After winning the Super Bowl in 2015 and making the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, Denver failed to earn a playoff berth last season with a 9-7 record. In comparison to the previous year, their defense allowed one more point (297-296) while their offense scored 22 fewer points (333-355). Their defense finished fourth in the league in both points and yards allowed. Vance Joseph takes over as head coach. This is a step up in job after spending 2016 as the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins. He has 12 seasons of NFL coaching experience all on the defensive side of the ball. Joe Woods was promoted from defensive backs coach (13 years of experience in the NFL) to defensive coordinator. The struggles in 2016 came on the offensive side of the ball with inconsistent play from the quarterback position. Denver fell to 27th in offensive yards gained and 22nd in points scored. Mike McCoy takes over as the offensive coordinator after spending the last four years as the head coach for the Chargers where he went 27-37 with one playoff appearance. McCoy worked in the Broncos system as the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach four seasons before becoming a head coach in San Diego. He has 17 years of experience in the NFL.
The long career of DE DeMarcus Ware came to end after retiring in 2016. The Broncos lost DT Sylvester Williams after delivering a losing season as a rotational player. Their biggest loss to free agency was T Russell Okung who was a neutral player last year.
Denver took a swing on RB Jamaal Charles to add depth and experience to the running back position. G Ron Leary played well with the Cowboys in 2016 thanks to a great supporting cast around him. T Menelik Watson will compete for a backup role after playing poorly in a limited role last season.
All three defensive players added (DT Domata Peko, DT Zack Kerr, and DE Kasim Edebali) struggled in part time role in 2016.
In the first round, the Broncos tried to improve their offensive line with T Garett Bolles. Talented player with plus speed and quickness for his position. He has has solid vision while playing with an edge, but he needs to add bulk and power to his game. His style works for a quick hitting rushing offense.
DE DeMarcus Walker was selected in the second round. He projects as a rotational pass rusher with upside moves when attacking the QB. Walker has limited range in run support and needs to improve his effort on more plays.
With three of their next four picks, Denver added a pair of wide receivers (Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie) and a tight end (Jake Butt). Henderson played at a small school where he didn’t need to execute in his route running to have success. His technique needs improvement and must show he can beat physical defenders at the point of attack. Henderson has the speed to make a play deep with enough gears to create separation with better movements in his routes. Butt projects to have plus hands with limited upside creating free space off the line or downfield. He’ll chip in with his blocking while finding the open space in zones. McKenzie is an undersized (5’7” and 173 Lbs.) speed player with questionable hands and route running. He may surprise as a returner if he adds more strength.
With their second pick in the third round, the Broncos drafted CB Brendan Langley. Intriguing corner with some physical tools and upside in speed. He’s a converted wide receiver who needs plenty of schooling in the art of being a pro corner. Langley has play making ability with tons of work needed in his technique.
In the sixth round, Denver invested in RB De’Angelo Henderson. Small, one cut runner with questionable value running between the tackles. His protection skills have risk while his game projects well in the passing game. Henderson needs to develop better patience in play development with better vision.
QB Chad Kelly was another swing to improve the future in the passing game in the seventh round. Kelly has deep play making skills while being at his best when making quick decisive throws. His vision and throws under duress aren’t where they need to be to have success at the next level. He can make plays on the run, but he shows risk when under fire in the pocket.
Denver fell to 27th in rushing yards (1,484) while gaining only 3.6 yards per rush with 11 rushing TDs. They only had four rushes over 20 yards. The Broncos had the same number of runs over 10 yards as they had negative runs.
Their offensive line allowed 40 sacks and 100 QB hits. Denver tied for 21st in passing yards (3,685) with 20 passing TDs and 11 Ints. They gained only 6.9 yards per pass attempt.
LT Ty Sambrailo is in the mix to start at left tackle. Over two years in the league after getting drafted in the second round, Ty played in only 13 games with 10 coming in 2016 (13 missed games in 2015 due to a shoulder injury). Sambrailo’s best skill comes in pass protection while flashing athletic ability. He needs his game to improve against the run and to add some more strength to help his power. In limited playing time last year, Sambrailo appeared to be over matched at left tackle.
Denver would love for rookie Garett Bolles to step into the starting role. He’s athletic with quickness and speed while needing to improve his anchor vs. power rushers and his overall strength. RT Donald Stephenson projects as a weak link. The loser of the Sambrailo/Bolles battle may end up bouncing Stephenson from right tackle.
LG Ron Leary signed a four-year $36 million contract in March. After only playing four games in 2015 due to the Cowboys adding La’el Collins and a slow start to the season with a groin issue, Leary regained the starting job in 2016 when Collins went down with an injury. He had his best success of his career, which was partly due to his supporting cast on the line and a great running back behind him.
C Matt Paradis was one of the better players at his position in 2016 while showing growth over his rookie season. He improved his pass protection with growth as a run blocker. Denver drafted him in the 6th round in 2014. Paradis did have surgery on both hips in the offseason.
RG Max Garcia projects to be a neutral player at his position. He tends to be a better run blocker with some risk in pass protection. The Broncos drafted him in the fourth round in 2015.
RT Donald Stephenson struggled in his first season with the Broncos. He started 60 of 64 games with the Chiefs from 2012 to 2015 after being selected in the third round. He missed last season with a calf injury while playing right tackle in 2016.
This line grades as below average while having two options that could develop into assets. Both Leary and Paradis played well in 2016. They need to repeat this year for Denver’s offense to improve.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Broncos have about a league average schedule for their rushing offense. Their toughest three matchups in the run game based on 2016 stats are against the Patriots, Giants, and the Cowboys. Miami and Buffalo had risk in the run game last year.
They’ll face two mid-tier defenses defending the pass (BUF and PHI). Denver has the best chance of throwing the ball vs. IND, WAS, and DAL. Overall, this is a slightly favorable schedule for the passing attack.
The Broncos ran the ball 41.8 percent of the time in 2016. They had just over league average pass attempts (570). This team needs to do a better job extending drives in both the run and pass game.
Denver gave Siemian 14 starts in 2016. He went 8-6 while passing for over 300 yards in three games. He had half of his 18 passing TDs in those games (4, 2, and 3). Trevor had one TD or fewer in nine starts with a 59.5-percent completion rate. He was knocked out of Week 4 with a left shoulder injury that he played though. Siemian ended up missing two games. His shoulder required minor surgery in January. He did minimize the Ints (10), but gained only 6.8 yards per pass attempt. His ceiling looks limited based on his college resume at Northwestern (5,931 passing yards over 44 games with 27 TDs and 24 Ints). Siemian did handle himself well as a starter while possibly offering a more of a secure skill set to produce wins as a game manager in 2017.
QB Paxton Lynch
Over three seasons at Memphis, Lynch threw for 8,865 yards with 59 TDs and 23 Ints. He improved in each season with growth in every part of his game. Paxton threw for 3,778 in his last year in college with 28 passing TDs and only four Ints. He did a nice job in 2014 when he ran in 13 TDs, but Lynch only gained 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. In 2015, Paxton had similar success rushing the ball (2.7 yards per rush) with a shape decline in rushing TDs (2). He needs to improve his accuracy while proving he can handle the responsibility of reading NFL defenses. In his two starts with Denver, Lynch went 1-1 while passing for 223 and 104 yards. He did take eight sacks on 61 pass attempts (13.1 percent), which is too high. The bar isn’t very high on the depth chart ahead of him and his game should offer more upside than Siemian over the long haul. Denver drafted him in the first round in 2016.
Other options: Chad Kelly
Fantasy owners, who drafted after the first Thursday game of the season, were sucked in by Anderson in 2016. He had 139 combined yards with two TDs and four catches in Week 1. After getting 23 touches in Week 2 leading to 93 combined yards with a TD and three catches, C.J. had minimal value over the next month (226 combined yards with a TD and eight catches). His season ended after Week 7 (16/107) with a torn meniscus in his right knee. On the year, he averaged just under 4.00 yards per carry while averaging 18 touches per game. Devontae Booker was unimpressive as his replacement, but the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles. Anderson is the favorite to win the starting job, but he’ll have multiple options ready to steal part of his playing time. Some three-down ability, but he needs to regain his ability to make big plays. I’ll set his floor at 1,000+ combined yards with 25+ catches and a handful of TDs until I see what shakes out in training camp.
Over 23 games at Utah, Booker gained 3,395 yards with 23 TDs and 80 catches. His missed the end of 2015 due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. Devontae has upside in vision and quickness with questionable speed. He has some ability in the open field while owning an edge in strength. The Broncos gave Booker six games to prove his worth, but he only gained 3.1 yards over 112 rushing attempts with 11 catches for 78 yards. On the year, Booker had 209 touches for 877 combined yards with five TDs and 31 catches. He never had a game with more than 20 Fantasy points. His lack of success led to a decline in chances over the last four games of the season (24 rushes for 102 yards and a TD plus 12 catches for 122 yards and a TDs). Possible improvement in year two, but I wasn’t impressive with is rookie season and he had plenty of chances to shine.
Over the last two seasons, Charles played only eight games leading to 595 combined yards, six TDs and 23 catches. In 2015, he blew out his right ACL and he required minor surgery on his left knee last November. Jamaal has five seasons with over 1,300 combined yards with value in catches and TDs. At the same time, he has three wasted seasons due to two ACL injuries and another minor knee problem. Long resume of success with each injury taking away a piece of his explosiveness. Motivated, hard worker gives him a chance to push his way to the top of the depth chart in 2017. However, Charles will start the year at age 30. Reasonable flier if his price point is fair. He has a very good chance of being a top two RB option in this offense this year.
Other options: Juwan Thompson, Bernard Pierce, De’Angelo Henderson
Thomas had his fifth straight season with 90 or more catches and over 1,000 yards receiving. His yards per catch (12.0) were a career low with three straight seasons of regression (2013 – 15.5, 2014 – 14.6, and 2015 – 12.4). His catch rate (62.5) was higher than his last season (59.4) with Peyton Manning throwing the ball, but he had 33 fewer targets. After scoring 35 TDs over 48 games from 2012 to 2014, Thomas only has 11 TDs over his last 32 contests. In 2016, he had only two games with over 100 yards receiving. He did have a stretch with five catches or more in 13 games. Over his last nine games, he only had one TD. High volume WR who needs better play at the quarterback position and better blocking by the offensive line. Last year, Thomas was the 13th highest scoring WR in PPR leagues. Enough talent to regain some of his previous upside, but he needs some help from the man throwing the rock. Possible 100+ catches for 1,200+ yards and six-to-eight TDs. Last year he played through a pair of hips injuries. The change in coaching staff and improved health should lead to more vertical opportunities in the deep passing game.
The Broncos did a nice job adding Sanders in 2014. He has over 1,000 yards receiving in each of his last three years with 256 combined catches and 20 TDs. His stats have regressed in the last two seasons with Peyton Manning on the decline in 2015 and below par results from Siemian last year. Emmanuel had six games with double digit targets in 2016 leading to five games with seven catches or more and three games with over 100 yards receiving. Over his last three games of the season, he only had four catches for 74 yards on nine targets. He did have an early exit in Week 17 due to a foot injury resulting in no catches or targets. Sanders won’t have much competition for targets behind him or from the TE position so another rock solid 80+ catch season for 1,100+ yards with mid-level TDs looks to be in the cards.
Over three seasons at Louisiana Tech, Carlos Henderson caught 147 passes for 2,878 yards and 28 receiving TDs, highlighted by his junior year (82/1535/19). He’s even had 32 rushes for 259 yards and two TDs in his career. Henderson needs to improve his release against press coverage while working his technique in route running. His skill set makes sense as possible cover Thomas. Carlos can make tough catches when cover on fades at the goal line. His speed is deceiving while offering some value as an open field runner, which gives him a chance to return kicks. He follows his blocks plus shows the ability to break tackles with the vision to see blocks developing.
WR Cody Latimer
Latimer has plus size (6'2" and 215 Lbs.) with exceptional strength. He caught 70 passes for 1,096 yards and 9 TDs in his junior season at Indiana. Latimer lacks top end speed with questionable quickness. His strength helps him against press coverage and when blocking. His talent is probably limited and he has questionable motivation. Cody's overall skill set probably looks better to the eye. He has possible upside, but he needs to improve his ability to run routes to create a larger window for success. Over his first three seasons in the NFL, he only has 16 catches for 158 yards and a TD on 31 targets. His window to offer any upside in the NFL is dwindling.
Other options: Jordan Taylor, Bennie Fowler, Isaiah McKenzie, Kalif Raymond, Hunter Sharp
TE Virgil Green
In his five years in the league before 2016, Green only caught 35 passes for 379 yards and two TDs on 44 targets. Last year, he was on the field for 493 plays and caught 22 passes for 237 yards with a TD on 37 targets in 12 games. In his three years at Nevada in college, Virgil caught 72 balls for 939 yards with 11 TDs over three seasons. Clearly not the answer at TE for the Broncos as a full-time starter.
Denver was hoping third round pick TE Jeff Heuerman would help lessen the blow for the loss of TE Julius Thomas in 2015 but he tore his ACL in practice in May. Heuerman has plus strength with solid value as blocker. His resume is short in the pass game (52/792 and seven TDs) with questions about his route running ability. Jeff has some upside, but he looks like a TE2 at best at the next level with his best value coming on first and second down. In 2016, he caught nine of his 17 targets for 141 yards with most of the stats coming over the last three weeks of the season (2/40, 3/32, and 2/21).
TE A.J. Derby
The Broncos acquired Derby from the Patriots early in 2016. Over a five-game stretch, he caught 16 passes for 160 yards on 19 targets before suffering a concussion. His career started out as a quarterback in college before switching to tight end in 2014 at Arkansas where he caught 22 passes for 303 yards and three TDs over nine games. Possible starter based on the weak options in front of him.
TE Jake Butt
Over four seasons at Michigan, Butt caught 138 passes for 1,646 yards and 11 TDs with his best success coming in his junior year in 2015 (51/654/3). He suffered a torn ACL in his bowl game this past January, which is partly why he slid to the fifth round of the NFL Draft. The Michigan man has plus hands with questionable separation skills off the line of scrimmage. He may not be ready for the start of the year, but he has a chance to be the most attractive option at his position later in the year for the Broncos.
Other options: Henry Krieger-Coble, Cedrick Lang, Austin Traylor, Steven Scheu
Over the last two seasons with Denver, McManus made 59 of his 69 field goal chances (85.5 percent) plus 67-of-69 extra point tries. His leg had value from long range (8-for-13) in 2015 and 2016. His field goal chances have graded in the top 12 in the last two seasons leading to a backend starting opportunity in the Fantasy market. The key for his upside with be better all-around play by this offense. Viable starter over the long haul as Denver will play in tight games with a defensive style. Their QB may struggle to throw reach the end zone from the red zone and their offensive line isn’t going to be an edge in run blocking close to the goal line.
The Broncos’ run defense will be challenged in Week 2 against Dallas and Week 3 against Buffalo, but they don’t have another bad matchup for the rest of the season. Their three best matchups vs. the run look to be two games against the Chargers and one against the Giants.
On the passing side, Denver has five below par games (LAC X 2, NE, IND, and WAS). They have six games vs. teams with risk passing the ball (DAL, PHI, MIA, NYJ, and KC X 2).
Denver had a step back in their rushing defense in 2016. They finished 28th in rushing yards allowed (2,085) with the third most rushing attempts (482) leading to 4.3 yards per carry and 15 rushing TDs.
The Broncos had the best pass defense in the land (2,972 yards) allowing only 13 passing TDs while producing 14 Ints and 42 sacks. QBs gained only 5.8 yards per attempt.
DE Von Miller remains one of the best defenders in the league. He had a career high 78 tackles thanks to so many rushing attempts. Over the last three seasons, Miller has 38.5 sacks plus 29 sacks in his first two years in the league. DE Jared Crick had similar stats with his two previous seasons with the Texans, but his game still has too many holes to be in the lineup on every down. Denver would like rookie DeMarcus Walker to add value rushing the QB after getting drafted in the second round in 2017. DT Domata Peko hasn’t missed a game in his seven seasons with the Bengals. He projects as an early down run clogger with minimal upside rushing the QB. DE Derek Wolfe has 11 sacks over the last two seasons with league average value against the run. DE Adam Gotsis was only on the field for 222 plays in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. He projects to be an undersized (6’4” and 287 lbs.) run clogger with limited upside rushing the QB. Gotsis maintains his position well with solid athletic ability.
LB Todd Davis did a nice job in 2016, which was his first season with increased snaps. He posted 97 tackles with no real value rushing the quarterback. LB Brandon Marshall wasn’t healthy in 2016, which led to five missed games. Marshall has been better than the average player in each of the last three years. He’ll add value against the run with some value defending in the passing game. LB Shane Ray played better in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. He recorded eight sacks with 48 tackles.
CB Chris Harris continues to be one of the best cover corners in the league. His chances to make plays tend to be low due to teams looking to pass the ball away from him. Last year, Harris recorded 11 defended passes and a pair of Ints. CB Aqib Talib is coming off his best season in the league. Over the last three seasons, he had five combined TDs on returns. S T.J. Ward is a steady asset in the secondary with value in run support and pass coverage. S Darian Stewart turned in his third straight year with an edge at his position. The Broncos even have a third CB (Bradley Roby) coming off the bench to over value in pass coverage. Roby is a former first round draft pick (2014).
This defense has a great secondary with strength at each position plus an impact player in Von Miller. Ray is developing while Marshall remains an edge at linebacker. This key for this defense is improvement on the interior line defending the run. If this defense figures out how to shut down teams on first down in the run game, Denver could be in line for a special season on defense. It would also help if the offense would score points to force teams to throw leading to more sacks and turnovers. The Broncos will be one of the first Fantasy defenses drafted in the season long games in 2017.