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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
Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:56 pm ET) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


 
 
 
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