So it begins, the NFL regular season is finally here, and so is fantasy football. (Cheers!) If you were lucky enough to snag any Denver Broncos players in your fantasy draft, or players from any of the teams they'll be playing this season, Mile High Report's start 'em, sit 'em has got you covered! Week to week, we'll be providing fantasy advice and projections for every Broncos player, as well as any players on the weekly opponent. So, if you drafted any Broncos players, you're in luck; if you didn't, it's not too late to put in a few trade offers.
So, without further adieu, your first weekly MHR start 'em, sit 'em of the 2014 NFL season!
The players in this section should appear in your lineups this Sunday, Monday, or Thursday.
QB, Peyton Manning:
If you managed to draft Peyton Manning in any of your fantasy leagues this year, you managed to grab one of the few elite fantasy (and real life) quarterbacks in the league. The type of production that Manning should give you week-in, week-out is rivaled by very few quarterbacks; namely Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and maybe Matt Stafford (remember, this is fantasy, not real football). The only time that Manning will not be a starter in your lineup if you drafted him is if you happened to draft both Peyton and either Brees or Rodgers and one of the other two has a better match-up that week. Side note: If you have two of the three elite quarterbacks in a one-QB league, you should STRONGLY consider trading one if you expect to contend, because you likely are missing depth at another key position.
Anyway, because you know you're going to start Manning every single week, except for the Broncos' bye week, we'll go a little more in-depth about what you should expect from him against the Colts this week.
The last time the Colts and Broncos faced off it was a shootout of sorts, which eventually wound up with a 39-33 Colts victory, but also ended with 25.34 fantasy points for Peyton Manning when all was said and done. The Colts' defense allowed 20.9 fantasy points per game to QBs last season, which was good enough to rank them 16th in the league in that category. Nothing of much significance has changed on the Indianapolis defense, so expect a similar type of game from Manning as he
Prediction: 378 Pass Yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs- 27.12 fantasy points
Drew Brees (NO), Peyton Manning (DEN), Nick Foles (PHI), Colin Kaepernick (SF), Andrew Luck (IND),
WR, Demaryius Thomas:
Demaryius Thomas is another must-start Broncos player; there is no reason that Thomas will not be a number one fantasy option for the majority of the 2014 regular season. Last season the Colts gave up the 18th-most fantasy points to receivers in 2013 (22.3 points per week). Thomas tallied 14.20 points in standard leagues, and 18.20 points in PPR leagues in their Week 7 match-up, although he only caught four of nine targets. DT will have a tough match-up, facing corner Vontae Davis for most of the game; however, the Broncos have enough talented players that Thomas will get his touches, and with the shootout-potential of tomorrow's game, it is not unlikely that DT will put up top three receiver numbers.
Prediction: 7 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD- 15.5 fantasy points (22.5 PPR)
Calvin Johnson (DET), Julio Jones (ATL), Dez Bryant (DAL), Demaryius Thomas (DEN), Michael Crabtree (SF)
TE, Julius Thomas:
Thomas has a tough match-up against the Colts, who gave up just 6.4 fantasy points per week to tight ends in 2013. Orange Julius didn't let that deter him from notching 10.10 fantasy points in the game against the Colts last season (15.10 in PPR). The Colts were no match for Thomas in 2013, allowing him to catch five of six targets for 41 yards and a touchdown. The loss of Welker in the slot will increase the number of packages that Thomas is used in, which will likely result in more targets; expect him to play a large role in the Broncos' offense on Sunday night.
Prediction: 7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD- 14.5 fantasy points (21.5 PPR)
Jimmy Graham (NO), Julius Thomas (DEN), Jason Witten (DAL), Vernon Davis (SF), Zach Ertz (PHI)
WR, Emmanuel Sanders:
Sanders was not a member of the Broncos when they played in Indianapolis last season, but Eric Decker, the man that Sanders was brought to Denver to replace, had a huge game at Ralph Oil Stadium last season. Decker scorched the Colts for 150 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, good enough for 21 fantasy points in standard leagues and 29 points in PPR scoring formats. Sanders replaces Decker as the most viable deep threat on the Broncos and should see a lot of action with Welker out of the lineup. Denver must replace Welker's slot contributions, something that will include the use of Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme, and Emmanuel Sanders, who played slot in Pittsburgh. Sanders is poised for a breakout fantasy season, and Week 1 against Indianapolis will be his coming out party.
Prediction: 5 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD- 17 fantasy points (22 PPR)
Demaryius Thomas (DEN), Michael Crabtree (SF), Emmanuel Sanders (DEN), Antonio Brown (PIT), A.J. Green (CIN)
RB, Montee Ball:
Indianapolis was stingy against the run in 2013, allowing just 17.1 fantasy points per game to running backs (20th-most in the league). Ball did not get much work in the preseason because of his appendix issues, but the game he played against the Texans showcased his potential in fantasy. If the game ends up in a shootout with a good deal of passing, Ball may lose out on some work. Despite the few factors that are against him, Ball is still a must-start in all fantasy leagues and is a solid low-end RB1, high-end RB2 for this week's game.
Prediction: 72 yards, 1 TD, 3 receptions, 21 yards- 15.3 fantasy points (18.3 PPR)
Matt Forte (CHI), Adrian Peterson (MIN), Montee Ball (DEN), Demarco Murray (DAL), Le'Veon Bell (PIT)
K, Brandon McManus:
McManus is unproven, but it's hard to miss extra points in this league, and Denver should have plenty of opportunities for Mr. McManus to get some easy points on Sunday night.
Prediction: 4 XPs, 2 FGs- 10.0 fantasy points
Phil Dawson (SF), Blair Walsh (MIN), Brandon McManus (DEN), Dan Bailey (DAL), Robbie Gould (CHI)
QB, Andrew Luck:
Only four QBs had more fantasy points in Week 7 last season when the Broncos played the Colts, and Andrew Luck was one of them; in fact, Luck had the most (30.10) fantasy points of any quarterback that week. Luck has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, with T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, and Hakeem Nicks all ready to go this week. Denver's fully-healthy defense poses a tough match-up for Luck, but he'll be forced to throw the ball often in order to keep up with the Broncos' offense; if he does not turn the ball over, there is potential for a big game.
Prediction: 295 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT- 18.8 fantasy points
Nick Foles (PHI), Colin Kaepernick (SF), Andrew Luck (IND), Tony Romo (DAL), Jay Cutler (CHI)
WR, T.Y. Hilton:
Hilton's production has fluctuated highly over the last two seasons, driving fantasy players nuts; however, at this point you'd be crazy not to start him with the high upside that he holds. Some may look at Hilton's small frame and assume that he won't stand up against the more physical Broncos defense, but one of Hilton's best 2013 performance was against the Legion of Boom in Seattle, where he racked up 140 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. T.Y. remains a mid-WR2 option because of his upside, but is a safer bet as a WR3/flex play.
Prediction: 5 receptions, 85 yards- 8.5 fantasy points (13.5 PPR)
Desean Jackson (WAS), Kendall Wright (TEN), T.Y. Hilton (IND), Justin Hunter (TEN), Torrey Smith (BAL)
WR, Reggie Wayne:
Reggie Wayne is ol' trusty for the Colts, and Luck will need to rely on Wayne to make some tough catches on quick routes if he hopes to be successful against the Broncos' pass rush. Wayne should be a low-end WR2, high-end WR3 or flex option.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD- 14.0 fantasy points (20 PPR)
Pierre Garcon (WAS), Julian Edelman (NE), Reggie Wayne (IND), Victor Cruz (NYG), Terrance Williams (DAL)
K, Adam Vinatieri:
Vinatieri was the 8th best fantasy kicker in 2013, and a game that has the potential to be as high-scoring as Sunday night's game should be a good one for him.
Prediction: 3 XPs, 2 FGs- 9.0 fantasy points
Robbie Gould (CHI), Shayne Graham (NO), Adam Vinatieri (IND), Matt Bryant (ATL), Justin Tucker (BAL)
These are players who would be much better off left on your bench.
WR, Cody Latimer:
Unless you're in a deeper league (14 teams or 12 team 3-WR+flex), you're not going to need to play Cody Latimer. It's true that his play-time should increase with Welker on the bench, but it's unclear whether Latimer or Caldwell will benefit most; and if so, it's hard to say how much production either will give you.
The Colts defense will struggle against the prolific passing offense of the Broncos and should have a tough time getting to the QB with Ryan Clady back in the picture in Denver. The Colts were not a huge takeaway team in 2013, and Denver gave up an average of 4.0 fantasy points to opposing D/ST units; everything about this match-up stinks for Indianapolis.
RB, Trent Richardson:
While there is some merit to the thought that Richardson should have a bounce-back season, he is a poor start against the Broncos for the first SNF game of the season. Richardson could be used as a flex in deeper leagues, but his fantasy value is relatively minimal in Week One.
TE, Dwayne Allen:
In 10-12 team leagues, Allen gets left on the sidelines this week. After missing 2013 due to injury, and Denver's addition of T.J. Ward and improved play of Brandon Marshall, Allen will have a hard time producing against their defense. In 14 team leagues Allen is a fringe TE1.
These are players who could go either way, it's up to you whether you'd like to gamble on them.
The Denver defense is a tough call to make in Week One. Andrew Luck will likely perform well through the air, but the Broncos' rejuvenated defense should be able to get to the quarterback with the Colts' O-line ailing. If Denver can force a turnover or two, they have the potential to be a great start at defense; however, there is also the possibility that they flop against the Colts' air attack. If you have a bench defense like the Bucs, Steelers, Bears, or Titans, you're better off to start them, but don't be scared to use Denver if they're your only option.
WR, Hakeem Nicks:
Nicks had a solid preseason with the Colts, catching eight of nine targeted passes for 86 yards. It is unclear how big of a role the receiver will play on this Indy team, though. In a game where there figures to be a good deal of passing, Nicks is an okay choice as a low-end WR3 or flex, but it's hard to pinpoint just how much production you'll receive from him in Week One.
For more Broncos fantasy and NFL fantasy tips in general, tweet @jacobdearlove.