After one of (if not THE) the most disappointing seasons in Denver Broncos history, the team is roughly 10 days away from kicking off their redemption/revenge tour when they welcome the Las Vegas Raiders and former resident weasel Josh McDaniels to town.
The 53-man roster is initially set, and Sean Payton is set to make his debut as the Broncos head coach, but just what this group will actually look like is anyone’s guess.
Payton is notoriously close to the vest, and it stands to reason he barely unveiled the first page or so of his playbook during the preseason, which is intriguing for Broncos Country, but for another segment of football fans could be entirely frustrating,
That segment, of course, refers to fantasy football fans. After being jilted last season with the promise of offense and Russell Wilson only to witness the worst offense in the league, fans are rightly hesitant when it comes to those wearing the blue and orange.
And that’s where we’re hear to help. Here are some Broncos to trust in every stage of your fantasy draft.
Early Round Grabs
WR Jerry Jeudy
Considered one of the wide receiver jewels in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jeudy has struggled his first three seasons to make good on those predictions and has suffered from both inconsistency and injury.
The latter of those two, while thankfully not as serious as initially though, will have him almost certainly sidelined for weeks one and possibly two. Yet, that doesn’t mean he’s someone to avoid as a WR1 or WR2 option.
Last season, he started out rough, fighting both drops, concentration issues, and injuries. He then piled up more than half of his total yardage on the season (972 yards) the final six games. He was clearly hitting his stride, and given his preseason performance (injury aside), he looks to be the top wide out on the team.
TE Greg Dulcich
Perhaps the one consistent bright spot of the team last year, the second-year tight end out of UCLA was maybe the only player Sean Payton gave props to early on when he first accepted the job. And for good reason.
In 10 games last season, he put up 411 yards on 12.5 yards per catch, proving to be a difference maker in what was then a completely dysfunctional pass game. Now, that dysfunction should not be expected, and given what Payton did for Jimmy Graham, don’t hesitate to draft this long-haired dude from the west coast.
As for tight ends in general, Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs will once again be the cream of the crop. The Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews, even with the additions at receiver, figures to remain a favorite target of QB Lamar Jackson. And George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers, despite taken a step back in production in recent years, still figures to be a hot choice early on. After that? Not much.
Therefore, don’t be afraid to consider Dulcich as the top choice out of those three when you are up to pick.
RB Javonte Williams
His knee injury from last season will scare off certain suitors, but by all accounts, the bruising running back who made a name for himself as a rookie is 100% back. Don’t buy that?
Well, the team passed on drafting a running back in the 2023 draft class. They put out feelers for certain unhappy running backs holding out but never made serious inquiries, They brought in Samaje Perine, but they didn’t target anyone with significant RB1 experience.
See the theme? Sean Payton thinks he’s ready. And while others are targeting the usual suspects like Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, etc. Williams, behind a newly improved offensive line, could be the steal of your draft.
Do not forget, either, for those in PPR leagues, that Russell Wilson likes Williams in the pass game. He had 11 receptions in week one last season and four receptions in his limited time vs. the 49ers this preseason.
WR Courtland Sutton
Not someone who should be considered as a WR1 or WR2 initially, Sutton is a talented receiver who could be a major beneficiary of a new offensive system.
He is coming off an 800+ yard receiving season playing for his second offensive coordinator, has fought off injuries, and will now be learning a new system yet again, If nothing else, he’s proven to be adaptive.
It should be considered by those drafting, though, that the Broncos have four receivers on the 53-roster, and Jeudy may miss a game or two. Sean Payton likes to put up points, and has proven to be able to do so (unlike the last guy). Russell Wilson will be passing the ball quite a bit, and Payton’s system is known to get guys open. Keep an open mind towards Sutton.
WR Marvin Mims
Again, the group has four wide receivers on the roster, and Sean Payton elected to draft up in the past draft to acquire Mims, who has been very good in the preseason.
He was a highly productive receiver at Oklahoma and has the speed and agility to be a difference maker at the professional level. He could potentially be the player everyone hoped KJ Hamler would be before he was knee capped by injuries.
Unlike Sutton, who could be a guy who outplays expectations as a flex from week one and on, Mims is more likely to be a guy people should target as a guy who starts out quiet and then breaks out after the first quarter of the season.
RB Jaleel McLaughlin
The Broncos have a knack for undrafted rookie running backs who explode their first year. See Lindsay, Phillip for reference and his 1,000+ yard rookie season.
McLaughlin comes to the Broncos as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher via Youngstown State and hopes to have the same early success as Lindsay. He earned a spot on the 53-man unit and was a highlight of the team’s preseason play.
He won’t supplant Williams as the team’s RB1, but for fantasy gurus, especially those in PPR league’s, don’t be afraid to grab the young rookie before the last couple of rounds.
WR Brandon Johnson
Have I mentioned the Broncos only have four wide receivers on the 53-man roster? And Jeudy is banged up? Just making sure.
Yet, Johnson is someone else who has made waves this preseason as a former undrafted rookie out of Central Florida. He has caught the eye of several who have attended workouts, and reportedly has a knack for the big play.
Payton cut two of his former players from the 53-man roster, Marquez Calloway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, to make way for Johnson. That shouldn’t be ignored.
Denver Broncos Defense
Thought this would be Russell Wilson? Well, it could be, but as the most recognizable face of the team, most fantasy players know what to look for when it comes to #3. Hope for the best, expect the worst type of thing.
However, when it comes to team defenses, given how much of an asset the Broncos defensive unit has been in the days post-Manning, some may want to rush to grab them as a top three or four defense. My advice? Don’t bite too soon.
The biggest question marks on the team used to be areas of obvious strength, and for that reason alone, hesitate. The pass rush is no longer a given with Denver. Von Miller is long gone. Shaq Barrett ain’t coming back. Dre’Mont Jones is gone. Bradley Chubb is gone.
Of those in uniform, Randy Gregory is talented but has been fighting injuries. Baron Browning will start the year on PUP. Nik Bonitto has shown flashes of filling a pass rushing role but is young and, despite improvement, inexperienced and in a new system.
This isn’t to say the Broncos defense will be “bad”. They won’t be. Vance Joseph was a lousy head coach but knows defense. Pat Surtain II is the best cover corner in the league, and behind him is Justin Simmons, arguably the best safety. And Caden Sterns and Damarri Mathis are two young players ready to make an impact.
The linebacker spot is iffy, as is the defensive line, though, so just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you have to do what Yahoo! or ESPN or whoever says to do. Tread lightly.
Broncos players recount calls to family members after making Denver’s 53-man roster
Also, TE Nate Adkins and OLB Thomas Incoom discuss making the Broncos’ roster as undrafted free agents.
Photos: 2023 Kickoff Luncheon presented by U.S. Bank and Arrow Electronics
The entire Broncos roster and coaching staff joined Broncos alumni, the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders and Miles the Mascot at Thursday's luncheon, benefiting the Denver Broncos Foundation.
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