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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' Louis Nix 'trying to move forward' in sophomore season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Texans nose tackle Louis Nix spoke about his lost rookie season this week in OTAs, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"A lot went on my first year here. It was a lot to deal with," said Nix, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason and eventually was placed on season-ending injured reserve. "It was difficult to maintain it with all the issues. But I'm happy about now, and that's what I'm worried about. I'm just trying to move forward and do the best I can."

Coach Bill O'Brien expressed frustration with Nix earlier this offseason.

"Bill is Bill. He challenges everybody," Nix said. "Sometimes you guys make it more than what it is. … He wants guys to be better. I take no offense to it. I know he just wants me to be the best player that I can be. He sees potential, and I see it in myself. I'm starting to get back in a groove of things. I'm just going to keep trying to do the best I can."

Nix is finally healthy and working his way into game shape.

"Make it through a practice, man," Nix said. "That's my goal."


Eagles' Earl Wolff, Marcus Smith limited in OTAs with injuries
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Eagles safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Marcus Smith were limited in OTAs with injuries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Wolff is recovering from knee surgery. Coach Chip Kelly said the safety has been cleared to return, and the team is waiting for him to reach full participation in OTAs. Smith has been dealing with a pulled leg muscle.


Packers' Casey Hayward dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Packers cornerback Casey Hayward is dealing with a foot injury and doesn't expect to return to action until training camp, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I’ll probably take it easy into camp right now," Hayward said. "I have a minor foot thing right now. We’ll probably take it easy into camp."

Hayward said the foot "flared up" on him earlier in the offseason. He finished with 42 tackles and three interceptions last season.


Ravens' Terrence Brooks running, 'doing really well'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Ravens free safety Terrence Brooks is running after suffering ACL and MCL tears in his right knee in December, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"Terrence Brooks is doing really well," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard."

Brooks is expected to open the season on the PUP list and could make his return this season.

"We're just hoping for the best, trying to get back as soon as possible," Brooks said. "We're taking precautious. We definitely don't want to rush back too fast. If you do get cleared, playing this year is definitely a goal. You don't want to rush it. For the most part, you have to be cautious and take it easy. After we get off of the PUP list, we'll see where we're at. I definitely want to get back into it, but we're taking our time. I have high hopes of being ready."


Report: OT Jake Long visits Giants Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Free-agent offensive tackle Jake Long visited the Giants on Thursday, ESPN reports.

The Giants are having to shuffle their offensive line with Will Beatty expected to miss the first part of the season with a pec injury. Long was scheduled to make $9.25 million in 2015 but was released by the Rams in March.


Saints CB Brandon Browner impressing teammates, coach
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) New Saints cornerback Brandon Browner is having a positive impact on not just the secondary, but the entire defense. At least that's the view of defensive backfield mate Kenny Vaccaro.

"Browner's a good dude, leads by example, talks when he needs to talk," Vaccaro told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "He's real serious, kind of keeps everybody level headed and knows what we've got to work for. He's won two Super Bowls, so he knows what to do."

Sean Payton echoed those sentiments.

"He's competitive," he said. "He's driven and certainly one of the things we talked about this offseason through the draft, through the acquisition of players is the makeup and making sure that this is something we felt like was a plus and certainly with him we feel that that is a strength of his."

The Saints are Browner's fourth team in six seasons in the NFL.


Eagles LB DeMeco Ryans working way back from injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) There was a bit of a discrepancy Thursday in regard to the practice participation of Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Chip Kelly said before the session that Ryans would be a full-go despite him being just seven months removed from rupturing his Achilles tendon. Ryans did practice, but he told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was not a full participant.

Ryans missed half of the 2014 season with the injury, but contributed to 45 tackles in eight games before going down.


Eagles QB Mark Sanchez optimistic as offseason rolls on
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) A stronger arm, greater familiarity with the offense and more confidence has Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez feeling quite good these days.

Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery two years ago that affected him early last season. He expects to be better in 2015, especially if given an opportunity to play over newcomer Sam Bradford.

"First thing, physically, I feel so much better," he told the team website. "The farther it gets away from surgery and all the reps I've had, all the rehab on through, it can only get better and stronger. So this is definitely the best I've ever felt. And then as far as the scheme, every rep, every time we sit down and watch film, every meeting, that can only help with my growth as well."

The chance to play is one reason why Sanchez chose to return this offseason to the Eagles.

"Were there other opportunitites? Absolutely," he said. "Did they look potentially good, better, similar, maybe worse? Potentially, yeah, there was some stuff out there. But when I factored it all in, I just felt this was the best spot for me. I enjoy playing for coach Kelly, I love this system, I love the tempo, I love the pace."

Sanchez also expressed a desire to remain on the team for which he threw his highest completition percentage of his career in 2014. He hit on 64.1 percent, by far a personal best.

Chip Kelly has seen a difference in Sanchez.

"I think you can see it in how he's performing out there now," he said. "He's also not learning an offense again. ... He is really comfortable in terms of the scheme."


Ravens waive/injured Julian Wilson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) The Ravens waived/injured cornerback Julian Wilson on Thursday, the Baltimore Sun reports. Wilson suffered a broken leg on the first day of rookie camp and will miss the season.

Saints' Anthony Spencer works ahead of Junior Galette Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/28/2015) Saints linebacker Anthony Spencer worked ahead of Junior Galette in the team's base 4-3 defense, a run-heavy look that featured just three linebackers, ESPN.com reports.

"However it came out, we’re not worried about depth chart now," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "We’re putting in a defense, we’re all working hard together and getting to know each other, our teammates and what we got. But I know both those guys can play, so we’re excited about 'em."

Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks in 2012 but has managed just 24 total tackles and a half-sack in 14 games over the last two years while dealing with a major knee injury.

"I think sometimes there are tougher positions to evaluate at this time of year," coach Sean Payton said, when asked to give his early thoughts on Spencer. "But I think, No. 1, he can affect the passer. ... He’s an edge player, I think he’s very good at fitting the run, and I think he can affect the passer."


 
 
 
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