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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Denver Broncos

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Broncos made it to the Super Bowl last season but lost more than 40 percent of their offensive production with Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker leaving as free agents.

Can they actually get better?

The simple answer is yes. Last we checked, Peyton Manning is back for another season, and the Broncos upgraded on defense -- at least in name recognition -- with the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward.

For Fantasy owners, the question becomes who will step up to replace Moreno and Decker, because those players should be popular options. You already know Manning, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas will be the first players drafted at their respective positions, and Wes Welker will remain a Fantasy starter in the majority of leagues.

But is Montee Ball ready to take over for Moreno and be a Fantasy star? Can Emmanuel Sanders actually play as well or even better than Decker? We'll find out as the season unfolds, but Ball is someone to target with a late-first or early-second round pick in all formats. And Sanders should develop into a quality Fantasy receiver getting an upgrade from Ben Roethlisberger to Manning.

Denver set all kinds of offensive records in 2013 -- most points (606), total touchdowns (76), passing touchdowns (55) and passing yards (5,477) for Manning -- so the last thing we want to see is change. But Moreno and Decker had to move on, and we hope the replacement options in Ball and Sanders will keep this offensive juggernaut on track. We're confident it will happen.

Breakout star ... Montee Ball

There's trepidation with Ball because he was hyped as a rookie last season as the potential starter but watched as Moreno took the job and ran with it. Moreno was awesome with 241 carries for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns and 60 catches for 548 yards and three touchdowns. He had 11 games with double digits in Fantasy points and was the No. 5 Fantasy running back in standard leagues.

We hope Ball is ready to fill those shoes, and he showed promise last year with 120 carries for 559 yards and four touchdowns and 20 catches for 145 yards. Ball played well when he had touches, with at least nine Fantasy points in four of the six games he had double digits in carries.

His best friend will be Manning. In 32 games as the starter for the Broncos in the regular season, Manning has helped Denver's running backs reach double digits in Fantasy points 23 times.

The Broncos made it clear he's the starter by not adding anyone of significance once Moreno left, so we're buying in as well. He's worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 or beginning of Round 2, and we hope Manning and the Broncos can produce another Top 5 finish for their starting rusher.

Career year coming ... Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders is not Decker, so don't expect the same results. Decker was a big target at 6-foot-3, and Sanders is more of a speed threat at 5-foot-11. Decker was predominately an outside receiver, but Sanders can also move inside and play the slot.

What we're trying to say is don't expect the exact same production. Decker had 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013 on 137 targets, and Sanders is coming off a career-year with the Steelers with 67 catches for 740 yards and six touchdowns on 112 targets.

The Manning factor will help Sanders shine. This isn't a critique on Roethlisberger, who might have maximized the talent for Sanders. Only time will tell. But playing in this offense where he's the No. 4 option -- Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Welker are higher in the pecking order -- should allow for plenty of single coverage.

Someone has to pick up the majority of Decker's targets, and Sanders could easily crack 75 catches, 1,000 yards and score six touchdowns again. He's worth drafting as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick, but he could definitely be a Top 20 receiver by the end of the year.

Wait until 2015! ... Cody Latimer

2013 Touches Leaders
922 total touches
Knowshon Moreno 301 (241 car., 60 rec.) 32.6%
Montee Ball 140 (120 car., 20 rec.) 15.2%
Demaryius Thomas 92 rec. 10.0%
Eric Decker 87 rec. 9.4%
Wes Welker 73 rec. 7.9%
All Others 229 24.8%

I'm sticking to my theory that the Broncos drafted Latimer in the second round of the NFL Draft from Indiana to replace Welker in 2015 and not play a significant role this year. His time will come next season.

Welker is in the final year of his contract, and the Broncos laid out the plan for their receiving corps in 2015. They signed Sanders this season, and he will eventually be the slot receiver next year. Latimer will play outside, and they should be set assuming Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas sign contract extensions.

The key to it all is Manning playing at least one more season, so take that into account. But we like Latimer as a receiver to target in dynasty and keeper formats more than seasonal leagues. He will likely be the No. 4 receiver to open the season, but he could be No. 2 on the depth chart next year if things go his way.

Schedule analysis

The Broncos open the season with three-consecutive games against playoff teams from last year in Indianapolis, Kansas City and at Seattle. It will be interesting to see how Fantasy owners approach Manning against the Seahawks on the road after what happened in the Super Bowl. Denver only has six opponents that did not make the playoffs last season, and the Broncos get the unenviable task of facing the NFC West. The playoff matchups aren't easy for the Broncos either with road games at San Diego and Cincinnati, but you can expect Manning and Co. to still be started in the majority of leagues at that point in the year.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 2 running back? We know Ball is No. 1 on the depth chart, but does he have a handcuff option? The battle for the backup job is between C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, and the winner of the No. 2 role is worth a late-round pick. As much as we like Ball this season, there's still the chance he can fumble away the job or get hurt. As stated above, the starting running back for Manning has a good chance to shine, so keep Anderson or Hillman on your radar, with Anderson the likely winner.

Who's the No. 4 receiver? Latimer should win this job based on where he was drafted and how the Broncos want to use him in the future. But Andre Caldwell is a veteran, and Manning likes players he can trust. We hope you never have to use the No. 4 receiver for the Broncos, but we saw last year that Caldwell could do well when called upon after he had six catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 15. Latimer is worth drafting with a late-round flier in deeper formats if he earns the job, but Caldwell will be someone to watch just in case you need the No. 4 receiver in Denver for a one week spot start.

Bold prediction

It was great to see Moreno play as well as he did last season, but I consider Ball a better talent. I expect him to play at least at the same level as Moreno and post higher stats. He will never see a stacked line of scrimmage as long as Manning is starting and healthy, and he averaged 4.7 yards per carry compared to 4.3 for Moreno. He should do better at the goal line, and 15 total touchdowns wouldn't be a surprise. I was asked in a radio interview this offseason who was better between Eddie Lacy and Ball. Lacy is the safer pick because we know what he can do, but Ball has more upside. I have no problem taking Ball as early as No. 8 overall in all formats, and I expect you'll be happy if you follow suit.

Injury report

Cody Latimer (foot), questionable for start of training camp. ... Joel Dreessen (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Von Miller (knee), questionable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Tamba Hali says he wants to be back in Kansas City in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Outside linebacker Tamba Hali once again expressed an interest in returning to the only team he's ever played for in the Chiefs.

"At this stage of my career, it isn’t about money," Hali said. "The Kansas City Chiefs have taken care of me, financially. I have some good people in my corner that have positioned me to be able to live a lifestyle a lot of people won’t be able to live. So I’m not one of those guys who gets all bent out of shape over money. I love playing the game, I want to win a championship in Kansas City."

Hali totaled 59 tackles including six sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. It was his lowest sack total since 2008.

"If money is going to be a hindrance in doing that, we’ll find a way … we’ve got to get Justin (Houston) paid and get our guys, Dee Ford, ready to be playing at a higher level … but we’ve got to get Houston paid, I’m optimistic about that … that’s something we’ve got to get done."


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(1/27/2015) Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said Tuesday his elbow is improving daily and he's finished with treat, according to Ed Werder of ESPN. 

According to Werder, Sherman tore ligaments in his elbow in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Sherman was seen grimacing in pain throughout the game after suffering the injury.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs for the Super Bowl, according to VegasInsider.com.


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by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) The Seahawks are preparing to re-sign quarterback Russell Wilson. With Wilson making under $1 million per year in his first three seasons, Seattle has been able to give other players contract extensions. Now, general manager John Schneider knows it will be tough on the team to get Wilson at the hefty price tag.

"It presents challenges, there is no question," Schneider said. "We haven’t sat down with his representatives. We are still going to be drafting young players and playing young players, so we might not be able to dip into free agency like you may want to here and there or compensate somebody else that you want to compensate that is already on your team, but just the fact that we’re going to continue to keep drafted players and playing young players should help us compensate for whatever level of compensation (for Wilson’s contract) is."

Wilson threw for 3,475 yards in 2014 with 20 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns.


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(1/27/2015) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is on the road to recovery. The 30-year-old quarterback is in the middle of a rehab program to be able to get back on the field this spring

"I’ll be full strength by time we start offseason program," Stanton said at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. "I don’t really need to do anything now so just kinda let my body rest to get away from the game a little bit, spend time with my family and get refreshed for next season."

Stanton said he would have needed one more week before trying to give it a go in the playoffs with the knee injury.

"I was going to need at least another week to have a shot," Stanton said. "That was my hope. So, I was trying to find ways to get ready to go, talking to the training staff and talking to guys (about) what I can be doing when we would get back from that flight from Carolina. It didn’t work out unfortunately, but it was a difficult situation the way everything ended. At the same time, I think that the building blocks are starting to fall into place for us." 


Bengals OC Hue Jackson still believes in QB Andy Dalton
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson missed quarterback Andy Dalton's Pro Bowl performance Sunday. Despite hearing about his 9 of 20 passing performance, Jackson said Tuesday to ESPN he still has faith in Dalton to get the job done.

"I'm not going to stop believing in him," Jackson said. "He's going to have to prove otherwise. I believe this guy has it in him. My job, my charge as I've said before is to have him do it on a consistent basis."

Jackson added he's seen the great Dalton and thinks it's something to build on.

"I see in the first three games of the season a guy that played with moxie and tenacity and aggressiveness, and who played extremely well down that 3-0 stretch," Jackson said.


Seahawks NT Brandon Mebane expected to be full go by April
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(1/27/2015) Seahawks starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane said the surgery to fix his torn hamstring went well, and he should be full go by April, reports the Seattle Times. Mebane's season was cut short after nine games. He finished with 20 tackles and a sack.

DT Kevin Williams could retire if Seahawks win
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(1/27/2015) Seahawks defensive tackle Kevin Williams did not rule out retiring if his team beats the Patriots in Super Bowl 49, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Williams, 34, is a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro.

He played in every game this season, recording 22 tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups.


Bills' Roman: EJ Manuel getting clean slate with new coaching staff
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/27/2015) Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday during his introductory press conference quarterback EJ Manuel will get a fresh start with the new coaching staff, per WGR 550. Manuel was benched in favor of veteran Kyle Orton in 2014. Orton has since retired.

"I'm not going to get into specifics. but I definitely think he's done some very good things and displayed some good traits," Roman said. "We just have to get his level of consistency a little bit greater. Really, he and everybody else, once we get thru this evaluation process, we're going to have a very clean slate, once we get going because what they might have been asked to do or done in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. So to sit here and pontificate about this that and the other, is a little premature."

Manuel is 6-8 as a starter over two NFL seasons. The 2013 first-round pick has a career 58.6 completion rate. He has passed for 2,810 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games (14 starts).


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(1/27/2015) Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork said he's working with the training staff in hopes of playing in Super Bowl 49, reports ESPN.com. Stork, who nursing a knee injury, has been limited in practice.

"Nobody's working harder than Bryan to play," coach Bill Belichick said.

Stork started 11 regular-season games but missed the AFC title game after getting hurt in the divisional playoff win over Baltimore. Ryan Wendell replaced Stork and played well in the 45-7 victory over the Colts.


Colts can void RB Trent Richardson's contract
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(1/27/2015) The Colts can void running back Trent Richardson's $3.18 million guaranteed salary for 2015 because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reports CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former agent who's an expert on player contracts.

Richardson, who missed a walkthrough before the AFC title game, received a two-game suspension from the team, general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed. If Indy chooses to keep Richardson, he'd serve the second game of the suspension next season.

ESPN.com expects the Colts to exercise their option to void Richardson's contract, and the players' union to challenge that move.


 
 
 
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