Dynasty Capsule: Denver Broncos

Chris Rohrer

As part of the premium content package, we’re again unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL leading up to free agency and the NFL Draft. This year, we’re also going to do a follow-up on all the teams after all the free agency and NFL Draft movement to assess the impact of any players teams have gained or lost. Since these capsules are always done as a simple snapshot in time, we figured that was the best way to tackle the off-season and provide ultimate value for our subscribers. All in all, we’ll have close to 500 player profiles found in these capsules over the off-season.

We continue our journey through the NFL with the Denver Broncos.


Peyton Manning

peyton_manningIn his first season out of a Colts uniform, Manning totaled over 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns through the air.  He boasted a 68.8 % completion rate on 400 attempts (nearly a career high), while completing one of the greatest comeback seasons in history.

It is impressive he was able to accomplish this kind of season coming off such a serious injury and missing the entirety of the 2011 campaign, not to mention beginning with a new supporting cast.  By mid-season, the Broncos really started to hit their stride and were able to finish as the number one seed in the AFC.  Imagine what Manning can do with another off-season to run his new team and develop more team chemistry!?! This is a scary thought for any defense.

Entering last season he signed a very lucrative contract, though it’s not quite as straight forward as your common salary and signing bonus deal.  The only guaranteed money he received was his 2012 salary, and the rest is dependent upon his health and if he finishes the previous season on the roster – in essence if he is keeping the Broncos in playoff contention.

Manning can be counted on as an elite option for the short term.  Due to age and injury concerns, he can be had at the fraction of the cost of the other elite producers.  He is best to be paired with a young quarterback you could feel comfortable playing if necessary, but could use a year or two of development while Manning is still producing QB1 numbers.  The name Russell Wilson comes to mind, or perhaps Robert Griffin III due to his near term injury concerns.  One thing is for certain – if you are not a serious contender, Manning has no business being on your roster.

Brock Osweiller

Osweiller was drafted in the second round of the 2012 rookie draft.  He spent his rookie season holding a clipboard and watching Manning have his comeback season for the ages.  Osweiller’s only action was essentially coming in at the end of games to kneel the ball and preserve the aging knees of the resurging star.

Broncos GM John Elway said he has no regrets with the early round selection despite the addition of Manning last season. There were a lot of unknowns at the time, and Elway said there were a variety of scenarios they were envisioning.  The one that seems to be playing out is they saw a future starting quarterback who has the opportunity to develop within the organization and “get a great education” from one of the all-time greatest at the position.  The Broncos have been pleased with his progress over the course of the season and still view him as their post-Manning era quarterback.

Osweiller has yet to be tested, but following another camp and watching preseason games should go a long way in determining his progress.  If anything were to happen to Manning, he is undoubtedly the next man in line and at the helm of an offense with some serious receiving threats.  However, if we have learned anything from watching Curtis Painter, we know that just because someone is learning from Manning doesn’t necessarily equate to success.  If you believe in last year’s second round pick, however, he should be inexpensive to acquire or could be on waivers in shallower leagues.

Caleb Hanie

Manning is the present, Osweiller is the future (according to the Broncos’ management).  This leaves little room for Hanie to be anything more but an emergency option.  His only real career playing time came in 2011 when injuries kept Jay Cutler sidelined and Hanie performed atrociously.  I would look elsewhere from your dynasty team backup’s backup.

Running Back

Willis McGahee

He entered the 2012 season as the top dog following his resurgence in Denver a year earlier.  Through the first ten games of last season, he totaled 731 yards on 167 carries, which was good for 4.4 yards per carry.  He only tallied four touchdowns over that span but he was on pace for his second consecutive 1,000 yard season before sustaining broken leg and a torn MCL, prematurely ending his season.

The major concern now is at the age of 32 years old if he can come back from yet another major leg injury and still be effective.  McGahee was supposedly going to be ready for the AFC Championship game had the Broncos advanced passed Ravens, so there shouldn’t be any worry he won’t be ready for camp.

Despite the fact he should be recovered for next season, it is unlikely McGahee will enter the season with the same workload he had last year.  He will likely enter camp battling Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman for playing time.  It has been reported his roster spot is very vulnerable at this point, though his low salary of just $2.5 million may be his saving grace.  Even if he proves to be fully recovered and emerges as the starter, McGahee’s role seems destined to be decreased from last year.

Knowshon Moreno

Many owners gave up on Moreno following his disappointing 2011 season.  In fact, Moreno wasn’t even activated in weeks two through eleven of the 2012 season before McGahee went down with the leg injury.  This could have partially been because Coach John Fox wanted to see what his new rookie selection was capable of, or possibly to light a fire under Moreno.  Nonetheless, when McGahee suffered the knee injury, Fox wasn’t ready to hand the reigns over to an unproven rookie, and as a result, Moreno began receiving the full workload in week twelve.

During his stint at the end of the season, Moreno performed well for fantasy owners, but what worries me is any production seemed to be reliant on a heavy volume of carries.  This was fine for owners down the stretch last season, but if McGahee is back to full health and with Hillman having a year of experience under his belt, he likely won’t be receiving the same workload next year.  With only a 3.8 yards per carry average last season, I am concerned Moreno won’t receive the amount of carries necessary to have a fantasy impact.

Moreno is certainly worth a shot in the middle to late rounds of startup leagues, but you shouldn’t draft him expecting he will be a weekly RB2 or even flex play just because he carried the load at the end of last year.  After the 2013 season, the Broncos have a club option to keep Moreno, but the cost is $5 million.  If the Broncos decide his price tag isn’t worth it, he could likely walk. There is still much undecided in future of the Mile High city’s backfield.

Ronnie Hillman

Over the course of his rookie season, Hillman made a lot of progress.  He started the season fourth on the depth chart and head coach John Fox said his pass protection was holding him back.  With those concerns there was no way he was going to be allowed to enter the game and protect their new and “fragile”  prize at quarterback.  Following the preseason, however, it was said Hillman made some serious strides in this area and by week three he was activated in favor of Moreno.  On some occasions he received more than a handful of carries when McGahee was overworked, but his role was mostly limited to change of pace duties.

Fox is known for his preference of veteran ball carriers, so it was no real surprise Moreno took over the workload after McGahee was placed on the season ending injured reserve.  It was well noted Hillman has come a long way since entering last year’s training camp unready to take the NFL field.  As a direct result of improved passing protection, he has given himself the opportunity to prove himself and possibly expand his role in the future.

From watching Hillman play, I am far from impressed.  He can take what is given, but I have failed to see him effectively fight for extra yardage or really create any big plays.  He posted just a 3.8 yards per carry average over the course of the entire season, but the opportunity could be there.  It is no secret McGahee is aging, and Moreno has disappointed owners before.  It is conceivable to think with another season of improvements, Hillman could be given the chance to lead the backfield, though I believe he lacks the complete skill set to handle such workloads and still be consistently effective. As of now, he just doesn’t look the part.

Wide Receivers

Demaryius Thomas

After flashing his huge potential with Tim Tebow under center in 2011, dynasty owners were salivating at what could be possible with newly signed legend Peyton Manning.  In 2012, all Thomas did was exceed those expectations as he finished the season with 94 receptions on 141 targets for 1,434 yards and ten touchdowns.

Thomas played all 16 games last season and helped owners push his injury concerns aside.  With Manning also appearing healthy and under contract through at least 2014, the next couple of years should have great things in store for this young stud.  To obtain him, you would likely have to give up a King’s ransom, but there is nothing showing he can’t repeat last year’s career numbers.  Right now in DLF’s February mock drafts, he is being drafted as the fourth wide receiver according to the ADP data.  He didn’t make it past the second round in any of the drafts and has huge value for any team, whether they are competing for the league championship or trying to rebuild around a couple of young studs.  Thomas can be a building block for any dynasty team for years to come.

Eric Decker

After raving about Thomas’ career year, it would be easy to overlook Decker’s fantasy prominence.  He finished the season with 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns.  For many teams, this would look like WR1 numbers, but we all know Manning has been able to support many fantasy options.  Decker’s superior route running was an asset for Manning and should help him continue to be relevant for years to come.

The only uncertainty with the pair’s future together is Decker’s contract situation.  The 2013 season is the final year of his rookie deal.  He has developed into a very important member of the offense and the Broncos will likely do all they can to keep him on board.  If the Broncos are smart, they will address this as soon as possible and get a deal done before next off-season to avoid any complications or conflict.

Due to the fact he is often overshadowed by Thomas in this offense, Decker could be a value pick.  He currently is being drafted as the seventeenth receiver in DLF’s February ADP data, though he finished the 2012 season as the twelfth scoring receiver in PPR leagues.  Decker is very talented and his value is not just tied to Manning’s presence – he has the potential to put up solid numbers for years to come.

Andre Caldwell

He is currently listed as third on the depth chart heading into the off-season, but played just 76 snaps all of last season.  Brandon Stokley filled the WR3 role in 2012, which produced 45 receptions for 544 yards and five touchdowns.  Stokley is currently a free agent and it is still unclear if he will be back next season.  There will definitely be some signings for depth in the off-season and Caldwell would not just be given the role, regardless.

Trindon Holliday

The Broncos’ return specialist showed his dynamic playmaking skills in the playoffs with two return touchdowns against the Ravens.  His speed and evasiveness are quite apparent and the Broncos will undoubtedly continue to use his strengths in the return game.  With limited depth on the roster before free agency, he could potentially be given a shot to fight for some playing time, though it is a bit more difficult to see him being utilized in the passing game at this point.

Tight Ends

Jacob Tamme

Many had high expectations when Tamme was reunited with Manning in Denver, but the tight end duties were split fairly evenly with Joel Dreessen – this failed to allow either to truly emerge as a true fantasy option.  Tamme was definitely favored by Manning, totaling 80 over the course of the season.  His target ratio was about one target every 6.9 snaps played.  Even so, he was not a consistent fantasy option.  Dreessen was involved heavily in the offense and that certainly limits his upside going forward.  Of the tight ends in Denver, I would definitely prefer to own Tamme.  He is younger (27 years old), has a history with Manning in Indianapolis and clearly was his preferred option during the 2012 season.

Joel Dreessen

Dreessen led the team’s tight ends for snaps played, though his target ratio (one target every 15.4 snaps played) was just half that of his counterpart.  He is now 31 years old and signed through the 2014 season, though he is owed about $2.5 million each year.  He is not a good fantasy option unless something keeps Tamme out of the lineup.

Virgil Green

Green received very limited playing time in his sophomore season, though it is worth noting he played ahead of Julius Thomas.  He played intermittently throughout the season, and clearly has some talent, but at this point it looks like it would take Denver cutting ties with one of their veteran tight ends to open a larger role for Green.