Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
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The 6’7”, 244-pound Lynch came out of college last year a raw but projectable cannon-armed passer with mobility, but one who benefited from Memphis’s simplified spread offense. Despite being a first-round pick, he needed to work on ball placement and reading the defense at an NFL level, so Denver essentially red-shirted him for 2016.
That roughness showed in his one rookie season start, as Lynch put together an uninspiring 59.04% completion rate, a 5.99 yards per attempt average, and merely a 2.41% touchdown rate. Still, he protected the ball well enough and only threw one interception across his 83 passing attempts (1.20% rate). First-round rookie quarterbacks with similar attempts, yards per attempt, and completion rates include JaMarcus Russell, Johnny Manziel, Brady Quinn, Trent Dilfer, and — weirdly — Aaron Rodgers.
Lynch will come into 2017’s training camp with an even shot to win the starting job, but a new coaching staff means his first-round status does not guarantee he’ll get the same treatment as the previous regime. Vance Joseph’s group may see him less as a previous investment and more as a sunken cost — we shall see. Lynch was always supposed to be a project to stash, and he remains so; he comes in as QB28 in our January ADP.
The Broncos maintain that they will have an open competition in 2017 for the starting quarterback spot, and Lynch’s rawness makes a strong case for Siemian keeping the gig. Siemian — a 2015 seventh-rounder — was no great shakes himself in his first year under center, with a 59.47% completion rate and 3.70% touchdown rate to 2.06% interception rate. That said, he moved the offense better than Lynch when he was in (7.00 yards per attempt) and the Broncos seem to trust him in an Alex Smith sort of way.
Don’t be shocked to see Siemian start the year as the Broncos’ signal-caller, but he’s barely a QB2 in dynasty, if even that. He went undrafted in our January mocks but could be bye week starter next year, so hold him if you have him.
This year, before a meniscus tear sent him to the I.R., Anderson was seeing just under 20 touches per game and generating a little under 4.00 yards per carry. On the year, he put up the 13th-most half-PPR fantasy points per game among the 42 running backs to tote the rock at least 100 times in 2016.
Fortunately for dynasty players, Anderson is seeing little-to-no threat from the running back the Broncos drafted last year (see below), though obviously any decreased workload for Anderson isn’t good for his fantasy production. Devontae Booker could eventually put a dent in Anderson’s fantasy impact, but that’s not likely to be next year.
In an offense suffering growing pains under center, Anderson will likely still be turned to quite a bit in 2017. He was on-pace for just over 250 rushes before succumbing to injury last year, as well as 216 half-PPR points that would have placed him as fantasy’s RB10. While he’s not a league-winner at running back, he’s a stable source of points in the near future. Anderson turns 26 in February, and came in as the RB17 in our January mocks. Once he gets back on the field, that’s going to seem a little low.
I’ll let our own Jeff Miller say it, because it’s just this simple: “I don’t dislike Booker at all. I think he is a very talented guy. But the notion some hold that he is an upgrade over CJA is ridiculous.” It’s true, the idea that a fourth-round rookie would supplant a proven, stable running back like Anderson was a little bit much, but Booker did flash some impressive speed and power in his first year on the NFL field.
His promise for the future is interesting, but when he earned the full-time starting job from weeks seven to 12, Booker posted a measly 3.34 rushing yards per attempt, despite a three-down back workload that belied his inefficiency. Booker could (and should) develop into a useful NFL running back as part of the Denver committee, but that won’t likely be early in 2017. The already 24-year old Booker came in as RB26 in January ADP, but that seems a bit inflated.
Bibbs is built low and thick, which led to his massive productivity in his last year at Colorado State (1,741 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns), but has never been much of a receiving back and therefore is little-used behind three-down players like Anderson and Booker. Bibbs did catch one sensational screen pass for 69 yards and a score in week nine, but that was one of his just 31 touches over his first two years of his career. He is nothing more than an end-of-the-bench stash in dynasty leagues. He comes in at RB83 in our January ADP.
Forsett turns 32 next October, and posted a 3.34 rushing yards per attempt (a career-low when rushing 50 times or more) on 87 carries with three different teams. Former head coach Gary Kubiak — who brought him to the team — has retired.
Zac Brooks and Bernard Pierce
Brooks and Pierce were both signed to reserve/future contracts when the Broncos’ season ended. Pierce has a career 3.7 yards per carry average and hasn’t seen NFL game action since November 2015. Brooks was a seventh-round pick last year, is big (6’0”, 200 pounds), and explosive. He’s a developmental back for the near future, but can catch passes and has more upside than Pierce.
Thomas got spoiled having Peyton Manning as his quarterback during the peak of his career, and it shows in his production arc. From 2012 to 2014 with “Good Peyton”, Thomas had full-season averages of 1,493 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 102 catches; since then, he’s averaged just 1,057 yards and 7 touchdowns on 89 catches with “Bad Peyton” and Siemian. They’re both really good, but that’s the difference between a superhuman 262 points and a merely mortal 189.
Every year since his 2013 peak, Thomas’s yards per target and touchdown rate have slipped a bit, to the point where he churned out just a 7.47 average in the former and 3.45% rate in the latter in 2016. Some is natural regression, but Thomas enters his age-30 season in 2017. While he’s still playing at a high level (ranking 16th in half-PPR fantasy points this year), he’s clearly starting to head toward the back-nine of his career, and is more an upside WR2 for dynasty than a locked-and-loaded stud these days. The dynasty community agrees with this, as our January ADP pegs him as the WR17. This is right on for a veteran wide receiver, but one who still has impact and stability.
Sanders has been just as reliable a target for Siemian as Thomas, and was almost as dominant during the prime Peyton years for this offense. He too is showing the effects of going on 30 and playing without a Hall of Fame quarterback, however; Sanders posted a second consecutive season with a sub-60% catch rate and slipping production marks. This season, he still posted a top-25 wide receiver fantasy season by half-PPR scoring, but the continued ineffectiveness under center is definitely dragging his value down.
Still, as the young quarterbacks here progress, it can only improve for Sanders — who is under contract for another three seasons. A 21st-best showing this year is likely to sustain if the Denver offense improves, and that he’s going as the WR35 in dynasty mock drafts by our January ADP means he’s a bit of a value. I wouldn’t sell the farm to get Sanders, but he’s a solid WR2 for dynasty purposes.
The curious case of Cody Latimer continues, as there’s really no explanation for the former second-rounder’s inability to get on the field three years into his career other than the possibility that he’s just not that good. He’s still only going on 25, and his opportunities and production have increased every year — but going from four targets to 15 isn’t good. He was outside the top-120 wideouts in January’s mocks.
Do you know what the difference is between Fowler and Latimer? About three pounds, and six rounds of NFL Draft pedigree. He’s not a stellar athlete, but moves well enough for his size and has good catching ability and the ability to make plays after the catch. He’s the third-best receiver in a two-wideout offense, but he’s a total steal in dynasty leagues; he’s going outside the top-120 receivers by our ADP.
Taylor’s biggest claim to fame is that he’s a dead ringer for “Sunshine” from Remember the Titans. He’s also a 6’5”, 210 pound red-zone mismatch, but has the necessary speed and quickness to be more than a jump ball big man. He’s a deep dynasty stash.
Norwood is a little-used rotational slot receiver and punt returner. He turns 31 next September, and is droppable everywhere.
Brown was a 2013 undrafted free agent for the Baltimore Ravens, and that year saw him rack up 524 yards and seven touchdowns on 81 targets. He has 61 targets combined in the three years since. A red-zone option at most, he was not active once for Denver in 2016.
It seems like every year finds us waiting for a Virgil Green NFL breakout — after all, it’s not like he was only a blocker in college and can’t be a good receiver. The only problem is that he never seems to get a legitimate chance to prove himself before injury strikes or the coaching staff game-plans looks to go elsewhere. Over 84 career games, Green has just 616 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The Broncos value his inline blocking skills highly, and thus give him playing time mostly as an extra lineman. Without a significant change in scenery, that’s unlikely to change even as the coaching staff is turned over this off-season. Green’s a low-end dynasty TE2, and went undrafted in our January mocks (outside the top-38).
The Broncos traded a fifth-round pick to the New England Patriots this year for A.J. Derby. Derby is at the tight end position, having played just one year in college (he was a quarterback and linebacker before then), but acquitted himself admirably for his new employers in 2016. The six games he played saw him post 160 receiving yards on 19 targets.
I’m hesitant to declare Derby the favorite for anything but a fair shot in training camp, as a fifth-round selection is relatively minimal trade compensation and the deal to acquire him came at a time when Green and Jeff Heuerman were both on the shelf with injury. Let’s call it cautious optimism instead; he’s worth an off-season stash.
Heuerman was thought to be coming into the starting role for 2016, but the 2015 third-rounder struggled to get on the field for the second year in a row due to injury (a torn ACL sidelined him for his rookie season). In the final three games of the year, Heuerman saw 14 total targets, catching seven of them for 93 yards. It’s a good start, and he should have a chance to compete for an offensive role in 2017. Both Heuerman and Derby are interesting assets going undrafted by our January ADP data.
Krieger-Coble came out of Iowa at age 24 this year, and made his name more as a blocker and with his athleticism for his build than as a true receiver. He has inconsistency with catching the ball, and went undrafted for that reason. He’’s a natural fit as Green’s direct backup.
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