As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: the Denver Donkeys.
Fantasy Football Booms - Broncos
Javonte Williams, RB
Reports are leaking out of Mile High that Williams could be the lead back as soon as Week 1. Given his collegiate track record, it would be in the best interests of Pat Shurmur and Vic Fangio to feEd Williams from the outset. During his final season at North Carolina, he led the nation in missed tackles forced (76) and ranked second behind only Najee Harris in runs of 10-plus yards (42). He could break off chunk plays with regularity behind an offensive line that ranked eighth in open-field yards last year.
Williams could push Melvin Gordon to the side and emerge as the Broncos' three-down workhorse if everything breaks in his favor. His pass-game abilities have been underrated thus far, but he's got receiving chops. Last year, among 60 running backs with 20 or more targets at the collegiate level, he ranked 16th in yards per route run. Williams could be the engine that drives the Denver offense to finish top five in neutral script rushing rate. — Derek Brown
Courtland Sutton, WR
By all beat writer and insider accounts, Sutton, pre-knee shredding, was set to register a monster 2020 season. Sadly, though, it ceased barely after it began. His length, athleticism, ladder-climbing hops and wide catch radius are characteristics of a future All-Pro. A season removed from a 72-1,112-6 line and a WR20 finish, he should pick up where he left off pre-injury.
What’s most exciting for Sutton is the likely change at QB. Drew Lock, who was the wideout’s primary passer in 2019, couldn’t hit the Incredible Hulk on a simple streak. His well-documented inaccuracy capped Sutton’s full potential in his breakout campaign. Two falls ago, the receiver slotted at WR78 in catchable target rate. Teddy Bridgewater is a significant upgrade. Recall he landed at QB7 in catchable pass rate and QB17 in deep-ball completion percentage. If the signal caller and Sutton ignite a spark during training camp, a top-15 campaign is on the horizon. Arguably the most undervalued receiver in best ball drafts per ADP (WR31, 72.3), he’s someone worth stockpiling. — Brad Evans
2021 Fantasy Football Busts - Broncos
Melvin Gordon, RB
For Gordon, it’s deja vu all over again. Pushed out in L.A. after the emergence of Austin Ekeler, the veteran rusher is once again looking over his shoulder as rookie #JuggernautJavonte is reportedly already breathing down his neck. It’s understandable. Though Gordon finished Denver’s forgettable season on a high note, Williams possesses all-world skills, talents so desirable the Broncos front office traded up in Round 2 to acquire them. Last season with the Tar Heels he notched an absurd 48.4% missed tackle rate and ranked top-10 in YAC per attempt (4.59). His receiving skills are suboptimal, but his contact balance, break-tackle ability and explosiveness are tremendous.
Given the increased hype around the greenhorn, Gordon’s ADP has plummeted in recent best ball exercises, bottoming out at RB28 (69.8). He’ll play a role, but a no show at OTAs, he may be falling further behind the 8-ball. If the youngster impresses in training camp, MGIII could only take on roughly 40-45% of the opportunity share. Even if he secures that, he could relinquish more work as the season wears on. Hard pass. — Brad Evans
Noah Fant, TE
The hope that fantasy gamers have for Fant entering this season is difficult to understand. His current ADP of TE9 (96.7 overall) surpasses his production from even last season when he finished as the TE12 in fantasy points per game. Fant couldn't even crack the top 10 when he was fighting for targets weekly with Tim Patrick and a pair of rookies in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler.
Last season, Fant ranked sixth in targets (93) and target share (19.3%) among all tight ends. These will be difficult to repeat with Courtland Sutton back and the Broncos looking to shift to a run-first mentality. I'll happily avoid Fant in drafts and target Irv Smith or Adam Trautman, who have similar target outlooks 2-3 rounds later. — Derek Brown
Fantasy Football Breakouts for the Broncos
Jerry Jeudy, WR
Jeudy was forced to suffer the inaccuracies of Drew Lock throughout his rookie season, and we saw his numbers suffer because of it. The weekly highlight clips featured Lock sailing passes over Jeudy's head. Lock finished 11th in deep attempts but an abysmal 33rd in deep-ball completion percentage. Sadly, Jeudy had the second-most unrealized air yards among all wide receivers. Jeudy will reprise his role as the deep threat this year after seeing the seventh-most deep targets in 2020, but the results will be quite different with Denver's new starting signal-caller.
Teddy Bridgewater steps in as Jeudy's deep heave savior, a massive upgrade (as insane as that sounds). Bridgewater uncorked the long ball less frequently (17th in deep attempts), but he was leaps and bounds above Lock in accuracy when he did so. In Carolina, he was 13th in deep ball completion percentage and seventh in catchable pass rate. Even though the passing volume will be questionable if we're searching for a boom target, it's Jeudy who will be running the routes that lead to league-winning weeks. — Derek Brown
Jerry Jeudy, WR
Roll flippin’ tide! Similar to most rookies not named Justin Jefferson, Jeudy was a king of inconsistency in Year 1. His signature Ginsu-sharp cuts and precise routes transferred well to the next level, but lapses in concentration (8 drops) and Lock’s ineptitude dragged down the profile. His No. 2 overall standing in unrealized air yards and No. 105 finish in catchable target rate clearly showed his unsteadiness wasn’t completely on the youngster. It also denotes, with a more on-the-numbers QB, he could explode.
Match last year’s 113 targets and he’ll easily turn a profit at his WR36 (80.5 overall) ADP. Add a certain “complicated fella” possibly setting up residence in the Mile High City and his upside grows even more. — Brad Evans
Best Bets for the Broncos 2021
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The Denver Broncos OVER 8.5 Wins (-133, DraftKings)
The Broncos face the seventh easiest projected schedule, so while this line isn't the sexiest, it's worth tossing some dinero at. — Derek Brown