Team-by-Team Recap: Denver Broncos

Jeff Haverlack


This article is part of our ongoing series where we provide team-by-team analysis and veteran divisional winners and losers from the NFL Draft. You can read the entire series here.

After finishing first overall in the league in passing yards on the arm of Peyton Manning and 15th in rushing as well, what else could the Denver Broncos really hope to add to garner more fantasy production?  Realistically, nothing in the short term, but with Eric Decker (NYJ) gone in free agency, Wes Welker likely within a year or two of retirement and Demaryius Thomas a free agent in 2015, you had to believe the Broncos would add at least one receiver option via free agency or the draft.

Manning put forth an incredible offensive display in 2013, throwing for 5,477 yards, 55 touchdowns and only ten interceptions. At 38 years of age, what could he have left in the tank?  And would the loss of Decker change the dynamic such that last year’s numbers won’t be possible in 2014?  The first order of business was the free agent addition of receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who left the Steelers for a chance to play in Mile High.  Who could blame him. Sanders isn’t the physical body Decker is, but will add a speed element on the outside Decker couldn’t provide.  Likely to be singled up in coverage due to the presence of Demaryius Thomas on the opposite side, Sanders could find himself over the top often with the chance for multiple long touchdowns.  What isn’t known is whether Manning’s arm strength remains strong enough to take advantage of it.

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In the run game, gone is Knowshon Moreno, who departed to Miami, the only team to show interest in him this off-season.  Moreno is an all-purpose back accomplished in all areas of the game, but isn’t elite in any category. He’s an opportunistic runner able to get what the defense gives, but without the power or agility to make things happen on his own.  He’s an intelligent player in pass coverage and is desired for his blitz pick-ups.  In the passing game, his reliable hands make for an easy outlet for a quarterback under pressure, or for quick flares and screens.   Any running back in a Manning-led offense will have to work half as hard to be twice as successful. In Moreno’s absence, Montee Ball becomes the clear starter in the backfield and has huge upside.

Tight end Julius Thomas broke out in 2013.  He’s young and should have another noteworthy season in 2014.  But like all other offensive players on the Broncos, there is the looming question about just how good they will be when Manning finally hangs them up.

As for the Broncos’ draft, it consisted of a single offensive skill position player:

Cody Latimer, WR (Round 2, #56)

Latimer has been a hot prospect since being selected by the Broncos in the second round.  In fantasy, he’s come off the board in the mid first round but has most recently been falling to the middle, and even the late, second round.

Possessing prototypical receiver size (6’2″/215 lbs.), Latimer also has the speed to be a vertical threat.  He has good vision and a relatively high receiver-IQ.  He shields well with his body, displays passable route-routing fundamentals and strong hands with a good catch radius.  On the field, you can easily see Latimer’s vision and instincts at work.  After the catch, he’s not overly dynamic but has the stride and speed to make defenses pay in space.

The biggest question surrounding Latimer isn’t related to his size, speed or work ethic, but how long it will take for him to see any meaningful field-time; we fantasy leaguers are a fickle group and not prone to excessive periods of patience.  As it stands, Latimer will run no better than fourth on the depth chart, but that should be enough to see him on the field in 2014.  Should injury occur above him, he would have a key opportunity for real production as the WR3.  Manning, arguably more than any other quarterback in the NFL, can turn a WR3 into a near-WR1 .  With Wes Welker in the slot, the likelihood of injury is far from a stretch.

One question remaining with Latimer relates to the Manning-effect, as it does for all skill position players in Denver.  His draft value is certainly elevated over what it would be otherwise, but on the chance that Manning plays multiple years, Latimer is worth the earlier selection.  If he had been drafted into the Carolina or Jacksonville situation, while his starting prospects would be raised, his long term value likely would have suffered.


What else can be said about Denver and Peyton Manning that hasn’t been said already?  They, collectively, are juggernauts in fantasy and possessing any one of them can significantly bolster your fantasy roster.  Cody Latimer is an exciting prospect in an even more exciting opportunity.  Patient drafters should be excited to see him slip into the second round of a rookie drafts and not fear the pick for the upside it represents.

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jeff haverlack