 yards with 18 TDs and 95 catches on 461 touches. Phillip is a playmaker who adds value on all three downs. His next step is 250+ touches for 1,400+ yards with a chance at 50+ catches and serviceable value in TDs.
In his four seasons at Oregon, Freeman rushed for 5,621 yards with 60 TDs while adding 79 catches for 814 yards and four TDs. He runs with vision and enough lateral quickness to create winning plays over any part of the line of scrimmage. Freeman runs with power and follows through at the second level of the defense. His speed (4.54) is about NFL average while lacking home run ability.
Fantasy owners placed a second to fourth-round draft pick on Freeman in 2018 only to see the free agent Phillip Lindsay being the smarter option. Royce missed a couple of games with an ankle injury. Freeman gained 593 combined yards with five TDs and 14 catches on 144 touches. He started the first seven games before his injury, but Royce failed to gain over 75 yards until Week 17 (103 combined yards with eight catches) when he had a cleaner opportunity with Lindsay out of the lineup.
There’s more here than meets the eye, but he’ll start the year in a split for touches. His floor should be 175+ touches for 800+ yards with a reasonable chance at scoring close to double-digit TDs.
Update 8/15/2019: Royce Freeman played well in the first preseason game (three rushes for 49 yards plus one catch for one yard), but his success was driven by one big play (50-yard run). In his rookie season, Freeman flew up draft boards while Fantasy owners failed to see the potential of Phillip Lindsay as an undrafted free agent. Freeman should be better in his second year in the league. His draft value has started to creep up over the middle of August.
Over 23 games at Utah, Booker gained 3,395 yards with 23 TDs and 80 catches. He missed the end of 2015 due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Devontae has upside in vision and quickness with questionable top-end speed. Booker has some ability in the open field while owning an edge in strength.
Over 45 games and six starts in his three years in the NFL, Booker has 1,909 combined yards with seven TDs and 99 catches on 386 touches. Devontae gained only 3.8 yards per rush in his NFL career with improved success in 2018 (5.4 yards per rush). At this point in his career, Booker will only offer complimentary value while offering pass-catching upside. Only a third wheel in a cog that runs much better with a two-back rotation.
Update 8/15/2019: Denver doesn’t have a lot of confidence in Devontae Booker, which led to them adding Theo Riddick. If both of the top two RBs on the roster play well, his opportunity should regress. Booker’s chance at more snaps was helped by Riddick getting hurt in the first preseason game. The Broncos may decide to move on from Booker before the start of the year, which may lead to him landing in a better situation.
Over the last four seasons, Riddick has been the top passing catching back for the Lions. He caught 247 of 311 passes for 1,896 yards with ten receiving TDs with minimal value on early downs (259/947/4) over this span. In 2018, Theo didn’t score a TD with fade in his yards per catch (6.3). Riddick is a good pass-catching back as far as routes and hands, but he can’t earn time if he’s not making impact plays. With Kerryon Johnson emerging, Theo will see a drop in chances in the passing game. Possible value in chaser games while working as semi handcuff if Johnson has an injury. A tough buy for me due to the direction of his game and opportunity.
Update 8/15/2019: The Lions decided to cut Theo Riddick in early August, which led to him finding a new home with the Broncos. Unfortunately, Riddick suffered a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. He’s expected to miss the rest of August, and most likely the first four games of the year.
Other Options: Khalfani Muhammad, Devontae Jackson
After three strong seasons for the Broncos (101/1404/9, 76/1135/6, and 79/1032/5), Sanders had a huge step back in production in 2017 (47/555/2). Emmanuel was well on his way to a rebound season last year (71/868/4 on 98 targets) before suffering an Achilles injury in Week 13. His catch rate (72.4) was a career-high. He finished with four-plus games (10/13/1, 7/115/1, 6/102/1, and 7/86/1). Sanders will start the year at age 32 while trailing his 2019 prep work. I need more info on his health before drafting him. Emmanuel projects as an 80/1000/5 receiver if entering the season with a clean bill of health.
Update 8/9/2019: Emmanuel Sanders is trending toward seeing some action in at least one preseason game. If he does indeed play and look good, a Fantasy owner should be able to draft with confidence over the remainder of the Fantasy draft seasons.
There is no doubt Denver was looking to find another big-bodied WR to replace Demaryius Thomas in the starting lineup down the road with the selection of Sutton in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Over the last two seasons at SMU, Courtland caught 144 passes for 2,331 yards and 22 TDs on 262 targets. Sutton is going to a problem for defenses in his rookie season. He’ll win many jump balls due to his edge in size (6’3” and 218 Lbs.), which gives him fade scoring value in 2018.
Courtland has quickness and a second gear to create yards after the catch. He’ll test a defense in the deep passing game while also being a threat to break a short pass into a long TD. At this point of his career, his route running over the first ten yards of the field isn’t where it needs to be to turn into a 100+ catch receiver, but it will come with experience and hard work. His next challenge in the NFL will be beating double teams.
In his rookie season, Sutton caught only 42 of his 84 targets for 704 yards and four TDs. After the Demaryius Thomas trade, Courtland started the last eight games. Unfortunately, his game (25.380/2 on 47 targets) did rise with the increased opportunity. He needs to improve his catch rate before developing into a trusted Fantasy asset. His next step should be about 60 catches for 900+ yards and five to seven TDs.
Over four seasons at Penn State, Hamilton caught 214 passes for 2,842 yards and 18 TDs. His best season in TDs (9) came in 2017, but he played his best ball in 2014 (82/899/2) as a freshman. Hamilton has a slot WR skill set with strength in his route running and short-area quickness. He projects as the insurance card for Emmanuel Sanders. In his rookie season, DaeSean caught 30 of his 45 targets for 243 yards and two TDs with his best success coming over the last four games of the season (7/47/1, 7/46, 6/40/1, and 5/49) after Sanders suffered his injury.
Other Options: Tim Patrick, Juwann Winfree, River Cracraft, Fred Brown, Aaron Burbridge
In his sophomore season, Fant outplayed T.J. Hockenson when he caught 30 passes for 494 yards and 11 TDs. The next season Noah improved his value in catches (39) and yards (519), but he saw his TD total (7) slide. Even with minimal growth, his talent can’t be overlooked due to too much depth at the TE position at his school in college. Fant has plenty of speed (4.5 40 yard dash at the NFL combine) with an edge in strength and short-area quickness.
Overall, he does lack some fight when tested with physical play at the line of scrimmage, and his movements in the open field rely more on his legs than shake and back to create after the catch. Noah has the foundation skill set to be a productive volume TE in the NFL. His hands will be an asset along with his value at the goal line.
Last year the Broncos’ TEs caught 68 of 105 targets for 649 yards and three TDs. Joe Flacco consistently looked for the TE in the Ravens’ system that bodes well for Fant in his rookie season. Possible 60/600/5 type season with more upside
Denver was hoping third-round pick TE Jeff Heuerman would help lessen the blow for the loss of TE Julius Thomas in 2015, but he tore his ACL in practice in May after being drafted. Heuerman has plus strength with solid value as a blocker. His resume is short in college in the passing game (52/792 and seven TDs) with questions about his route running ability. Last year he caught a career-high 31 balls for 281 yards and two TDs on 48 targets.
Over four seasons at Michigan, Butt caught 138 passes for 1,646 yards and 11 TDs with his best success coming in his junior year in 2015 (51/654/3). He suffered a torn ACL in his bowl game in 2017 leading to him sliding in the 2018 NFL Draft (fifth round). Jake has plus hands with questionable separation skills off the line of scrimmage. He missed all of 2017 with minimal value last year (8/85). On the outside looking in while needing to prove he can stay healthy.
Other Options: Troy Fumagalli, Austin Fort
Over the last four seasons with Denver, Brandon made 103 of his 126 field goal chances (81.7 percent) plus 129 of 131 extra-point tries. In 2018, he struggled form 50 yards or more (2-for-7) after making 11 of 19 kicks from long range over the previous three seasons. The Broncos will have success rushing in TDs in close leading to minimal upside in field goal chances. Only a backup kicker with occasional playable value.
Defensive Schedule Outlook
Denver doesn’t have one matchup vs. a team with a top rushing attack in 2018. They face four opponents (GB, MIN, and Oak X 2) that struggled to run the ball last year.
The Broncos’ pass defense will be challenged four games (GB, IND, and KC X 2). Their best success defending the pass will come in four contests (CHI, JAX, BUF, and TEN).
Denver Broncos Defensive Outlook
The Broncos fell to 21st defending the run (1,913 yards) in 2018 with ball carriers gaining only 4.5 yards per rush. They allowed 11 TDs with 15 runs over 20 yards.
Denver ranked 20th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (3,929) while allowing 26 TDs and 17 Ints. The Broncos finished with 44 sacks. QBs gained 7.7 yards per pass attempts with 56 completions over 20 yards.
DT Shelby Harris played well as a rotational player in 2018. His best asset comes defending the run, but he can add to the pass rush if given an opportunity. Last year he had 39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one Int, and four defended passes while being in the field for 391 plays. In 2017, Harris picked up 5.5 sacks. Rookie DT Dre’Monte Jones projects as a much upside option on the interior of the line after getting drafted in the third round in the 2019 NFL Draft.
DE Adam Gotsis showed some growth in his third year in the league after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. Gotsis doesn’t offer an edge in any area at this point of his career. He projects to be an undersized (6’4” and 287 lbs.) run clogger with limited upside rushing the QB. Gotsis maintains his position well with solid athletic ability.
DE DeMarcus Walker has only been on the field for 122 plays over the last two years after Denver added him in the second round in 2017. Walker should add as a rotational pass rusher with upside moves when attacking the QB. DeMarcus has a limited range in run support, plus he needs to improve his effort on more players.
DE Derek Wolfe plays well against the run with fading value sacking the QB. Over the last two seasons, Wolfe has four sacks after posting 14 combined sacks in 2015 and 2016.
DE Bradley Chubb had 60 tackles and 12 sacks in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round in 2018. His best asset is his first step off the snap, which leads to high upside rushing the QB and defending the run. Chubb is a fighter with a high motor. Bradley should handle himself well in pass coverage. His next step in his development is his hands with better discipline in his attack off the ball.
Von Miller is the difference-maker at the second level of the defense. Last year he posted 48 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and three defended passes. In his 120 games played in the NFL, Miller has 98 sacks with high value defending the run. The Broncos drafted him in the first round in 2011.
Todd Davis worked his way into more playing time over the last three years. He’ll add value to run support with risk in coverage and minimal value in sacks. Davis did set a career-high in tackles (114) and defended passes (7) in 2018 while return in his only career Int for a TD.
Josey Jewell doesn’t have the speed (4.82) to match his lack of size (6’1” and 234 lbs.), but he makes up for it with his anticipation and film study. Josey won’t have winning value when asked to change direction. His best opportunity will come attacking the line of scrimmage. In his rookie season, Josey chipped in with 58 tackles with no sacks and risk in coverage.
CB Chris Harris has been a top player at his position in his career. He allows minimal damage in yards per catch with receivers rarely scoring TDs. Last year he had 49 tackles, one sack, three Ints, and ten defended passes.
CB Isaac Yiadom should move into the starting lineup after only seeing the field for 263 plays in his rookie season. Yiadom lacks upper body strength, but he plays with power and a willingness to hit. Isaac has press coverage skills with the hips to finish coverage over the short areas of the field. His technique off the ball needs work while lacking value in deep coverage. He had offseason shoulder surgery, which may put him behind heading into training camp.
Kareem Jackson will move to safety this season after spending most of his first nine years in the NFL at cornerback. Last year he set career highs in tackles (87) and defended passes (17). Justin Simmons developed into a top run defender in 2018, but he still has risk in coverage. Last year Simmons set career highs in tackles (97) and Ints (3) while adding four defended passes.
Broncos 2019 Fantasy Defense Outlook
The Broncos lost their way on defense in 2018 after offering a stout run defense a year ago. They have two difference-makers rushing the QB plus a top CB. They have serviceable talent on the defensive line to slow down the run, but questions at two linebacker spots. The change in coaching staff bodes well for their rebound. Buy the sacks while hoping the QB pressure turns into fumbles and Ints — a top ten Fantasy defense despite some risk at multiple positions in the starting lineup.