Unfortunately for Denver Broncos fans, the first full season on Drew Lock at quarterback may not go as planned. Per Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule metrics (listed below) the Broncos are expected to face a 2020 slate of stellar passing offenses and defenses that are stacked top-to-bottom. Now down Von Miller, and likely to be without Bradley Chubb for some amount of time, the defense will struggle to slow opposing signal callers, foiling the plans of the Broncos ball-control offense. Most of the Broncos’ 2020 game plans will involve a foolish attempt to establish the run, while the opposing team runs up the score. Lock will then be forced to throw more than the coaching staff has prepared him to throw, and while this might be good for pass catchers’ box scores, it’ll be a trial by fire for Lock.
- 5th toughest overall schedule
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s overall defensive efficiency
- 2nd toughest blend of pass defenses
- 11th toughest in terms of the opponent’s pass defense efficiency
- 7th toughest blend of run defenses
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s run defense efficiency
- 7th toughest in terms of the opponent’s overall offensive efficiency
- 3rd toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive passing efficiency
- 2nd softest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rushing efficiency
We don’t yet know what Denver has in second-year QB Drew Lock after just five starts in 2019. The box score results were alright but his Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) was under league average (-1.7%). The best way to make life easy on a quarterback is to throw early, when defenses aren’t expecting it. But Denver upped the ante in its backfield this offseason, not pleased with their big-bodied back Royce Freeman, they went out and signed free agent running back Melvin Gordon to eight-highest RB-contract in the league (in terms of average annual value), reaffirming their commitment to the run game. On the brightside, Gordon is a significant upgrade in the RB pass catching department. But still the signs are clear that Denver plans on running the ball early and forcing Lock to dig them out of holes against the defense’s specialized passing game subpackages. Experiencing this against the division rival Raiders is one thing. Against teams like the Steelers, Bucs, Chargers, Saints, and Bills is another story entirely. Don’t expect much in the way of box score success from Lock in 2020. That his .5PPR ADP is ahead of Teddy Bridgewater is completely indefensible.
Although Melvin Gordon will be the team’s primary rusher, the team’s made it clear that Phillip Lindsay will operate as a 1B-style of back rather than a clear-cut number two option. Although Lindsay is built like a traditional pass catching back (5’8”, 190lbs), he’s never been used prolifically in the passing game. Lindsay will see some work in that regard but he’ll mostly be an early down rusher, with around 30-40% of the carries, depending on whether or not Gordon further acclimates to Denver’s altitude — something he was seriously struggling with early in camp. Regardless, Gordon’s passing game ability is top notch for a big-bodied dual threat back. The outlooks of both backs are hurt by the aforementioned slate of stout run defenses.
As far as value goes, Gordon is going far too high. An early 4th round pick for a running back struggling with altitude — in Denver — is too tough a pill to swallow. Same goes for Lindsay at the end of the 7th round. A 1B back with little passing game work, in an offense expected to struggle is not the type of ceiling pick that we should be aiming for at that point.
Royce Freeman has locked up the No. 3 RB job and would be a minorly valuable add were one of Gordon or Lindsay to miss time.
Courtland Sutton is an All Pro in the making. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have an All Pro (or even a Pro Bowl) QB throwing to him — he’s got a second-year QB on the verge of making his sixth NFL start. Sutton will no doubt have big games, but the situation that he’s in makes his .5PPR ADP of 4.10, WR18 difficult to stomach with players like Mark Ingram, Tyler Lockett, D.J. Chark, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin rapidly coming off the board right after him. All of them are in situations that provide far higher ceilings.
Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick ambiguously appeared with a forward slash between the two of them on this week’s team-released depth chart, evidently splitting the number two starting WR duties in Denver. Tim Patrick’s been a “high potential” player for two years now. Jerry Jeudy and his precision route running have a decent shot at relegating Patrick back to Preseason All Start status in 2021. With Sutton likely to only produce WR2 numbers, Jeudy can’t be depended on as anything more than a matchup-based flex option in multi-flex leagues.
Like Patrick, third-year slot receiver DaeSean Hamilton has also been a “high potential” Broncos receiver. Rookie slot receiver K.J. Hamler was brought in to lock down the slot receiver job and end the Broncos search for a reliable interior receiver in the post-Emmanuel Sanders world. Hamler’s speed is noticeable through his routes. Unfortunately, a pulled hamstring completely derailed Hamler’s training camp, letting Hamilton reclaim rights to the slot, and bouncing the rookie to the third string. Neither player can really be relied upon for fantasy purposes outside of outrageously deep PPR leagues.
Second-year tight end Noah Fant is in line to have a great season as QB Drew Lock’s top safety blanket. Fant’s collegiate performance was outstanding and he didn’t disappoint as a developmental player, in his first year as a pro, after being drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Broncos coaching staff reportedly has plans to use Fant all over the formation as a key cog in the receiving game. Fant can be drafted as the primary option of a tight end platoon at his .5PPR 9.02, TE12 ADP.
Rookie Albert Okwuebunam is unlikely to make much noise in the box score but could one day form a solid 1-2 punch with Fant in 12 personnel (two tight end) groupings.
Offseason signee Nick Vannett is a solid blocker — and a further sign of the Broncos commitment to the run game. Meanwhile Jake Butt’s bad knees will likely keep him from ever attaining a meaningful role.
Kickers on mediocre offenses are not good for fantasy. Pass on Brandon McManus.
Avoid the Broncos’ banged up D/ST.