QB Peyton Manning
(2012 QB Rank – #6, 23.9 FPts/G)
If you gambled on Peyton Manning last season due to his low ADP, you hit the jackpot. After missing all of 2011 with a neck injury, Manning had a tremendous year with 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both totals being the second highest of his 15-year career. At 37 years of age, can Manning put together a repeat performance in 2013? Why not? While his neck issues remain a concern, and he threw more than a few wobbly ducks last year, Manning has a tremendous supporting cast in Denver with Wes Welker—the league’s top slot receiver—and rookie running back Montee Ball joining the cast this season. In Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, the Broncos might just possess the league’s top group of receivers, if not the deepest. Ball should bolster a rushing attack that was productive but somewhat inconsistent in 2012. With Manning, you are getting a quarterback that has topped 4,000 yards in every season he’s been healthy (except for his rookie campaign and in 2005, when he was rested at the end of the season) and has averaged over 30 touchdowns each of those years. Manning should be the third QB taken in your league, after Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
RB Montee Ball
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Shortly after they acquired Ball with a second-round pick in this year’s draft, the Broncos released incumbent starter Willis McGahee. With second-year player Ronnie Hillman lacking the size to handle a heavy workload and the team not sold on veterans Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball, the rookie Ball has a clear path to a starting position and solid fantasy value in 2013. The Wisconsin product has good size at 5’11”, 215 pounds and was a workhorse back in college with close to 1,000 touches. A solid pass protector, Ball seems destined to be the Broncos starter on opening day, provided he proves he can hang onto the football during the preseason. He should be under consideration for the first overall pick in rookie-only drafts, and he rates as a low-end RB2 with upside in redraft formats.
RB Ronnie Hillman
(2012 RB Rank – #64, 3.2 FPts/G; #66 PPR, 3.9 FPts/G)
The Broncos used a 2012 third-round pick to acquire Hillman and he will be given an opportunity to earn a significant role in the Broncos backfield this season. Coming off a disappointing rookie year in which he ran for 330 yards and caught just 10 passes while finding the end zone once, Hillman will open training camp as the Broncos top backup behind rookie second-round pick Montee Ball. At 5’10”, 190 pounds, he is more of a change-of-pace, pass-receiving back than a true backup, and comments from the Broncos organization this offseason seem to confirm this. If Ball falters in the lead role, there is a solid chance that either Knowshon Moreno or Lance Ball would leapfrog Hillman into the starting lineup. That limits Hillman’s upside. Consider him an RB5 and potential flex option if he earns 10-12 touches a game in 2013.
RB Knowshon Moreno
(2012 RB Rank – #34, 11.7 FPts/G; #36 PPR, 14.3 FPts/G)
The good news is that Moreno had an extended run of solid play in 2012 and the Broncos released Willis McGahee in the offseason. The bad news is that the team acquired Montee Ball in the second round of this year’s draft and by all accounts he will be given the first chance to earn the starting role. With 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman expected to be the team’s main backup, Moreno’s playing time in 2013 will likely be based on how well the team’s young backs play. While head coach John Fox has been known to favor veterans over younger players, Moreno’s salary could see him jettisoned from the roster in the preseason. The Broncos backfield is one to watch in the preseason.
RB Lance Ball
(2012 RB Rank – #77, 3.4 FPts/G; #83 PPR, 4.1 FPts/G)
Ball is a name you need to know for a couple of reasons. One is that the Broncos plan to start rookie Montee Ball, and the other is that the team may not be willing to pay Knowshon Moreno’s hefty salary to be a backup. Those factors could lead to a role for Ball in 2013, but the chips need to land the right way for it to happen. Monitor the Broncos running back situation in the preseason and adjust accordingly.
WR Demaryius Thomas
(2012 WR Rank – #5, 12.8 FPts/G; #5 PPR, 18.6 FPts/G)
While Thomas was expected to top 1,000 receiving yards in 2012, he blew past that mark, finishing the season with 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns as he enjoyed a breakout season catching passes from Peyton Manning. After hauling in just 45.7 percent of his targets in 2011, Thomas upped that rate to 66.7 last season while averaging a very solid 15.3 yards per reception. At 6’3” and 229 pounds with outstanding speed, Thomas is a matchup nightmare for opposing cornerbacks, but there are questions about whether he will replicate his 2012 workload this season. There is another mouth to feed in the Denver offense with the acquisition of Wes Welker, and the team shored up the running game by using a second-round pick on Montee Ball. Thomas is such a superior talent that the coaching staff will ensure he gets plenty of looks in 2013, but a drop-off from his 141 targets last season is expected. He still rates as a mid-tier WR1 but his ultra-high potential isn’t likely to be reached in 2013.
WR Wes Welker
(2012 WR Rank – #12, 10.8 FPts/G; #7 PPR, 18.2 FPts/G)
After averaging 10.0 targets, 7.2 receptions, 80 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game during his six-year stay in New England, Welker brings his superlative slot receiving skills to Denver for 2013. Just don’t expect him to bring his Patriots production with him. While Welker was clearly Tom Brady’s security blanket, that won’t be the case with Peyton Manning, as the Broncos have a pair of wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, both of whom enjoyed breakout seasons in 2012. The pair combined to accumulate 2,498 receiving yards last season, so Manning will have plenty of mouths to feed in 2013. While that limits Welker’s upside and ensures he won’t replicate the 1,354 yards and six touchdowns he put up last season, there’s no reason the Broncos can’t have three 1000-yard receivers in 2013. It’s not like a Manning-led offense hasn’t accomplished that before. Consider Welker a low-risk, lower-tier WR2.
WR Eric Decker
(2012 WR Rank – #7, 11.5 FPts/G; #9 PPR, 16.8 FPts/G)
The Broncos’ 2010 third-round pick, Decker has increased his reception total, yards, and touchdowns during each of his first three seasons. In 2012, he had a breakout year with 85 receptions on 122 targets for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns. At 6’3” and 218 pounds and with solid speed, Decker has been a big-play threat and solid red zone option with 21 touchdowns through the past two seasons. Unfortunately for Decker, Wes Welker joins the Broncos offense in 2013, creating a crowded depth chart at receiver. Playing alongside one of the league’s most talented wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and the league’s top slot receiver in Welker, Decker isn’t likely to approach his target count from last season. A reduction in targets ensures that Decker won’t approach low-end WR1 or upper-tier WR2 status in 2013, but his red zone pedigree makes him a solid lower-tier WR2, and a second consecutive 1000-yard season wouldn’t be a surprise.
WR Andre Caldwell
(2012 WR Rank – #166, 1.1 FPts/G; #172 PPR, 1.4 FPts/G)
Ah, Andre Caldwell. If only he were remotely close to being as good as he thinks he is. This offseason he wondered why he hadn’t been invited to work out with Peyton Manning and some of the team’s wide receivers and tight ends. Here’s a hint, Andre. Because you’re not a big part of the team’s plans in 2013.
TE Jacob Tamme
(2012 TE Rank – #26, 4.5 FPts/G; #22 PPR, 8.0 FPts/G)
While it might be hard to fathom, this season there really isn’t any point to owning the pass-catching tight end in a Peyton Manning offense. That is the case with Tamme, who was a bit of a fantasy disappointment in his first year in Denver in 2012. We told you not to reach for him on draft day and that proved to be sound advice, as he caught just 52 passes for 555 yards and a pair of touchdowns splitting the tight end role with Joel Dreesen. In 2013, the targets and playing time will be spread even thinner with the addition of Wes Welker to the Denver offense. Tamme’s just not talented enough to warrant a bigger slice of the pie. He is waiver-wire material in almost all formats.
TE Joel Dreessen
(2012 TE Rank – #27, 4.1 FPts/G; #27 PPR, 6.7 FPts/G)
Splitting time with Jacob Tamme, Dreesen had minimal value as a fantasy TE in 2012. Despite catching just 41 passes, Dreesen proved a useful red zone option for Peyton Manning, hauling in five touchdown passes. Unfortunately for Tamme and Dreesen, Wes Welker will get the majority of the targets out of the slot in 2013, killing any fantasy value the TEs had.