Case Keenum is a Fantasy Sleeper in 2018
After finishing as the fantasy QB45, QB41, and QB30, respectively, in 2014 to 2016, Case Keenum finished last season as the fantasy QB14. In 15 contests, he posted 235.9 total fantasy points, averaging 15.7 per game. Now wearing orange and blue in the Mile High City, Keenum heads into the 2018 season as the Broncos' starting QB.
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Can he put up the fake points needed to justify him as a QB1 this season, or is he best used as a bye week fill-in or injury replacement? I think the potential is there for him to be a late-round producer for drafters who prefer to stock up on RB or WR depth in favor of a mid-tier QB tandem. Below is a look at some of the reasons why I see Keenum in the conversation as a decent late option for your rosters in 2018.
Denver Loves to Run Plays
As an offense, the Broncos were second in total plays per game last season with 67.2, only .3 behind Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. This fast pace shouldn’t be too foreign to Keenum, as the Vikings ranked sixth in the league in 2017 with 66.3 plays per contest. With the same head coach and offensive coordinator in place for 2018, we should see a similar approach and scheme to the offense that Denver ran last season, where they posted the 12th-most passing attempts in the league.
Solid Arsenal of Weaponry
At first glance, some may see Denver’s receiving corps as a huge downgrade from what Keenum had to work with in Minnesota. If we dig a few years in the past for a more comparable view, we see Broncos wideouts have the potential to produce robust numbers with Keenum under center.
In 2015, with a combination of a hobbled Peyton Manning and well, Brock Osweiler under center, Denver’s WR tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders finished the season as WR11 and WR19, respectively, putting up 16.7 and 15.0 PPR points per game. Last year in Minnesota, Adam Thielen boasted 15.0 PPR points a contest as the WR9, with Stefon Diggs’ 14.2 PPR points per game checking in as the WR19.
The perception that Minnesota's wideouts are far superior to what Keenum has at his disposal in Denver is perhaps clouded by the crap they trotted out since Manning hung up his cleats. Some argue that the loss of Kyle Rudolph is a downgrade at TE, which may be the case, but Jake Butt’s 6-foot-6 frame and athletic ability is certainly promising over the middle and in the red zone. We can't forget about the hands of rookie Courtland Sutton, who some scouts had as the premier wideout in this year's draft class. He presents another viable way for Keenum to rack up those fantasy points.
It’s not as sexy as some others variables, but a team’s schedule can aid in a player’s fantasy production—enough to give him the edge over a guy on a roster with a more difficult path through the season. At 4for4, we use a metric called schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA), which removes the schedule bias, allowing us to compare a player or a team’s matchups in an apples to apples manner.
Denver’s 2018 schedule features nine teams who ranked 22nd or below in aFPA versus the QB position last season. Also fortunate for Keenum, two of those nine include AFC West teams that he’ll face twice throughout the course of the year. Oakland finished 30th against opposing signal-callers with an aFPA of 17.2 points to QBs, while the Chiefs ended as the seventh-worst, allowing 16.8 fantasy points to the position. He’ll also see the Jets, who occupied the basement with the NFL’s worst QB aFPA in 2017, along with the Browns at 28th, and the 49ers, who checked in at 27th versus QBs last season.
Sure, it’s a bit down the road, but if we glance ahead to the fantasy playoffs, the Broncos face the 27th, 28th, and 30th ranked teams in Weeks 14-16, another plus for Keenum’s potential this season.
The Von-Chubb Experience
Defenses win championships, right? That’s not exactly the case in fantasy football, but real life defenses can certainly help their offense score more fake points. With two pass-rushing beasts like Von Miller and fifth-overall draft pick Bradley Chubb on the field for the Broncos, it’s likely Keenum will get more playing time to add to your weekly points total.
I’m certainly not advocating you spend an early-round pick on Keenum with the intent of him finishing among the top-five QBs in the league this season. However, his current ADP of QB22 (mid-12th round) in best-ball formats is certainly affordable and makes Keenum a value at his price tag. The sixth-year journeyman is worthy of a roster spot in 2018 and shouldn’t be so easily tossed to the trash heap as we start the draft season.
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