The unfortunate news that Javonte Williams tore his ACL and LCL is sure to shake up the Denver Broncos offense. This is a team that has struggled to string together a consistent game offensively, so how can we confidently project them to put it together on a short week without their RB1?
We can’t, to be honest, but there are reasons to be optimistic about pieces of the Denver offense. For starters, the home team playing on Thursday Night Football on a short week – that excludes week 1 – is 3-0 and averaging nearly 28 points per game. The Indianapolis Colts secondary is exploitable with a PFF coverage grade of 54.6, 27th in the league, but they have yet to allow a 100-yard game from a wide receiver. They’ve generated just seven sacks, tied with several teams for fourth fewest in the league, but they’re only allowing 3.1 yards-per-carry which is the second-best mark in the NFL.
So, what does it mean for the Broncos fantasy options? Let’s get into the starts and sits.
Start QB Russell Wilson
The Colts haven’t been able to generate consistent pressure and get to the quarterback thus far, with just 31 pressures and seven sacks through four weeks. Stephon Gillmore is still a good defender in the secondary, but they’ve graded out poorly in coverage as a unit this season. They’re giving up an average of 16.4 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, which ironically is exactly what Russell Wilson is averaging. But this is a small sample size and we’ve seen growth from Russ in this offense, whether it’s been highlighted or not. He was 11/12 for 149 yards and two touchdowns at halftime against the Raiders before tripping up in the second half. If he, and the Broncos offense, can piece together four quarters it has the potential to be great. Plus, defenses tend to get tired and wear down on Thursday nights, which is why we see high scoring games. Start Russ with a decent level of confidence.
Sit RB Melvin Gordon, FLEX if you must
On behalf of your sanity, I won’t rehash last week’s debacle that resulted in eight rushing yards for Melvin Gordon. With that being said, he has a golden opportunity to redeem himself this week and knowing the type of player and person that he is, I believe he will be motivated to do so. After carrying the ball just three times last week, Gordon will be one of the few players fresh for Thursday. The Colts run defense, however, is the best aspect of this unit. PFF grades their rush defense at 70.1, seventh best in the league while they allow just 3.1 yards per carry. It’s a tough matchup for Gordon, but I also like the extra motivation he should be playing with. He has a good shot to find the end zone, making him a decent play but lacking upside.
Sit RB Mike Boone
The same factors working against Melvin Gordon are at play with Mike Boone, but he doesn’t have the touchdown appeal while his usage is a question mark. Mostly an unknown, Boone rushed for 20 yards on his first three carries of the season on Sunday. He caught a pass but also suffered a big drop. He’s looked good in flashes but remains a mystery for the most part. Until we understand his usage and capabilities a bit more, he shouldn’t be in lineups.
Start WR Courtland Sutton
Sutton is the WR11 in PPR scoring, averaging nearly nine targets per-game, and has cleared double digit points in all four games thus far. He’s a must start, especially in a matchup with the Colts who sport the previously mentioned coverage grade of 54.6. I expect the Broncos to throw the ball around a bit and play some backyard football, which should favor Sutton.
Start WR Jerry Jeudy as a WR3
Jeudy left week 2 early with a rib and shoulder injury and was still working his way back to full health in week 3. In the other two games, Jeudy tallied 15.3 and 20.2 fantasy points. It’s a good matchup for the passing game as a whole and Jeudy has been getting open. I don’t have him inside my top 24 WRs, but he’s a good WR3/FLEX play considering the matchup and box scores when he’s been healthy.
Sit TE Albert Okwuegbunam
The Colts defense is allowing 60 yards per game to opposing tight ends, but that number is inflated by Travis Kelce’s 84 yards. Remove that game, and they are closer to 50. They have given up four touchdowns to tight ends, but we can’t expect Albert O to take advantage if he’s not on the field. His snap share has dropped every week, bottoming out at 2.1% last week. We simply can’t consider him a fantasy option. Greg Dulcich will not return from IR this week, but his outlook is getting brighter with Albert O’s dimming.
Start Broncos D/ST
Matt Ryan has gifted five passes to opposing defenses and is now being asked to play at Mile High on a short week. You do the math. The Colts are also without their star running back, Jonathan Taylor which will significantly hamper their explosiveness.
Sleeper – WR KJ Hamler
You surely have better options in a regular, season long league. But in DFS or extremely deep leagues, Hamler is intriguing this week. He wasn’t on the field often in week 4, but he made a big time 55-yard grab that was nearly a touchdown. This offense needs some explosion and they’re playing on a short week against a beatable secondary. Hamler makes some sense as a dart throw type of play.
In addition to contributing as a writer for Mile High Report, Chad Workman is a contributor at FantasyPros and co-manages a fantasy football Patreon page, Filmalytics. Follow Chad @tweetsbychad and Filmalytics @filmalytics_ on twitter.