One of the many breaking free agency news bytes on Tuesday was the Denver Broncos deciding to sign Case Keenum after it was apparent Kirk Cousins had no intentions of moving West. A brief perusing of Broncos’ Twitter shows mixed feelings (at best) about the signing. While Keenum wouldn’t have been my first choice at QB if I were a Broncos’ fan, he should be more than sufficient for fantasy purposes.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 13, 2018
From “Not” to “Hot”
Before Keenum’s 2017 season, a fair description of his career would have been “Journeyman.” When Keenum took over for an injured Sam Bradford (who could have predicted that? Bradford was already filling in for Teddy Bridgewater), he went on to turn in a highly competent and productive season. Finishing as the QB15 on the season, Keenum produced a top-16 QB week 9- out of 15-games he started, including 5-QB1 weeks. Perhaps that’s not exactly setting the world ablaze, but it’s damn sure better than flaming out like Trevor Siemian did after a fantastic start to the 2017 season.
The WR Factor
Though not the same, there are parallels with Keenum’s situation in Minnesota last season and in Denver going forward. Two standout wide receivers helped Keenum breakout in his age 29 season. Though Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are both talented wide receivers, we shouldn’t discount Keenum’s role in leading them to top WR11 (Theilen) and WR14 (Diggs) finishes in 2017 (fantasy points per game). Going back to 2012, Thomas has finished as no less than a WR2 for six straight seasons. Last season, Demaryius Thomas had his worst fantasy season since 2011, but he still finished as the WR22 in fantasy points per game. Even before the Keenum signing, Thomas was a strong buy for me, and this does nothing to change that stance.
Thomas’s running mate Emmanuel Sanders posted WR5, WR18, and WR20 seasons before last season’s WR54 finish. Dealing with injury the entire season, Sanders was only able to play 12 games last season but still saw a total target share of 22% in the games he did play. With the addition of Keenum, I expect one final bounce-back season of productivity from Sanders.
The running back situation is no worse than what Keenum had in Minnesota after Dalvin Cook went down for the season in Week 4. C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker are both capable receivers who combined for 58 receptions last year, while the departed Jamaal Charles snagged another 23. The three primary Denver running backs had more receptions (81), than the 77-catches by Minnesota’s threesome of Latavius Murray, Dalvin Cook, and Jerick McKinnon combined to catch last season.
The starkest contrast between Denver and Minnesota would be the lack of an established Tight End. Kyle Rudolph finished 2016 as the TE3 and 2017 as the TE9. Denver has lacked a receiving threat at the TE position since the days of Peyton Manning and Julius Thomas. What Denver does have is Jake Butt who missed the 2017 season recovering from a knee injury. Butt did have a college breakout age of 19.2 (94th percentile) and a college dominator rating in the 69th percentile, and if he returns to full health could be an interesting target. If I happen to make any larger trades with a Butt owner, I’ll be asking for him as a “throw-in.”
Addition by Addition (and Subtraction)
The addition of Case Keenum to the roster is a literal example of addition by subtraction. With Keenum’s arrival, at no point in the future should we see the depths of terrible that we saw at the QB position for Denver last season. The three-headed Hydra-monster of Siemian, Osweiler, and Lynch combined for 3,668 yards, a 58.7% completion percentage, 19 touchdowns against 22 interceptions on 566 pass attempts in 16 games in 2017. Keenum, in only 15 games and 481 attempts, put up his 3,547 yards, a 67.6%, and 22 touchdowns versus only 7-interceptions.
In start-up 1-QB leagues, Keenum is a great streaming option, if not your primary QB. In Superflex or 2-QB leagues, though, Keenum is an every-week starter. He showed in 2017, placed in the proper scheme with talented playmakers at his disposal, to be highly competent. To maintain his current value, and to support the other Denver fantasy assets, that is all you need from Keenum.