The 2013 season saw the Denver Broncos field an offensive dynamo. The team took down all sorts of offensive records and I would contend that their offense was the greatest to ever grace a football field.
The offense ended up looking a lot different from 2013, adding a ground and pound element that was sorely lacking, to go along with a mean streak that was absent in 2013. So let us take a look, by position, at the Broncos players, their fantasy draft position, expectations and results.
2013 saw the ageless wonder, Peyton Manning, set almost every passing record in the book for a single season, all while carrying an over-matched and ineffective defense. Entering 2014, after turning 38 years of age, the expectations remained high for Manning as he was typically off the board by the 7th pick in the first round.
Manning had a wonderful season, finishing the year 4,727 passing yards, completing 66.2% of his passes, to go along with 39 touchdowns, against 15 interceptions and 3 fumbles. In standard fantasy leagues, Manning scored 312.7 points, 19.5 points per game, which was good for 4th among QBs.
Verdict: While Manning had a great season and was a weekly starter, he did not validate his draft position of 7th overall with his fantasy performance. Had he gone later in the 2nd round or in the 3rd round, the pick would have been perfect.
RB Montee Ball
Ball entered 2014 with sky-high expectations. After finishing 2013 No. 2 on the depth chart behind Knowshon Moreno, Ball had a strong end to the season. However, in 2014, Ball was drafted 19th overall on average, slotting him as a mid-RB1 or a high-RB2. Unfortunately, Ball struggled with ineffectiveness and injuries, before landing on injured reserve, finishing the season with 172 yards on 55 totes, a 3.1 ypc average, with 1 touchdown and 1 fumble lost.
Verdict: The hype and expectations didn't translate, as Ball finished the season ranked 89th among RBs with 27.4 points.
Once Ball went down against the Arizona Cardinals with a groin injury, Hillman entered and re-energized the run game. For a four-week stretch, Hillman became a must-start in all fantasy formats, totaling 301 rushing yards, and 121 receiving yards, to go along with 4 total touchdowns. Unfortunately, Hillman too went down with a foot injury against the Oakland Raiders, which paved the way for our next running back.
Verdict: For a player drafted 208th on average as a handcuff option, Hillman did his job, filled in and gave starter-level production, but most importantly, he protected the football, finishing the year without losing a fumble. He justifies his draft selection with his four-week stretch of excellent production.
Early in the year, Anderson found his way into John Fox's dog house for some reason, this in spite of his early season success running the ball while starter, Montee Ball, was ineffective. After Ball went down, Anderson was again passed over in favor of undrafted rookie, Juwan Thompson, for meaningful snaps behind starter Ronnie Hillman.
Anderson finally got his chance to contribute when Hillman went down with injury, primarily due to his commitment to improve in the pass blocking department. Anderson took his opportunity and ran with it, finishing the season with 767 rushing yards, 290 receiving yards and 10 overall touchdowns, over the last 8 games of the season. Over that stretch, Anderson scored 165.7 fantasy points, an average of 20.7 points per game totaling in 165.7 points in those 8 games.
Verdict: For a guy who was drafted 185th overall on average and the 50th RB, it's pretty remarkable for him to finish the season as the 11th highest scoring rusher in the NFL. Anderson may have solidified himself as the Denver starter next year, to go along with an RB1 draft status.
Perennial Pro Bowler and fan favorite, Demaryius Thomas, came into the 2014 season as a fringe 1st round pick in most leagues, and why wouldn't he following back to back seasons with 92+ receptions, 1,400+ yards and 10+ touchdowns? While Thomas started the season off slow, he finished strong, posting career highs in targets, receptions, yards and first downs.
Verdict: Thomas' first 3 weeks of the season had many fantasy owners feeling draft remorse, looking to sell before his stock dropped any lower. For those who hung on and those with the foresight to buy low on the receiver, they were pleasantly rewarded, as Thomas finished the year 2nd overall for WRs with 229.9 fantasy points, for an average of 14.4 points per week. All this for a receiver drafted 11th overall on average, and behind Calvin Johnson. Take it from a Megatron owner, I made a mistake.
WR Emmanuel Sanders
Even though Sanders underwhelmed during his time in Pittsburgh, he came to Denver with huge expectations and big shoes to fill. The departed Eric Decker finished the previous two seasons with 85+ receptions, 1,000+ yards and 11+ touchdowns. Sanders came in and won over the fan base in the off-season, eventually making Denver fans forget about Decker, with highlight reel catches and toughness beyond his size.
Sanders finished the season with career highs across the board with 101 receptions on 141 targets, 1,404 yards, and 9 touchdowns, against only 3 drops.
Verdict: For a guy who was drafted 69th overall on average and behind 20 other WRs, it's safe to say Sanders had himself a good year. He finished the year off with 200.8 fantasy points, an average of 12.6 per game, which ranked 7th among receivers.
WR Wes Welker
I would contend that Welker had a great year, his production in the passing game wouldn't support that claim. Statistically, Welker had the worst season of his career, since his rookie year with the Miami Dolphins, finishing with 49 receptions for 464 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He contributed in other places outside of the passing game, making heady, veteran plays, as a blocker and by converting 24 of his catches for first downs. Welker also missed the first 2 games of the season due to suspension.
Verdict: You should not expect consistent starter production from a guy drafted 66th overall on average. That said, Welker underwhelmed, ending up as a free agent in most leagues by season's end.
Thomas broke out in 2013, opening eyes around the league. His follow up performance? 1 touchdowns in the first 10 games of 2014. Unfortunately, Thomas had an inconsistent and injury-riddled season, despite his touchdown production. In games where Thomas failed to score, he averaged a paltry 2.8 points, well on his way to becoming a non-factor for fantasy playoff teams.
Verdict: While Thomas likely helped some teams win games early in the season, he likely caused some teams to lose in their playoff matchups. Thomas was drafted 29th on average and finished 7th overall in points among TEs, but his disappearing act for the fantasy playoffs makes him unworthy of his draft position.
The Broncos defense finished the 2014 season with 120 fantasy points, good for 11th among defenses, following an off-season dedicated to revamping that side of the ball.
Verdict: While the defense had a good season, they were the 5th defense off the board in most leagues, putting their draft status above their production.
K Matt Prater
Prater went on to have a pretty good season, just not for the Broncos. The NFL suspended Prater for the first four games of the season, prompting the Broncos to trade for Brandon McManus, who took over kicking duties during his absence. Well, the team liked what they saw from McManus during Prater's absence and decided to cut the troubled kicker.
Verdict: Prater was still the 6th kicker taken in most leagues, despite his suspension. It's safe to say he didn't live up to expectations.
K Brandon McManus
As Prater's initial replacement, McManus and his cannon leg started off the year strong, before missing a number of kicks and losing the confidence of the coaches. McManus was eventually cut, rejoining the team shortly after to become the kickoff specialist.
Verdict: Many picked up McManus hoping his ties to a high-powered offense would translate into gaudy fantasy stats, just as they did for Prater in 2013. They were sadly mistaken.
Barth, who earned the nickname Barth Vader from the fanbase, was signed by the team following the loss in trust in McManus. Barth hit 16 of 17 field goals, to go along with all 16 of his extra point attempts, after joining the team for the final 5 games of the year.
Verdict: If you had the foresight to pick up Barth when he was signed, you were rewarded with 64 fantasy points, an average of 12.8 points per game, which would have been good for 1st among kickers stretched across the entire season.
In 2014, the Denver Broncos failed to duplicate the results of the previous season, but the offense still finished the year as the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL. If Peyton Manning is the team's starting QB in 2015, you can expect more of the same from the Denver offense.