The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Denver Broncos.
Ah, the Joe Flacco era ended in Baltimore and is set to begin anew in Denver. We shall see how long said era lasts. Regardless, the Broncos, while expected to finish near the bottom of the AFC West, have some intriguing fantasy options.
Phillip Lindsay was pretty much the fantasy surprise of the year in 2018. Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton emerged late as a young, raw but intriguing duo at wideout. Noah Fant was drafted this year with all the potential in the world. Emmanuel Sanders is still around — you get the point. The question is, how far can they go with Flacco (or Drew Lock) at the helm?
Similar to Pierre Thomas and Arian Foster before him, Phillip Lindsay (45.9 ADP, RB22) went from undrafted to unbenchable. Following up his spectacular rookie campaign, OVER or UNDER final RB finish 24.5 in .5 PPR leagues?
Brad: OVER. Lindsay’s rags-to-riches story is the stuff of Disney movies. He grew up in the Denver area and played for Colorado in Boulder, didn’t have his name called during the NFL Draft, compiled 1,278 total yards with 10 TDs and earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl, becoming the first undrafted rookie ever to achieve the feat. And he accomplished all of it while living in his parents’ basement. His motivations: Stay humble and conserve cash. Admirable. Vince Young he most certainly is not.
Despite his fantastic initial efforts, Lindsay is set to take a step back this fall. He’s yet to catch passes or do much extensive contact work post-wrist surgery. Additionally, local reports have indicated a 1A, 1B scenario could unfold between the upstart and fellow sophomore Royce Freeman. Underneath the surface, his secondary numbers also left much to be desired. Even benefiting from light fronts (14.1 stack%), he ranked outside the RB top-50 in yards after contact per attempt (2.35) and missed tackle percentage (9.7). For comparison, Freeman checked in with a 3.22 YAC/att and 18.0 missed tackle percentage seeing the most eight-plus men fronts of ANY rusher in the AFC (36.2% of time).
Under a new coaching regime, Lindsay, from my perspective, is most likely to generate 13-15 touches per game and finish in the RB25-RB27 range.
Liz: OVER. But barely, and only because the second-to-third tier of running backs is so dang muddy. With Joe Flacco under center the Broncos are going to strive for balance. That means a healthy dose of rushing plays. But with Lindsay slow to recover from a wrist injury and Royce Freeman earning extra reps and improving his receiving chops, Denver’s backfield figures to be a platoon.
Freeman, who was hampered by a high ankle sprain for much of last year, is a solid fit for Rich Scangarello’s zone scheme. He’s a one-cut runner who should excel on early downs and in short yardage situations. While Lindsay is, undoubtedly, electric in space (as evidenced by the 11 breakaway runs he managed in 2018), he’s also incredibly undersized. If Freeman is healthy there’s no reason to feed Lindsay and risk his body breaking down again. He’s the Yahoo consensus RB23.
PICK YOUR POISON
Between sophomore receivers Courtland Sutton (86.7 ADP, WR37) and DaeSean Hamilton (148.6, WR58), which will crank out the highest return on investment in .5 PPR formats?
Brad: HAMILTON. Savvy in his routes and successful on short-field opportunities (51% success rate on routes less than 15 yards in 2018), Hamilton steadily emerged as Denver’s version of Jarvis Landry down the stretch. That might not be the sexiest comp, but with an ADP of 140-plus there’s plenty of profit potential for the second-year target. Keep in mind Flacco loves to lean on underneath weapons.
Matt Harmon is quite bullish on Hamilton. My excitement level doesn’t exactly match given the offense’s limitations, but 70 catches for the wideout wouldn’t be a shock.
Andy: I cannot endorse these ADPs, people. Give me HAMILTON in a rout. I have no real issue with Sutton’s price — nice player, looks the part of a fun red-zone weapon and deep-threat. But Hamilton became a target vacuum in December last season, catching 25 balls on 38 looks over the final four weeks. Emmanuel Sanders is returning from a brutal injury (Achilles), so we can’t assume he’ll be a significant factor, particularly in the early months.
Joe Flacco isn’t likely to support multiple roster-worthy receivers, so I don’t want to oversell any of these dudes. But Hamilton is my preferred target. For now, I’ve got him higher than Sutton in the overall ranks.
TRUE or FALSE
Due to the “masterful” execution of Joe Flacco (231.1 ADP, QB29), a quarterback GM John Elway believes is just now entering the prime of his career at age 34, rookie Drew Lock doesn’t receive a meaningful snap until Week 10 or later.
Liz: FALSE. This is entirely dependent on record. If Flacco is getting the job done, then Lock will - obviously - continue to ride the bench. Looking at Denver’s schedule, however, it seems unlikely that the oft bruised vet will either stay on the field or be above .500 by Week 10. Noting Elway’s affection for the rookie (seriously, John may be the only person to stan harder for Lock than me) there’s little doubt that the Mizzou product won’t close out the Broncos’ 2019 season.
Andy: We can safely say that if Flacco actually got 10 starts, he’d produce at least three of those familiar 20-for-42, 165-yard performances. I don’t think he’ll retain his starting gig beyond the second such game. I have no doubt that Elway loves Lock like a pet. I’d bet on the rookie seeing at least eight starts, so I’ve gotta go FALSE on this one.
Best Ball Bargain Bin
Andy: NOAH FANT. I mean, c’mon. How am I gonna not discuss a first-round former Hawkeye who tested like a mutant at the combine. Flacco has clicked with plenty of less-talented tight ends over the years. Fant is good for at least three blow-up games, which is exactly what you’re looking for in the final rounds of a best ball draft.
Brad: EMMANUEL SANDERS. From Vic Fangio to local beat writers to Sanders himself, they all anticipate a return in time to suit up Week 1 versus Oakland. If the case, the 32-year-old is criminally undervalued in best ball drafts (126.9 ADP, WR52). He’s the most proven receiving Bronco in the stable who finished WR9 in fantasy points per route last year. Yes, he’ll need to get on the same page with Flacco quickly, but I don’t see the veteran experiencing a colossal Demaryius Thomas-like decline.
Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Denver 7 wins OVER (-110) or UNDER (-110)
Liz: PUSH. We know Denver’s defense is money, but there are obvious question marks surrounding the offense. Still, there are a lot of exciting weapons with massive ceilings on this roster, from an explosive backfield, to ascending talent DaeSean Hamilton, to potential TD machine Noah Fant. And while they’re all young, I’m optimistic about Scangarello’s ability to unLock (pun intended) their collective potential(s).
Brad: UNDER. Denver’s defense is easily a top-10 unit, but reservations about the offense are completely warranted, especially considering it will play the second-toughest schedule according to projected Vegas win totals. It’s possible the Broncos wallow in the basement of the AFC West for much of 2019.
Stay tuned for more Fantasy Football team previews!
Follow Brad: @YahooNoise
Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF
Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens