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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Denver Broncos

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Broncos have three significant questions entering training camp at quarterback, running back and No. 2 wide receiver. The answers could lead to significant Fantasy options in the majority of leagues.

At quarterback, new Broncos coach John Fox has to decide if Tim Tebow showed enough in three starts last season to remain the starter this year ahead of Kyle Orton. Early indications are mixed since Fox appears to be leaning toward the veteran in Orton, but executive vice president John Elway might want Tebow to start since he's the potential future of the franchise.

There's still a chance Orton could be traded, and Brady Quinn is also in the mix to start, although he's a longshot to win the job. It should be a fun battle to watch during camp, and Fantasy owners should hope Tebow wins the job because he offers the most upside.

At running back, Knowshon Moreno should be considered a solid No. 2 Fantasy running back if he remains the starter. Fox built a strong running game in Carolina, and Moreno has proven he can be an every-down back with at least 1,100 total yards, eight total touchdowns and an average of 32 catches in each of his first two seasons.

But the Broncos might bring in a veteran rusher to compete with Moreno, and that will lower his value. He won't be replaced, but he could be relegated to a third-down role, which would drop him from a No. 2 Fantasy option to more of a key reserve or flex.

And at wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd established himself as the No. 1 option in the passing game, but the depth chart is unknown after that. There are four candidates for the No. 2 spot in Eric Decker, Jabar Gaffney, Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal, and the Broncos will have to sort out who starts opposite Lloyd.

We expect Decker to win the job ahead of Gaffney, with Thomas coming off an injury and Royal more of a slot receiver. But we'll have to wait to see if Fox feels the same way before finalizing our board on Draft Day.

Sleeper ... Tim Tebow, QB

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Tim Tebow
Kyle Orton
Running Backs
Knowshon Moreno
Correll Buckhalter
Lance Ball
Wide Receivers
Brandon Lloyd
Eric Decker
Jabar Gaffney
Eddie Royal
Demaryius Thomas
Tight Ends
Julius Thomas
Richard Quinn
Kicker/DST
Matt Prater
Broncos DST

Orton would be a solid No. 2 Fantasy quarterback if he wins the starting job, but Tebow has a higher ceiling based on his play last year. In 2010, Tebow started the final three games of his rookie season with Orton out with a rib injury and performed well for Fantasy owners. Tebow had at least 24 Fantasy points in a standard league in all three outings. He finished with 651 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, with 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns in that span. His ability to run and throw makes him an excellent stat producer. We would consider him a high-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback if he's the starter, and he would be worth drafting with a mid-round pick. But if Orton gets the job back and Tebow is the backup, then he wouldn't be worth drafting in the majority of leagues.

Bust ... Brandon Lloyd, WR

Lloyd had an amazing season in 2010 when he was the No. 1 receiver in standard Fantasy leagues with 77 catches for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns on 153 targets. He had 203 Fantasy points in standard formats, and now we'll find out what he can do for an encore in a contract year. With Lloyd, there's good and bad. The good: He's the no-doubt No. 1 receiver for Denver, he plays in a weak division and should be motivated for a new deal. The bad: He's never produced like this before in eight seasons and is known as an underachiever, his offense will be more run-based with Fox calling the shots compared to Josh McDaniels and there's no firm commitment to a quarterback by the Broncos. The safe option is to let Lloyd fall to you on Draft Day. He has the chance for another quality season, but he could easily turn into a one-year wonder, which is why some owners won't touch him. If you don't overvalue Lloyd and let him fall to you in the right spot on Draft Day – say around Round 5 or 6 – then you could end up with a solid pick. But don't be the guy on Draft Day who says Lloyd is a must-own Fantasy option based on his play last year because repeating those stats again are unlikely.

Late-round flier ... Eric Decker, WR

Decker is hoping to make more of an impact in his sophomore campaign than he did as a rookie when he was limited to six catches for 106 yards and one touchdown, missing time early due to his recovery from a broken foot. Decker has the potential to start for the Broncos this year opposite Lloyd, especially with Thomas (Achilles' tendon) sidelined to open the year. We like Decker as a sleeper in deep leagues if he can earn a starting job ahead of Gaffney. He has plenty of upside, but he has to prove himself first, especially with Denver's offense changing under Fox. But Decker could easily see a significant amount of targets in his direction, and he's worth drafting with a late-round pick in deeper leagues.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
OAK CIN @TEN @GB SD bye @MIA DET @OAK @KC NYJ @SD @MIN CHI NE @BUF KC

The Broncos have the chance to start the season on the right foot with consecutive home games against mediocre opponents in Oakland and Cincinnati and a relatively easy road game at Tennessee. We'll find out early on if Denver's offense can move the ball against those defenses because it gets progressively tougher over the next four games, especially for a run-based team, against Green Bay, San Diego, Miami and Detroit. The Broncos also have a tough stretch against the Jets, at San Diego, at Minnesota, home against Chicago and home against New England starting in Week 11. If they come out of those matchups in good shape then the Fantasy championship game will look nice at Buffalo.

Training camp topics

2010 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Knowshon Moreno 219
Correll Buckhalter 87
Brandon Lloyd 78
Eddie Royal 65
Jabar Gaffney 65

Fox doesn't have much to do in his first training camp with the Broncos. Just pick a starting quarterback, establish a running game, find a starting wide receiver and improve a defense that was among the worst in the NFL last season. That's all.

As we've established, Fantasy owners need to monitor the quarterback, running back and No. 2 wide receiver spots heading into Draft Day. The Broncos also are hoping rookie tight end Julius Thomas steps up during training camp because the Portland State standout could be the next basketball player to turn into a Fantasy star like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham. He is someone to monitor in keeper and dynasty leagues.

There could be a lot of change in Denver as the year goes on, so don't be surprised if players like Gaffney, Thomas or Royal end up starting for you or a running back who is not yet on the roster. Coming off a 4-12 season in 2010, the Broncos are rebuilding and Fantasy owners need to pay attention to all the potential moving parts.

Injury update

Demaryius Thomas (Achilles' tendon; doubtful for the start of training camp) ... Eddie Royal (hip; probable for the start of training camp) … Matt Prater (groin; probable for the start of training camp) … Elvis Dumervil (chest; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Giants' Odell Beckham says he played with hamstring tears
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said he played all season with two tears in his hamstrings, according to the New York Daily News.

Beckham took part in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but admitted he's still not fully healed. Beckham said the injuries prevented him from getting to that "last gear that I wanted to have." He added that the injuries really bothered him against the Eagles and Colts. Beckham said he was "stumbling" and falling over during those games. He added that he's not sure whether he'll ever be 100 percent again.

The rookie had a tremendous season, hauling in 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


Patriots' Tom Brady meeting with NFL after Super Bowl 49
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't expect to meet with the NFL until after Super Bowl 49, according to NFL.com.

The Patriots have been in the headlines all week due to DeflateGate, and it appears the situation won't be resolved until after the season. "I believe they're going to do [a meeting] after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl." Both Brady and coach Bill Belichick have held separate press conferences during the week to deny the team's involvement in deflating their footballs. 

The Patriots are subject to punishment from the NFL if the leauge finds any wrongdoing during the investigation. 


Earl Thomas on bad shoulder: 'I'll still play fearless'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, could remain limited in practice this week ahead of the Super Bowl, reports the Seattle Times. But he said he won't be thinking about the injury against the Patriots.

"When I come alive nothing is limited,’’ he said. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.’’

Thomas did allow that he might have to rely more on his teammates.

“My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates,’’ he said. “This is the first game I’m going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really, really trust my teammates, and that’s what I’m banking on, my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself.’’

It's unclear if Thomas will need offseason surgery.

The Seahawks are 1-point underdogs after opening as 2.5-point favorites.


Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck pondering retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told ESPN.com he's not sure if he'll retire or return for a 17th season. Hasselbeck, 39, appeared in four games this season and played well, posting a 102.6 passer rating.

He's set to hit unrestricted free agency.


Colts expected to part ways with center A.Q. Shipley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts center A.Q. Shipley is headed for unrestricted free agency, and the team is expected to let him go, reports ESPN.com. 

"Shipley went from starting in Week 1 to losing his starting job, to being inactive, to being the third-string center," the report said. "All without any explanation from coach Chuck Pagano or anybody in the front office."

Shipley, 28, has played in 45 career games, starting 19.


Report: Dolphins aim to re-sign TE Charles Clay
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Dolphins have privately indicated they want to re-sign impending free agent tight end Charles Clay and will make him an offer in coming weeks, reports the Miami Herald. Clay caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games this season.

Miami also is high on Clay's backup, Dion Sims, who's signed through 2016, the paper said.


Browns extremely thin -- and short -- at wide receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) With wideout Josh Gordon facing a one-year suspension, the Browns are dangerously thin at receiver entering 2015. ESPN.com notes the Browns have two returning slot receivers in Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel and "an undersized situational receiver" in 5-10 Travis Benjamin.

Miles Austin is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after catching 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Tight end Jordan Cameron also is set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Hawkins, a 5-7, 180-pounder, led the team with 63 grabs for 824 yards, with two touchdowns. Cleveland failed to add a wideout in last year's draft but almost certainly must address the position in the 2015 draft.


Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas to practice this week
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio that cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) will practice this week and should be "good to go" for the Super Bowl. Both got hurt in the NFC Championship Game.

Seattle is a 1-point underdog to the Patriots after opening as a 2.5-point favorite.


New optimism regarding Justin Blackmon's potential return
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) A lot of people inside the NFL are optimistic Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon is "overcoming his issues" and will be back in the league in 2015, reports Fox Sports. Blackmon got suspended in November 2013 following his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

He checked into a treatment facility last September. General manager Dave Caldwell said recently he hopes Blackmon wins reinstatement, but is not counting on it.


Reports: Josh Gordon tests positive again, facing 1-year ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Browns wideout Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol and "now will be subject to a one-year banishment," sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games this season for a repeat violation of the league's drug policy.

Pro Football Talk reports that because of Gordon's past DUI, alcohol was one of the substances for which he was being tested. The website said a one-year suspension is likely a "done deal."

The Browns also suspended Gordon for missing a Saturday walkthrough before the regular-season finale, and CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported then the Browns might be ready to part ways with the ultra-talented 23-year-old.

The Browns released the following statement regarding the news: 

"Clearly we are very disappointed to hear the latest report regarding Josh. At this point, due to the confidential nature of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, we have not been made aware by the league of a failed test. We are in the process of gathering more information and will provide further comment at the appropriate time."


 
 
 
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