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Fantasy plug-in: Broncos make one last trip to the Black Hole

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It should be a good week for the Denver Broncos in fantasy football. Why? Because the Oakland Raiders defense is bad.

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the first round of NFL regular season games finally happening this weekend, innumerable fantasy matchups are kicking off as well.

I wanted to take a look at the Broncos’ fantasy-eligible players prior to Monday night’s game against the Raiders. That’s an idea with a limited lifespan, however, so going forward I’d like to focus on what our MHR members want out of fantasy football content. Broncos-only fantasy content? Top weekly matchups and sleepers around the league? Something else? So, please- let me know what you’d like to see in the comments!

By the way: For those more interested in the Daily Fantasy Sports side of things, Kevin Gillikin has you covered there.

Joe Flacco, Quarterback

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll kick things off with Flacco. The Broncos’ starting quarterback is likely still available in your league, as he’s currently rostered in only 7% of Yahoo leagues and 5% of ESPN leagues. There’s a lot of uncertainty around Flacco, and the Broncos’ offense in general, and that contributed heavily to his ADP of 277. That said, the former Raven shouldn’t be totally ignored. Flacco’s good enough to be a streaming option in the right matchup if you’re weak at QB, and his Week 1 matchup vs the Raiders’ defense certainly fits the bill.

It might not be a bad idea to keep an eye on Flacco through the first part of the season, even if you’ve got a reliable starting QB. Why? Because his situation is different now. Ozzie Newsome was a great GM in many respects, but he outrageously neglected offensive skill positions in the draft. From 2010 through 2017, Newsome only drafted 1 RB, 2 WRs, and 3 TEs in the first 3 rounds of the draft. And of those players, only WR Torrey Smith turned out to be any good. Yikes.

Due to that, Flacco’s arguably playing with more talent on the other end of his passes than at any other point in his career. Sanders is an excellent WR even with health concerns, and Fant, Sutton, and Hamilton all have nice upside. Not to mention RBs Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman (and Theo Riddick, eventually). So it may be worth keeping an eye on Flacco’s fantasy output to see what he can do with more to work with. But in the meantime, I wouldn’t do more than stream him.

Emmanuel Sanders, Wide Receiver

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sanders is one of the Broncos most likely to make a significant fantasy impact in 2019. He looked crisp in the preseason, and if his legs stay healthy he should be Joe Flacco’s favorite target this year. His ADP of 90 has him going in the 8th round of most leagues, which is potentially a huge steal for a guy who was a top 10 fantasy WR last year prior to getting hurt. With at worst a lateral move at QB and potentially an upgrade there instead, a healthy Sanders offers every-week starter upside at a mid-round price tag. Nice!

Right now, Sanders is rostered in 90% of ESPN leagues and just 72% of Yahoo leagues, so he may still be available in yours. If he’s not, it might be worth talking to whoever drafted him to see if they’ll bite on a trade in exchange for an actual mid-round value WR or RB. I think you’d be glad you did.

Oh, and start him against the Raiders. He’ll likely get some looks against CB Daryl Worley, and that matchup will favor Sanders strongly.

Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver

NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t honestly call Sutton anything but a wildcard right now. He may break out and produce solide WR2 or WR3 numbers, or he may continue to be plagued by drops and limited route running skill and cause Flacco to start looking elsewhere. In fantasy, volume of touches is essential, and I’m just not sure that will be there for Sutton.

Sutton’s currently going in the 10th round with an ADP of 115, but is only rostered in 57% of Yahoo leagues and 77% of ESPN leagues. That’s an area of the draft where you’re starting to place bets on raw potential, so taking him here is fine. But I probably wouldn’t start him just yet unless you truly have no better options.

DaeSean Hamilton, Wide Receiver

If a WR other than Sanders surpasses Sutton in volume of passes heading their way, it’ll very likely be Hamilton. But it remains to be seen just how much Joe Flacco will spread the ball around. With passes going to TEs and RBs as well, Hamilton’s upside is pretty limited. He’s another guy to keep an eye on, but I wouldn’t roster him right now.

Noah Fant, Tight End

NFL: Denver Broncos-Training Camp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Fant, despite being 2nd on the depth chart, has what Jeff Heuerman lacks: upside. The homer in me wants to add Flacco’s penchant for targeting tight ends to the sheer potential offered by Fant and conclude that he’s a great sleeper candidate. But the rarity of rookie TEs being fantasy relevant calls for some hard braking on getting too excited.

I’d label Fant as a priority guy to watch in case he starts showing up, but I wouldn’t roster him just yet unless you missed out on all of the relatively few truly reliable tight ends. But if you did miss them, you might actually stream him this weekend vs the Raiders. Their LB group, headed by Vontaze Burfict, is a vulnerability that Fant has the potential to really exploit in his first NFL action.

Phillip Lindsay, Running Back

NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lindsay is the other star skill player that ought to be a near-automatic starter for you if you have him. Concerns about Royce Freeman’s share of the workload have depressed his ADP into the early 5th round, but I’d roster and start him regardless. He’ll be the Broncos’ primary pass-catching back for at least half the season in addition to a large share of the rushing attempts, and frankly… playmakers are playmakers. You draft them, you start them, and you trust them to do their thing. Don’t overthink it- start Lindsay vs the Raiders.

Royce Freeman, Running Back

Freeman is definitely draftable, and has intriguing upside. Whether you consider him the B in a committee or a heck of a handcuff for Lindsay, he’ll get his chances regardless. My only worry with Freeman is that his fantasy production may rely heavily on short-yardage runs in the red zone, which means significant fluctuation week to week.

Usually available in the 10th round, Freeman is a good draft value. I’d just wait to see how he’ll be used before taking the risk of considering promoting him from the bench to the lineup. And since he’s rostered in 81% of ESPN leagues, there’s a one in five chance you can upgrade your RB depth by picking him up before the season officially gets under way. Jump on that if it’s available.

Broncos Defense/Special Teams

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos’ defense is being underrated for the most part nationally, which means there’s an opportunity there to get good value for them. With significant coaching and scheme upgrades, not to mention reinforcements in the secondary, this could definitely be a top 5 fantasy defense.

The matchup vs the Raiders is an interesting conundrum. Last year Carr & co gouged the Broncos’ pass defense via TE Jared Cook. And there’s Antonio Brown to consider. But Cook is gone, replaced by Darren Waller, and AB just recently joined his team in training camp. It’s a risk, but one I’d take. Start ‘em.

Brandon McManus, Kicker

I wouldn’t roster or use McManus until we’ve seen what the Broncos’ offense will do this season. There are plenty of kickers available from more predictable situations, and kicker is generally a crap-shoot anyway. But if the preseason red zone issues persist, definitely consider picking McManus up. Lots of field goals are frustrating in real football, but are fantasy gold for a kicker.

Everyone Else

NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game-Atlanta Falcons vs Denver Broncos Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If I haven’t listed them here, they’re not really on the fantasy radar right now. It’s entirely possible one or more players I chose to gloss over will break out, and more power to them! But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Don’t go rostering Juwann Winfree or Troy Fumagalli on me just yet, alright?

And remember- let us know what kind of fantasy football content you’d like to see on MHR!