As we continue to look at the fantasy potential of the Denver Broncos, today we'll be looking at the Broncos defense. Now in some leagues you play with specific positions, but for the majority of leagues you just select a defense, but for those who select individual players, we'll discuss a few key players as well.
Now the Broncos defense has been unstable for over half a decade, but does 2012 have the potential to be the best defense (fantasy-wise) in years, only time will tell, but today, we're going to do our best predictions.
- The Broncos defense is actually a mixed bag. The Broncos fantasy defense is going to be drafted purely on the sacks you are going to get. The Broncos pass rushing duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are among the best tandem of outside rushers in the NFL. If they are healthy, they will both top 10 sacks. Dumervil would have topped 10 sacks in 2011 but missed two games, Miller on the other hand racked in 11.5 sacks and that was with finishing the season with a injured hand. These two are the foundation of the Broncos fantasy team, if they are healthy and not suspended come week 1, it's a good sign.
- Now we come to another important member of the front seven. D.J. Williams was the other big cog in the Broncos defense, both in terms of fantasy and in reality. Williams last season had 5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, throw in his history of picking up an interception on two per season, if he's suspended for longer than 6 games or is traded/cut that really hurts the Broncos defense scoring ability. Behind him is a decent replacement in Wesley Woodyard, but he lacks Williams ability to get after the quarterback. Woodyard has played in 58 games and started 15 but only has one interception and 1 sack, and while his real world value is up for debate, he's a huge drop off when it comes to fantasy. Oh and that guy named Robert Ayers has settled in as a solid 4-3 DE and added 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble, look for him to slightly improve on that due to a healthy Dumvervil and Miller.
- Wrapping up front seven is a fairly weak part, at least in fantasy, the middle. Joe Mays adds nothing in terms of fantasy value, he's a fantastic two-down thumper but struggles to get after the quarterback and isn't going to grab a lot of interceptions. The defensive tackles are a mixed bunch, you have a decent journeyman (Justin Bannan), an oft-injured older vet (Ty Warren), a hyped rookie (Derek Wolfe) and a number of backups. Starting with Bannan, he isn't going to add much to make you want this defense, same for Warren. Warren may tempt the real research because of his 7.5 sacks in 2006, and I hope he returns to old form, but remember he is 31, hasn't played in 2 seasons and only averages 2.9 sacks per season before his two injuries. Lastly we have Wolfe, the rookie has potential and will likely come in on pass rushing downs, but that will also limit his opportunities. Also pass rushing DT's also seem to take a season to transition to the NFL, so don't look for more than 4 sacks.
- Next we come to the secondary. While the Broncos secondary is improved upon from 2011, the biggest issue of 2011, turnovers, still isn't fixed. Look for the Broncos pass defense as a whole to improve, allowing fewer yards and 20+ yard touchdowns. But having said that, don't look for a lot of interceptions. Champ Bailey, while being a top corner, isn't know for turnovers, at least not since 2006. He still picks up nearly 4 interceptions a season though, but the rest of the group is a mixed bag. When it comes to Drayton Florence, you get a vet who can cover but picking the ball off isn't his strength, averaging only 2 interceptions a year, the same can be said of Tracy Porter. Porter built his career on one huge interception that may still disturb Peyton Manning, but he is no ball hawk, adding little in terms of fantasy. Same for the addition of new safety Mike Adams, not I'm a big supporter of Adams, but in terms of this defense's fantasy value, he's not a big upgrade.This brings us to the young bucks. Syd'Quan Thompson, Chris Harris and Omar Bolden will all likely see playing time next season, and all three have a nose for the ball. Harris finished last season with only one interception but also only saw limited playing time. Thompson was the same way in 2010 where he had the Broncos best interception percentage, snagging 2 on only 200 snaps. Both of these young players will make fantastic nickel and dime backs. That leaves Bolden, a guy who has potential as well.
- One last caveat, one downside of having Peyton Manning is that opposing teams will be playing from behind (That's only bad in fantasy). That means teams are going to go over 300 yards quite a bit, they likely won't top 400 yards like we saw in 2011, but 300 yards is a lock for opposing offenses, so if your league penalizes you for that, this might kill your idea of drafting them.
A quick breakdown for the people who like to scroll down:
- Little change in total yards
- High sacks
- High fumbles
- Few 20+ yard plays
- Few interception
- Weak run defense
- Health and suspension concerns for key secondary (Champ) and pass rushers (Williams, Dumervil)
Overall while I wouldn't rank the Broncos as a top 10 fantasy football, I would rank them top 15 and in deep leagues, they are worth a pickup, and they do have massive potential if they can have their secondary step in terms of creating turnovers, but with the shift of new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, don't look for the secondary to focus on that as much. But the front seven should get more creative overall with the arrival of Del Rio.
To sum it up, this is a better fantasy defense than in 2011, and should be drafted as such. They won't allow a lot of yards, have more sacks, but likely won't improve their interception numbers.