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Offseason Primers: Denver Broncos

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Broncos were definitely exciting in 2012. The addition of Peyton Manning was a success as Denver ran away with the AFC West title, was the No. 1 seed in the AFC with the best regular-season record and had an 11-game winning streak going into the playoffs.

While the reality is the Broncos under Manning went as far as they did under Tim Tebow the year before -- which was the Divisional Round of the playoffs -- Fantasy owners definitely benefited from Manning's presence. He turned the Broncos into a tremendous passing team and proved he's back as an elite Fantasy quarterback.

2012 Touches Leaders
1,069 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Willis McGahee 193 (167 car., 26 rec.) 18.0%
Knowshon Moreno 159 (138 car., 21 rec.) 14.8%
Ronnie Hillman 95 (85 car., 10 rec.) 8.8%
Demaryius Thomas 94 rec. 8.7%
Eric Decker 85 rec. 7.9%
All Others 443 41.4%

Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker blossomed into stars thanks to Manning, and we got success from two running backs. Willis McGahee started off the year with some positive moments before suffering a broken leg in Week 11, and Knowshon Moreno helped many Fantasy owners win a title with a strong finish, including double digits in Fantasy points in five of the final six regular season games.

This year, the Broncos hope to build off last year's success, and Manning and Co. should return for another solid campaign, especially with the addition of Wes Welker. Manning is locked in as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, Thomas, Decker and Welker are Top 20 receivers and we might have a new featured running back in Ronnie Hillman, depending on what happens with McGahee and Moreno this offseason.

It should be another exciting year for the Broncos in 2013.

Peyton Manning -- Still getting better

2012 Target Leaders
588 pass attempts
Demaryius Thomas 141 23.9%
Eric Decker 122 20.7%
Jacob Tamme 85 14.4%
Joel Dreessen 58 9.8%
Brandon Stokley 58 9.8%
All Others 124 21.0%

Can Manning be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012? Denver coach John Fox thinks so, and the addition of Welker will help. Fox said this offseason that Manning will be healthier this season as he continues to improve following his neck issues in 2011. That could make Manning a candidate to be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this year because he was impressive in 2012, his first year with the Broncos. Manning completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was the 12th time he passed for 4,000-plus yards (third time with 4,500 yards) and the seventh time he's thrown for 30-plus touchdowns. Manning will be 37 when the season starts, but he continues to play at a high level and defied all skeptics with his performance last year. He has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL with Thomas, Decker and Welker to go with a solid running game behind a stout offensive line. We consider Manning a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback on Draft Day, and he's worth drafting with a pick toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all formats.

Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker -- Worth the price

We like to point out third-year breakouts whenever possible, and Thomas and Decker were two of the best we've ever had. Getting Manning in their third year didn't hurt their chances of having a big season, but they definitely lived up to the billing. Decker set career highs in catches (85), yards (1,064) and touchdowns (13), while Thomas was right behind in leading the Broncos with 94 catches for 1,434 yards, and he finished second to Decker with 10 touchdowns. Thomas (23.9 percent) and Decker (20.7 percent) accounted for the majority of Manning's targets in 2012, and both should continue to improve this season – especially if Manning is getting stronger with his neck. The addition of Welker will cut into what Thomas and Decker are able to do, but don't be scared off by Welker joining the mix. Thomas is still the big-play threat on offense, and Decker is the red-zone option. Welker will definitely play a prominent role, but he's the third option in this passing game. You'll have to draft Thomas toward the beginning of Round 3, and Decker will likely be drafted in the middle to the end of Round 4. They are worth the price tag. Thomas is among a group of five receivers (A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones) vying for the No. 2 spot behind Calvin Johnson, and Decker is right behind that tier as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver. Both should once again dominate in 2013.

Ronnie Hillman -- Breakout

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Peyton Manning 22-27 overall
Willis McGahee 58-66 overall
Ronnie Hillman 100-108 overall
Knowshon Moreno Undrafted
Demaryius Thomas 23-28 overall
Eric Decker 36-44 overall
Wes Welker 38-46 overall
Jacob Tamme Undrafted
Joel Dreessen Undrafted

Hillman is expected to take on a bigger role in his second season, and Fox indicated this offseason that Hillman is capable of being an every-down back. That's encouraging, but we don't expect Hillman to take on that kind of a workload this year -- at least when everyone is healthy. McGahee will likely get the most work, and Moreno could return as a reserve option. But Hillman will be No. 2 on the depth chart and get plenty of looks. His best game as a rookie was his last game in the playoff loss against Baltimore. With McGahee out and Moreno going down with a knee injury, Hillman had 22 carries for 83 yards and three catches for 20 yards. Overall, he finished the season with 85 carries for 330 yards and one touchdown and 10 catches for 62 yards. Pass protection was an issue for him, but the Broncos are excited about his potential. He is worth a mid- to late-round pick in the majority of leagues, and Hillman could develop into a quality Fantasy option as the year goes on. He's someone to monitor from training camp on, and we hope he has a breakout campaign in 2013.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Andre Williams working in goal-line package
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:27 pm ET) Giants rookie running back Andre Williams worked in the goal-line package as the team opened training camp Tuesday, reports the New York Daily News. Williams is a 5-11, 230-pound hammer who ran for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns for Boston College last season.

He'll vie for carries with starter Rashad Jennings and newly cleared David Wilson.


Report: Andre Johnson at facility to learn new offense
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:48 pm ET) Receiver Andre Johnson went to the Texans' facility Monday to learn new coach Bill O'Brien's offense, reports ESPN.com. It could be an indication the seven-time Pro Bowler intends to show up to training camp. The first practice is Saturday.

Johnson skipped Houston's mandatory minicamp, plus voluntary OTAs, because he's upset with the direction of the team and doesn't want to go through another rebuilding year, according to NFL.com. He reportedly asked to be traded, but it looks like the sides are working things out.


Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson ready to go
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:20 pm ET) Jaguars rookie receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, who missed much of the offseason program with injuries, "should be on the field in close to full-go capacity" when the team opens camp Friday, according to the Jaguars' official website.

Lee was battling an ankle injury, while Robinson had a hamstring problem. Both second-round picks are viewed as immediate contributors.

"I’m ready,” Robinson said Tuesday following an on-field workout with quarterbacks and rookies. "That was my goal in the offseason, to get as ready as possible for the start of camp.

"I think me and the trainers have a good game plan going into that, and I feel like I did it pretty well. I feel good. I feel ready. We practice Friday and I’m cleared to go. You’ve always got to be smart and take care of your body, but as far as on-field stuff, I’m ready to go."

Lee also practiced Tuesday.

"Everything’s good," he said. "I’m pretty much cleared. They still want me to take it slow as far as right now. During camp, that’s when I pick it up. We’ve got a while before we actually put on pads, so by that time pads come on, I should be OK."


Leon Hall expected to participate at start of camp
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he anticipates cornerback Leon Hall practicing when training camp opens Thursday, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hall is currently on the PUP list; he's coming back from his second torn Achilles in three years.

Andre Johnson spotted at stadium, expected at camp on time
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:09 pm ET) Andre Johnson was at NRG Stadium on Monday, a "good sign" for the Texans as they hope to avoid a holdout by the disgruntled receiver, reports ESPN.com. Houston holds its first practice Saturday.

Johnson reportedly has asked to be traded, but there's no indication the Texans will accommodate him. Houston Chronicle columnist Jerome Solomon expects Johnson to report on time to training camp.


Geno Atkins expected to play in season opener
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who's coming back from a torn ACL, should be ready for the season opener, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther told the Cincinnati Enquirer. Coach Marvin Lewis said the team will keep Atkins on the PUP list for a few days of training camp "to get a look at him," suggesting Atkins could be ready to practice soon.

Cordy Glenn out indefinitely with medical condition
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:46 pm ET) Bills starting left tackle Cordy Glenn is not practicing due to an undisclosed medical condition, and coach Doug Marrone said he has "no indication when he'll be back." Rookie Seantrel Henderson, a seventh-round pick out of the University of Miami, has taken Glenn's spot.


Odell Beckham's hamstring 'feeling a lot better'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:38 pm ET) Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham, who took limited reps in the offseason program, said his hamstring is "feeling a lot better," reports Giants 101. He added that he's receiving "preventative treatment."

Darrin Kitchens, Brandon Smith banged up
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:24 pm ET) Bills coach Doug Marrone said linebacker Darrin Kitchens and cornerback Brandon Smith suffered lower-body injuries in Monday's practice and will miss some time. Both players were working with the third team.

Browns won't cut Josh Gordon
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Browns coach Mike Pettine told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that receiver Josh Gordon is not in danger of being cut.

"We're expecting him to report on Friday and be on the field," Pettine said. "We have no plans to cut him. I know there's been a lot of debate over that, but I don't see us having that debate."

Gordon is waiting to hear from the NFL about what could be an indefinite suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, the paper said. He also was arrested for driving while impaired earlier this month.

"I think we need to find the middle ground of what's best for Josh and what's best for the organization," Pettine said. "I know [ESPN analyst] Cris Carter came out and said [Gordon should be cut], but we think you can find that middle ground of what's best for our players and best for the organization. It worked for Cris, but cutting Josh might be the worst thing for him and the worst thing for us."


 
 
 
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