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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
Broncos' Manning, Sanders keeping up with Thomas during holdout
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is holding out of offseason workouts while he continues to negotiate a long-term deal with the team, but teammates Emmanuel Sanders and Peyton Manning have been keeping up with the star receiver, the Denver Post reports.

"One thing a lot of people don’t realize is when you’re playing on a one-year deal, there’s a lot of things going through your head," Sanders said. "As much as you guys want to say, ‘Don’t think about it,' of course it’s going to cross your mind because you’re talking about a lot of money at stake. When you’re playing these one-year deals, it’s a lot of stress on you. No matter how much you don’t want it to be, it’s going to happen. We’re all human."

Manning would like to have Thomas in workouts but understands the business aspects of his decision.

"I keep up with Demaryius. He’s my buddy," Manning said. "They got that business side of it to work out, but he’s been a great teammate to me, been a great friend to me since I’ve been here in Denver, so I keep up with him. Obviously want him to get back here as soon as possible, but we want what’s best for him, and he certainly deserves what’s best for him."

Thomas has started 16 games for three straight season, topping 90 receptions, 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns in each.


Raiders sign Horace Miller, Milton Williams
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Raiders have signed linebacker Horace Miller and wide receiver Milton Williams, the team announced on Wednesday.

Miller was waived by the Panthers earlier this offseason after spending one week on the active roster but seeing no playing time. Williams originally signed with the Raiders earlier this month before being waived a few days later.


Titans project DE DaQuan Jones as starter
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) Titans defensive end DaQuan Jones started the final game of his rookie season against the Colts and is on track to open the 2015 season in the same role, The Tennessean reports.

"He's a starter at end, it's what we project," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "In the last game against Indianapolis, Jones played really well."

A fourth-round pick out of Penn State, Jones finished his rookie season with 13 tackles and one sack, with the sack and more than half of his tackles coming in his lone start at the end of the year.


Browns waive Nick McDonald
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:13 pm ET) The Browns waived offensive lineman Nick McDonald with an injury designation (knee), the team announced on Wednesday.

McDonald made seven starts at center last season after spending the first six weeks of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list with a wrist issue.


Titans DT Sammie Lee Hill diagnosed with knee sprain
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:08 pm ET) Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill was diagnosed with a knee sprain, reports The Tennessean.

Hill the sustained the injury Tuesday, but he won't require surgery.


Texans LB Brian Cushing on his health: Best I've felt in a while
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Texans linebacker Brian Cushing participated in Wednesday's OTA and he said he hasn't been this healthy in a long time, reports the Houston Chronicle.

"I'm the best physically I've been in a while," he said.

During the offseason, Cushing had surgery on his broken right wrist as well as arthroscopic procedures on his left knee and left ankle. He was able to play in 14 games in 2014 after only appearing in 13 games during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.


Broncos DE Shane Ray (toe) to miss OTAs this week
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) A toe injury will prevent Broncos defensive end Shane Ray from participating in OTAs this week, reports 9News.com.

Coach Gary Kubiak said Ray will start participating in individual drills next week. The injury also prevented Ray from taking part in the team's rookie minicamp earlier in May. 


Report: Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman undergoes knee surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:30 pm ET) Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, reports 9News.com.

He is expected to miss the entire 2015 season. Heuerman was drafted in the third round during the 2015 draft.


Cowboys RB Joseph Randle confident he can replace DeMarco Murray
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:19 pm ET) With last season's leading rusher no longer on the team, Cowboys running back Joseph Randle said he can replace the 1,845 rushing yards DeMarco Murray produced last season, reports The Dallas Morning News.

"He had a good year last year, and I got to sit back and watch a lot," Randle said, "and I felt like there was a lot of meat left on the bone."

Randle did get first-team reps during Wednesday's OTA session and he said he's ready to handle a heavy workload this season.

"I'm going to try to go out there and grind as hard as I can and see which role I end up in," Randle said. "If they ask me to do that, I'm ready for it. And if they believe in me, I believe in myself, that’s for sure."

Randle has been arrested twice in the last year, but he said he's learned from his mistakes.

"Everything you go through in life you learn from it and I learned from it and I've moved past it. I've grown up," Randle said. "I've made some young and silly mistakes, but I'm moving forward."


Jets' Brandon Marshall on ability: 'I'm better now than I've ever been'
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:57 pm ET) Despite being a five-time Pro Bowl selection, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall said Wednesday he can still be a better player than in his previous nine seasons, reports ESPN.com.

"I really feel like I'm better now than I've ever been," Marshall said.

Marshall added that his improved health and more knowledge of the game has him prepared for a productive 2015 season.

"There's the physical part, feeling healthy, and our medical staff here is probably the best in the league," Marshall said. "I feel great, and now I'm starting to see the game differently, being older and having a lot of experience. So having all of that working for me, and going against those guys every single day, I'm excited about doing my job this year."


 
 
 
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