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Fantasy Football: Denver Broncos Team Preview, Sleepers, Busts, Best Ball




NFL DFS Matchups column: Browns and Broncos, looks at Baker Mayfield and Phillip Lindsay for Week 9 fantasy football, DraftKings, FanDuel

With ESPN and Yahoo NFL Fantasy Football leagues starting shortly, and Best Ball leagues already going, our goal is to get you prepped early for your upcoming NFL fantasy drafts with our team previews that feature a look into key positional additions and departures, breakdowns, and possible sleepers.

Awesemo’s Season Long NFL Fantasy Football projections and rankings are OUT! And they are customizable and can be used as ESPN Fantasy Football Rankings or Yahoo Fantasy Football Rankings for whichever host site you use for your league.

You can find them right HERE.

We’ll be releasing four team previews per week, starting June 25 and going through August 16, beginning with the AFC East.

Ben Rasa and Nolan Kelly break down the AFC West for your Fantasy Football Drafts!

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Last day’s preview:

The AFC South

The Denver Broncos Fantasy Football and Betting Preview

  1. Overview
  2. Key Fantasy Departures: Targets
  3. Offensive additions
  4. Best Ball ADP
  5. Positional breakdowns: QB, WR, RB, TE, O-line
  6. Preseason players to watch
  7. Betting guide
  8. NFL Fantasy players to target
  9. Biggest question mark
  10. Fantasy football sleepers
  11. Awesemo’s fantasy football rankings
  12. News and updates: check back throughout the next two months
  13. Final thoughts

Fantasy Football Overview

The Broncos suffered their second losing season in a row last year for the first time since the Nixon administration. The entire coaching staff was fired and newly signed starter Case Keenum was given the boot in favour of also-ran and formerly ELITE QB Joe Flacco.

Former 49ers and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio takes over head coaching duties, while ex-49ers QB coach Rick Scangarello assumes play-calling duties. Perhaps the most important offensive add was Steelers o-line coach Mike Munchak, who turned the Steelers into one of the best pass blocking units in the NFL over the past five seasons.

With Munchak and Shanahan disciple Scangarello teaming up, we can expect a heavy emphasis on the run game, with a zone-blocking scheme and loads of play action. That bodes well for both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who may form equal parts of a run heavy offence.

Pass rate: N/A

Run rate: N/A

Pace: 2nd

Key Fantasy Departures: Targets

Total: 133

  • Demaryius Thomas: 55
  • Matt LaCosse: 34
  • Andrew Holmes: 23
  • Other: 21

Offensive additions

  • Noah Fant: First round pick out of Iowa, led the 2019 TE class in pSPARQ. Flacco has shown a tendency to give all his TEs targets over the years, even the mediocre ones.
  • Ja’Wuan James: The Broncos made him the highest paid RT in the NFL. He’s an upgrade from the Jared Veldheer.
  • Drew Lock: second round pick out of Missouri should red-shirt behind Flacco.
  • Joe Flacco: What could only be described as a lateral move at best, Joe Flacco was brought in to steer (sink) the ship, buying time before Drew Lock is ready.

Best Ball ADP

  • 48) Phillip Lindsay (RB21)
  • 86) Royce Freeman
  • 97) Cortland Sutton
  • 155) DeSean Hamilton
  • 162) Emmanuel Sanders
  • 168) Noah Fant (TE 21)


34-year-old Joe Flacco comes over to the Broncos after 11 seasons at the helm of the Ravens. Unfortunately, this doesn’t feel like a good fit and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Flacco benched by year’s end in favor of rookie Drew Lock, should the Broncos find themselves out of playoff contention.

Last season, Flacco was terrible under pressure, with the 34th ranked NFL Passer Rating, which includes a 48.4% completion rate. And now he’s gone from a medicore pass-blocking unit, to one of the worst in the NFL.. He also ranked 44th last year among qualified QBs in deep-pass rating. The poor numbers aren’t just reserved for last season though: over the last five years, Flacco ranks last in the NFL in yards per attempt and touchdown to interception ratio.

Fantasy wise, Flacco is only draftable in 2QB leagues, and probably isn’t worth a last round pick in Best Ball, either.

Wide Receiver

The Broncos return by and large the same group from last season, obviously without Demaryius Thomas who has gone from the Texans to the Patriots.

Emmanuel Sanders was surprisingly good before he went down in Week 12 with an achilles injury, tallying 71 catches on 868 yards, to go along with an 80.1 PFF receiving grade (50th in the NFL). After he was injured, DeSean Hamilton took over slot duties, finishing with the 19th most targets in the NFL over the final five weeks of the season. With just 7.2 YPC, his overall fantasy production wasn’t on the same level, but should Sanders land on the PUP to start the season, Hamilton is a viable weekly stream and depth best ball add.

2018 second round pick Cortland Sutton was supposed to be the big target benefactor after Thomas was traded and Sanders was injured, but his his production never materialized. He dropped the second most balls in the NFL last season on just 79 targets. However, Sutton did rank 12th in the NFL in Average Depth of Target, so some drops were expected. Sutton is a boom-or-bust option, but in a run-heavy offence, with a quarterback who can’t throw a deep ball and an offensive line that struggles in pass blocking. Slight lean towards bust.

Running Back

Philip Lindsay was the only player in the NFL last season to rush for over 1,000 yards on less than 200 attempts, en route to becoming the first undrafted rookie in NFL history make a Pro Bowl. He finished the year as the 12th highest scoring running back in fantasy football. A brutal wrist injury caused Lindsay to miss the final week of the season and OTAs but he should be ready to go at the start of training camp. For whatever reason, Best Ball drafters are not expecting a repeat performance, currently selecting him as the RB21. That number will only go up if Lindsay is healthy during camp. It’s also likely that fantasy drafters are fading because of Lindsay’s small frame, thinking that his body won’t be able to take any more of a workload than it did last season.

Fellow rookie Royce Freeman, is getting the opposite treatment, coming off the board 10 picks higher than his 2018 fantasy finish – though he did miss two games last year. Before Freeman went down with an ankle injury in Week 7, he was splitting touches with Lindsay at an identical rate, but afterwards his YPC dipped from 4.4 to 3.6 and Lindsay took the reigns. Third stringer Devontae Booker got 34 attempts last year, and outside of an injury, will be a non-factor in fantasy.

With a Shanahan disciple calling the plays, it’s possible we’ll see Devonta Freeman-Tevin Coleman style split with Lindsay getting a slight edge in touches, but perhaps not as much of an edge as the latter half of last season.

Tight End

The old adage about underperforming rookie TEs is a truism at this point, so it’s tough to get excited about first round draft pick Noah Fant’s fantasy stock. Of the top-12 TEs each year over the past 15 seasons, only 7% have been rookies and only Evan Engram (5th, 2017) has done it in the last five years.

AT 6’4”, 240 Fant is a physical talent who, as mentioned, led the 2019 class in pSPARQ score and has the ability to line up anywhere on the field. There’s little doubt that he’ll eventually become an elite playmaker in the NFL, but with an ageing Joe Flacco under centre and a poor pass-blocking offensive line, we may have to wait a season or two.

Back-up Jeff Heuerman was solid last year, splitting time with the departed Matt LaCosse. He should get his share of playing time too.

Offensive line

Trending: Neutral

PFF Run Blocking Grade: 7th (69.4)

PFF Pass Blocking Grade: 29th (62.8)

This is a tough unit to project, with the change in coaching staff and a major overhaul of the right side. Gone is stalwart centre Matt Paradis, who led the team in both PFF run blocking and pass blocking grades last year. RT Jared Veldheer, whose play declined in 2017 and 2018 is off to the Patriots. The Broncos paid Ja’Wuan James $32 million in guaranteed money to replace him. He’s solid if unspectacular. Connor McGovern is expected to take over a centre, where he was terrible last season filling in for Paradis, and registering a 38.7 pass blocking grade. Second round pick Dalton Risner is should slide in at guard, though he’ll have to win the camp battle.

Talent wise, this unit is a little worse off than they were last season. There’s less depth and a few more questions, but coaching is a huge x-factor in the NFL and scheme can make all the difference in the world.

Preseason players to watch

  • Emmanuel Sanders and DeSean Hamilton: How is he progressing from his achilles injury? If he looks good to go in Week 1, reach a round or two early in Best Balls. If not, Hamilton is worth a flier.
  • Noah Fant: If he’s turning heads in camp, bump him up your draft boards.

Ben Rasa’s Fantasy Football and Betting Preview

2019 O/U Win Total – 7 (Over -110 , Under -120)

It’s a transition time in Denver with the Broncos set to begin the Joe Flacco era in the mile high city, but I say “era” with extreme skepticism as the Broncos drafted Drew Lock who is the future and could be thrown into the fire sooner rather than later. No matter who is under center they will have limited options on the outside and will have to find new weapons to step up if this offense is going to be Fantasy relevant and successful in 2019.

Ben’s Favorite Player to Target

Courtland Sutton – WR

With Sanders and Demaryius Thomas no longer in Denver the Broncos are going to need Sutton to step up and be a reliable target for this offense. He is a boom bust type of player with homerun ability and last year it felt like he really was close to breaking out despite a lot of quiet performances. The 2nd year WR now has a new  quarterback to rely on after the team moved on from Case Keenum and the experience of Flacco should be a boost to his production. There isn’t a ton to love about this offense, but if the QB situation works out I think Sutton should build on his rookie season and can crack the top 50 WR’s in fantasy this season.

Biggest Fantasy Football Question

Will Philip Lindsey build on his 2018 campaign?

One of the bright spots in Denver was the emergence of UDFA rookie running back Philip Lindsey who burst on the scene and found the endzone ten times last season. They’ll rely heavily on him once again this season, but the Broncos still have Royce Freeman and Devin Booker on the team so he’s not in a workhorse situation by any means. Add in the fact that Freeman steals some goal line work you need Lindsey to maximize the touches and be a factor in the passing game to return value.

There’s no reason he cannot do that , but I do think its a huge ask to see him build on a rookie season that felt like it  approached the ceiling in terms of  production and efficiency. I will most likely be looking elsewhere unless a situation emerges where Lindsey falls in some Best Ball drafts, but that seems unlikely given the rookie season he had and the potential role he could have for this offense.

Fantasy Football Sleeper

Noah Fant – TE

Iowa is quickly becoming Tight End U with their ability to pump out pass catchers who make an impact at the next level. Fant is still a rookie and there are a  lot of unknowns , but he’s got all the tools with plenty of speed to go along with a 6’4 250 frame making him a matchup problem for most defenses. With the  lack of weapons surrounding Flacco we should see Fant have every opportunity to be one of the primary targets and if that’s the case the first round draft pick should be in a line for a big rookie season.

Awesemo’s Season Long Fantasy Football Rankings

Awesemo’s Season Long NFL Fantasy Football projections and rankings are OUT! And they are customizable and can be used as ESPN Fantasy Football Rankings or Yahoo Fantasy Football Rankings for whichever host site you use for your league.

You can find them right HERE.


As news breaks!

Final Thoughts

As the Vegas win total shows you there isn’t a ton of optimism surrounding the Broncos this season. They are either going to have Joe Flacco who has been average at best lately or a rookie leading them and with the loss of DT and Sanders on the outside it’s a lot of pressure on the remaining pass catchers. Lindsey and Royce Freeman make a nice combo in the backfield , but it isn’t going to be enough and it seems like a lofty goal for the Broncos to be above .500 this season and make much noise.

I've been obsessed with fantasy sports since as long as I can remember. Back in 1993, while seated in the last row of Mr. MacMillan's math class, I'm fairly certain a few buddies of mine and I invented daily fantasy sports -- popping down our fivers and using nothing more than a newspaper box score, we'd make our NHL player picks for the night's action. Twenty years later I started out playing DFS on DraftStreet, when three-max tourneys with 490 people were a big deal, and I've been hooked ever since. More than anything, I'm interested in getting better as a player, and in helping you become a better player. Armed with Awesemo's grades and the projections from our experts, we're here to help you take the next step. You can contact me by emailing

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