2022 Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Preview

Aug 02, 2022
2022 Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Preview

A fifth consecutive losing campaign inevitably forced the Broncos to restructure its organization from the top down, replacing Vic Fangio’s prehistoric coaching with former Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, who previously called plays for both the Bills and Jaguars before settling in under Matt LaFleur with the eighth-, ninth-, and 13th-ranked offense in pass play rate from neutral game script for three seasons. Although that transition was seen as an attempt to lure Aaron Rodgers to Denver at the time, the front office instead packaged Drew Lock, Noah Fant, DT Shelby Harris, and five total picks including two first-rounders in exchange for 33-year-old Russell Wilson ahead of his 11th year.

Denver Broncos Offense, 2021
Stat NFL Rank
Points Per Game 19.7 23rd
Yards Per Game 330.5 19th
Plays Per Game 60.9 26th
Drives Per Game 9.6 30th
Scoring Percentage 36.9% 18th
Pass Attempts Per Game 31.8 25th
Available Targets 195 13th
Available Air yards 1506 14th
Available Carries 43 21st

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Broncos Through the Air

Updated 8/2

The only quarterback to throw for 30-plus touchdowns in four consecutive seasons entering last year, Wilson paced for 4,437 yards, 22.4 weekly fantasy points, and 39 touchdowns through his first four starts before undergoing surgery for a torn tendon in his finger in October. Initially expected to miss “6-8 weeks,” Mr. Unlimited rushed back in a month’s time and fell flat for it, completing 61.4% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt and 16 points per game down the stretch; failing to lead the league in percentage of targets thrown into the end zone for the first time since 2018, there is zero concern Wilson struggles to find his footing as early as Week 1 in the equivalent of a home game at Lumen Field. He and the Broncos also close the year with uptempo matchups against the Cardinals (Week 15), Rams (Week 16), and Chiefs (Week 17) for the fantasy playoffs, cementing him as one of my favorite best-ball quarterbacks (over Joe Burrow) if only for the endless divisional fireworks.

Opening the year with a one-catch dud in his first game since tearing his ACL in September 2020, Courtland Sutton converted Jerry Jeudy’s absence over the next six weeks into a team-high 25.7% target share and 9.1 targets per game. It was all downhill once Jeudy returned as Sutton’s Yards Per Route Run plummeted to 0.4 in their last 10 starts together (compared to 2.1 in the previous six games), averaging an unusable 4.9 points in that stint. Even Jeudy himself did not successfully swim with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock as much as he simply treaded water, finishing with one top-24 finish throughout the year and, at the end of the day, three such finishes in 26 career games. Given Wilson’s efficiency as a top-four quarterback on throws 20-plus yards downfield (per Pro Football Focus) for three consecutive seasons prior to last year, I am more than willing to ignore Sutton’s splits and treat him as the team's alpha well ahead of Jeudy at their respective ADPs.

The seas parted for Jeudy to stay in on two-wide sets the (unfortunate) moment Tim Patrick was carted off the field with a torn ACL. Removed from the team's PUP list and practicing ahead of Week 1, 4.32-burner K.J. Hamler (ACL, hip) has averaged 5.8 targets in the only six games he's logged 70% of Denver's snaps and suddenly finds himself in lockstep with the best deep ball specialist of his career. Fifth-round chess piece Montrell Washington is also a name to monitor for that role after he scored 30 all-purpose touchdowns across 49 collegiate games, recording 13/143/2 from scrimmage in his lone start against SEC competition in '21. Washington also fortuitously ran 91% of his routes from the slot with Samford last year. I expect Hamler to settle accordingly into the 140-150 range as a viable FLEX for projected shootouts while Washington should exclusively be drafted with Wilson in the final round of large-field tournaments.

Stalemated behind Noah Fant for every-down work, Albert Okwuegbunam spiked as the TE26 and TE31 in points per game in his first two years despite logging less than 50% of Denver's snaps in both seasons. Although that splashy productivity would normally lead our projections to be ahead of consensus on him in a full-time role, Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright noted that third-rounder Greg Dulcich, who led Chip Kelly’s Bruins offense in receiving in each of the last two years with a career 17.6 yards per catch, split first-team reps with Okwuegbunam at OTAs. With a glaring weakness in pass-pro that will undoubtedly limit his snaps in year one, I am still not buying into the fact that Dulcich will return immediate value in re-draft leagues so much as he’ll hinder Albert O’s on-field opportunity. Fortunately, drafters are treating Okwuegbunam as a player without upside (154.6, TE16) rather than one who is poised to explode. Patrick's injury does admittedly increase the chances Dulcich is on the field more via fewer three-wide receiver sets.

Broncos On the Ground

Parting with Fangio and veteran OL coach Mike Munchak entails a makeover to a primary outside-zone scheme under new OL coach Butch Barry, who served as an offensive assistant with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers last year. It’s an important caveat since Melvin Gordon, who quietly out-scored Javonte Williams in 8-of-16 games together, averaged a robust 4.7 yards per carry on 74 runs (36.4% of his total carries) from outside zone compared to Williams’ 3.9 on 66 attempts (32.5%), per Sports Info Solutions. 22-year-old Williams did spike the overall RB1-finish of Week 13 with 29/178/1 in his lone start without Gordon, but that weekly potential is baked into his current 26.9 ADP. Having averaged 14.4 touches to Williams' 13.5 when together, I am treating Gordon (105.6 ADP) as the stronger value in best ball and a viable RB3/4 fill-in if waiting on his position in re-draft. Williams should still be targeted at/above cost in formats with top-heavy payouts since the idea is to go for broke on hypothetical scenarios with upside — in this case, the assumption Williams becomes an every-down player.

Broncos Win Total

The league’s most impactful upgrade at any position, not to mention the fact Denver will avoid playing a single game against an opponent coming off a bye, would normally be enough to have complete confidence in the team’s 10.5 Season Win Total. The Broncos also improved its defense on paper, adding nightmare EDGE Randy Gregory, underrated DT D.J. Jones, and slot CB K'Waun Williams to the mix. Unfortunately, six games against the murderer’s row AFC West leaves little edge to squeeze out of any double-digit win total. I expect the Broncos to be a significantly better team for fantasy than its regular-season win-loss record eventually shows, ultimately competing deep into the postseason.

Best Bet: Russell Wilson Regular Season MVP +1200 (FanDuel)

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