3-Point Stance: Broncos fantasy options limited, but potentially underpriced
As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Sunday’s topic: The Denver Broncos.
From one AFC West team to another, Jamaal Charles’ presence in the Broncos backfield has some fantasy owners second-guessing C.J. Anderson’s hold on the starting gig. BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE on Anderson’s ability to close out 2017 with RB2 numbers.
Liz – BELIEVE. The Charles signing had more to do with Devontae Booker than C.J. Anderson. Before tearing his meniscus in Week 7, Anderson was putting up RB1 numbers and averaging over 14 fantasy points per game. Once sidelined, it was expected that Booker would flourish in the leading role. However, the then-rookie was woefully inefficient for the remainder of the season, averaging a paltry 3.0 YPC and finding the end zone just four times.
Given Anderson’s conditioning issues and Booker’s underwhelming rookie campaign it makes sense that the team would want to add depth at the position. But Charles is no longer a workhorse. If he were, the Chiefs wouldn’t have let him go. The details of his current contract are further evidence that he won’t command a large percentage of the touches. If anything, he’ll function more as a receiving back than a between-the-tackles grinder.
Make no mistake, Denver’s backfield will be an RBBC, but Anderson still figures to receive the bulk of the carries. With a bolstered offensive to help him stay healthy, Anderson should maintain RB2 numbers in 2017, racking up roughly 15 totes per contest.
Brad – BELIEVE. When Charles signed on the dotted line, Denver area radio hosts immediately spout ear-piercing hyperbole about the rusher – flawed declarations. Folks, JC is cooked. His rickety knees are held together with duct tape, fishing wire and a wad of Juicy Fruit. For that reason, the Broncos signed him to an incentive-laden deal. There’s no guarantee he’ll even survive training camp. Even if he does, I highly doubt he averages more than 7-9 touches per game.
If that scenario unfolds, Anderson should stave off Charles, Devontae Booker and rookie D’Angelo Henderson with relative ease. Yes, the injury imp loves to feast on CJA’s flesh, but when healthy he’s an effective between-the-tackles grinder who gains appreciable yards after contact. Running behind a boosted offensive line, he should land in the RB20-RB24 range come year’s end. Heading up the committee with roughly 14-16 touches per game, Anderson finishes with 1,100 combined yards and 6-8 TDs.
According to current ADP data, Demaryius Thomas is being drafted inside the top-20 wideouts (WR21) while Emmanuel Sanders is falling outside the top-30 (WR31). PICK YOUR POISON, which Denver receiver would you rather draft and why?
Brad – SANDERS. His name may not carry as much weight, but the second fiddle hasn’t lagged far behind Thomas. Five spots is the widest disparity separating the two in single season fantasy points scored since they joined forces in 2014 (Final WR rank ’14 – DT: WR4, ES: WR7, ’15 – DT: WR13, ES: WR18, ’16 – DT: WR18, ES: WR21). But despite their minimal year-to-year differences, owners continue to shell out much higher draft picks for Thomas. Unwise. Considering the thin discrepancy, the shrewd investor always chases the better value, in this case Sanders. Likely to draw another 130-plus targets, he’s a good bet for 75-1050-6 this season. Bargain shop, #TeamHuevos.
Liz – SANDERS. Due to their ability to convert closer to the red area of the field, I’m usually all in on #teamtallreceiver. However, Sanders has shown great chemistry with Trevor Siemian (who is expected to start under center for the Broncos), garnering more red zone opportunities than Thomas. With only 10 targets, 11 catches, and 51 yards separating the two WRs, it makes good sense to lean into value and nab the cheaper option.
Time to go DUMPSTER DIVING. Which Bronco has deep sleeper potential?
Liz – A.J. DERBY. Drafted by New England in 2015, Derby entered the league with just one year of experience at the tight end position. A natural pass-catcher who previously played quarterback and linebacker, the 6-foot-five and 255 pound athlete flashed towards the end of 2016. Leap-frogging Virgil Green on the team’s depth chart between Weeks 12 through 15, Derby caught at least four balls in three of those four contests. Unfortunately, a concussion prematurely ended Derby’s ascending season. Expected to remain in the Broncos plans this coming fall, Derby figures to be deployed from the slot. Considering Mike McCoy’s history with and friendliness towards the tight end position, the former Razorback has must-track sleeper potential.
Brad – CARLOS HENDERSON. Over his seven-year tenure calling the shots, John Elway has whiffed on several offensive draft picks (e.g. Montee Ball, Brock Osweiler, Cody Latimer), but Henderson could flip the script. Last year at Louisiana Tech, the youngster posted Madden-on-rookie numbers (82-1535, 23 total TDs), embarrassing defenders on a routine basis. He’s competitive, ultra-versatile, fleet of foot (4.46 40-yard dash), sure-handed and extremely difficult to wrangle after the catch.
In Mike McCoy’s offense, the shiny gadget could be deployed ubiquitously, a la Danny Woodhead during his Charger days. If he impresses in training camp, Henderson will receive ample work as a slot/motion receiver and kick returner. Owners in challenging formats and return yardage leagues need to monitor his progress closely. It’s possible he becomes the 2017 version of Tyreek Hill.