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Team Previews

Broncos Team Preview

by John Daigle
Updated On: June 28, 2021, 12:32 pm ET

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,369 (23rd)

Total Touchdowns: 21 (25th)

Offensive Plays: 323 (28th)

Pass Attempts: 556 (19th)

Rush Attempts: 442 (13th)

Unaccounted for Targets: 62 (25th)

Unaccounted for Carries: 127 (12th)


Coaching Staff

The Broncos retained OC Pat Shurmur, marking the first time in the last four years the team decidedly kept its offensive play-caller on board. More importantly, the organization hired general manager George Paton away from Minnesota (on a six-year deal nonetheless), where he has been esteemed as a top personnel mind from afar for the past 14 seasons. Paton wasted no time in correcting the prior mistakes made by John Elway, who shifted into a new role as President of Football Operations, addressing multiple needs via an excellent draft.


Passing Offense

QB: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater

WR: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick

WR: Jerry Jeudy, Seth Williams

WR: KJ Hamler, Tyrie Cleveland

TE: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam

Lock was overvalued from the beginning for his 14-of-24 performance (with three touchdowns) at the 2019 Senior Bowl — an event the league’s general managers and scouts historically weigh heavily — and has since been treated as Elway’s son learning to ride a bike on national television. Due pennies ($4.1 million) over the final two years of his contract, the organization will undoubtedly allow the 24-year-old to play himself out of the job as the Week 1 starter barring a come-to-Jesus shift in his career 13.6% deep ball rate, which has resulted in a 25.6% completion percentage and ensuing dry-heaving. Bridgewater obviously isn’t the long-term answer under center but most recently delivered career-highs in passing yards (3,733) and completion rate (69.1%) across 15 games in his age-28 season with the Panthers, lending confidence for an offense projected to face the league’s easiest schedule of opposing pass defenses in 2021. If forced to choose one, Bridgewater is clearly the better late-round option for 2-QB and SuperFlex drafts.

It’s been a full year since Sutton’s salivating archetype was on display, seamlessly returning as Denver’s over-the-top threat with a 14.9-yard depth of target the past two years. That downfield prowess has also been Lock’s kryptonite, landing Sutton inside the top-38 receivers just once in six games together. Assuming Bridgewater eventually takes the reins, Sutton is arguably in line for a higher ceiling that isn’t currently baked into his Average Draft Position as the overall WR30.

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Jeudy registered the second-most drops (12) in the league but still earned team-highs in target share (113, 21.1%) and end zone looks (8) with 96.3 meaningless air yards per game as a 21-year-old rookie from Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Kendall Hinton, and Lock. Only A.J. Green finished with a lower catchable target rate than Jeudy (58.2%) among receivers with 50-plus targets last year. Flashing a solid foundation to build on in year two, the latter is being improperly penalized as the WR34 behind Sutton despite having a higher weekly floor underneath; I would take Jeudy in a vacuum if drafting today.

Revered as the team’s third receiver, Fant is poised for a third-year breakout after improving in targets (6.2), receptions (4.1) and receiving yards (44.9) per game as a sophomore, additionally bettering himself in Pro Football Focus’ predictive Yards Per Route Run metric (1.64). Log-jammed as the overall TE9 behind Dallas Goedert and Tyler Higbee, note that Fant’s 87.4% route rate from last year eclipsed that of both. Monstrous Albert Okwuegbunam (6’5/258) quietly led Denver in both red zone (4) and end zone (5) targets in his only four appearances, offering upside as a late-round dart in TE Premium leagues.

Hamler’s 4.32 40-speed won him 4.3 targets per game and a team-high 233 routes from the slot, splashing three top-42 finishes (and one top-eight) across 13 showings. He’s easier to prioritize for Best-Ball leagues, which allows managers to avoid the weekly headache he’ll offer in re-draft formats. Patrick returned on a one-year, $3.3 million contract in free agency after delivering 40 yards and/or a touchdown on 75% of snaps in 8-of-10 appearances with Lock from Week 6 on. Much like Williams, who finished his three-year career at Auburn ranked No. 3 in school history with 17 touchdowns, Patrick's outlook is dependent on air time behind a full cast of characters.


Running Game

RB: Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams, Mike Boone, Royce Freeman

OL (L-R): Garrett Bolles-Dalton Risner-Lloyd Cushenberry-Graham Glasgow-Bobby Massie

Gordon most recently pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes to wrap up Denver’s empty December, averaging 5.3 yards per carry against Football Outsiders’ No. 17, 20, 26, 28, and 31 rush defense DVOAs across the team’s last five games. Having averaged 20.8 touches in five starts without Phillip Lindsay and 14.3 in 10 surrounding tilts, Gordon, guaranteed $2.4 million whether he’s kept around or released, remains a likely candidate to either be cut (creating $6.5 million in dead money for Denver) or swapped for a late-round selection mid-camp. Paton was reportedly prepared to do so upon being hired before Gordon’s DUI charges were dismissed in March. 

The Denver Post’s Ryan O'Halloran believes Williams will open the year as Denver’s starter, further stripping Gordon of any value after the organization traded two picks to leap the pack for the former at No. 35 overall. Even in splitting time with Jets fourth-rounder Michael Carter during their final year together with the Tarheels, Williams totaled 1,445 yards and 22 touchdowns from scrimmage, recording an FBS-high 75 broken tackles and setting PFF College's record for broken tackles per attempt (0.48). Currently being drafted as the overall RB26 in Best-Ball leagues, Williams is an ideal low-floor player to prioritize as managers’ RB2 behind an elite first-round bell-cow since his ceiling includes three-down opportunity with both pass-catching and goal line work.

The Broncos would save roughly $720,000 by simply moving on from Freeman, which is the inevitable conclusion after Paton went another direction in signing Boone to a two-year, $3.85 million contract in March. Coach Vic Fangio chirped that the team would “utilize all three” of its running backs this year, lending Boone value if Gordon were in fact removed from the picture. The 26-year-old has averaged 5.3 yards per carry (on 71 rushes) across his career as an explosive flier for deeper benches.


Win Total

Bettors hammered Denver's initial 7.5 Season Win Total (and rightfully so) assuming Aaron Rodgers would arrive to save the day. With a beefed-up o-line and full health (including Von Miller's) on both sides of the ball, though, eclipsing its increased 8.5 Season Win Total (-130) is still a profitable wager whether it's Bridgewater or last year's MVP commanding the offense.

John Daigle

John Daigle is an Emmy and FSWA award winner who has been covering the NFL and fantasy football for over a decade, working with NBC Sports EDGE for almost four years. He enjoys watching golf and Jon Moxley, not necessarily in that order. You can follow him on Twitter @notJDaigle.