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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
Marshawn Lynch among notable Seahawks probable for Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) The Seahawks have ruled tackle Russell Okung (chest) out for Sunday's game at Arizona. Center Max Unger (ankle) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) were labeled as questionable. Tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder) is the only player labeled questionable and is expected to be a game-day decision.

Meanwhile, the following players were labeled probable: Running back Marshawn Lynch (back), wide receiver Paul Richardson (hamstring), guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) and tight end Cooper Helfet (ankle).


Saints list Armstead, Hicks, Sanford questionable for Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) Saints tackle Terron Armstead (neck), defensive end Akiem Hicks (ankle) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) were unable to practice Friday and were all ruled questionable for Sunday's game against Atlanta.

New Orleans remains a 6 1/2-point favorite at home against the Falcons.


49ers unveil lengthy injury report for Saturday game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:38 pm ET) The 49ers have ruled the following players out for Saturday's game against San Diego: Linebacker Chris Borland (ankle), cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), running back Carlos Hyde (ankle), wide receiver Stevie Johnson (knee).

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks (thumb), wide receiver Michael Crabtree (knee), right tackle Anthony Davis (concussion), running back Frank Gore (concussion), safety Raymond Vetrone (groin) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (hip) were labeled as questionable.

Meanwhile, cornerback Perrish Cox (ankle), cornerback Chris Culliver (knee), defensive tackle Quinton Dial (knee), defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie (foot), right tackle Jonathan Martin (illness), center Marcus Martin (knee), long snapper Kyle Nelson (back) and defensive end Justin Smith (back) were all deemed as probable.


49ers RB Frank Gore ruled questionable for Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:33 pm ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore (concussion) was a limited participant in practice for the second consecutive day on Friday. San Francisco officially designated him as questionable for Saturday's home game against San Diego.

Because Carlos Hyde (ankle) was ruled out, third-stringer Alfonso Smith will shoulder the load in the ground game if Gore can't play. San Francisco is currently a 1 1/2-point home favorite.


Fitzgerald, Mathieu among notable Cardinals probables Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The Cardinals have ruled guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) out, quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) doubtful and wide receiver Jaron Brown (toe) questionable for Sunday's home game against Seattle.

Meanwhile, the following players were deemed probable: Outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (knee), defensive end Calais Campbell (hip), guard Paul Fanaika (ankle), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee), inside linebacker Larry Foote (knee), safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb), tackle Jared Veldheer (ankle) and running back Kerwynn Williams (knee).


Browns list Joe Haden, Karlos Dansby as questionable for Sunday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) The Browns listed cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder) and linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee) as questionable for Sunday’s game at Carolina. Haden was able to practice Friday on a limited basis.

Also listed as questionable are Gary Barnidge (ribs), Marlon Moore (knee), Robert Nelson (hamstring) and Jabaal Sheard (foot).

The Browns ruled K’Waun Williams (hamstring) and Tashaun Gipson (knee) as out. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (illness) is the only player listed as probable.

The Browns are 3 ½ point underdogs to the Panthers.


Cardinals QB Drew Stanton ruled doubtful for Seattle game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:15 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) was unable to practice on Friday, just a day removed from a being a limited participant in practice. The Cardinals officially designated Stanton as doubtful for Sunday's contest at home against Seattle. If Stanton can't play, the Cardinals will have Ryan Lindley under center, with a special package also designed for rookie Logan Thomas.

Arizona is a 7 1/2-point home underdog on Sunday.


Rams list three players probable for Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:01 pm ET) The Rams enter Week 16 against the Giants relatively healthy, listing only three players on its final injury report. Guard Davin Joseph (not injury related), defensive end Chris Long (ankle) and center Scott Wells (not injury related) were all deemed probable.

Cowboys unveil lengthy injury report for Colts game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) The Cowboys have listed 11 players on its final injury report for Sunday's game against Indianapolis. Defensive tackle Josh Brent (calf, personal) and outside linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) were ruled out for the game. Tackle Doug Free (ankle) is doubtful, and guard Zack Martin (ankle) and running back DeMarco Murray (hand) are questionable.

Meanwhile, the following players were labeled probable: Strong safety Jeff Heath (thumb), middle linebacker Rolando McClain (knee), defensive back Tyler Patmon (knee, ankle), quarterback Tony Romo (back), defensive end George Selvie (thumb) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (personal).


Patriots list 12 players as questionable in Week 16 injury report
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:54 pm ET) The Patriots listed the following players as questionable for Week 16’s game at the New York Jets: Danny Aiken (finger), Kyle Arrington (hamstring), LeGarrette Blount (shoulder), Dan Connolly (knee), Julian Edelman (concussion), Cameron Fleming (ankle), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), Chandler Jones (hip), Brandon LaFell (shoulder), Rob Ninkovich (heel), Shane Vereen (ankle) and Chris White (ankle).

Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) was the only player listed as probable. The Patriots did not have any players listed as out or doubtful.

The Patriots are 10 1/2-point favorites over the Jets.


 
 
 
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