Redraft Team Focus: Denver Broncos

In this article series, I’m analyzing every one of the 32 NFL teams and all of their redraft-relevant fantasy assets. It’s a long project, but I want to make sure that you, the reader, have something you can refer to for every team. For each article, I’ll split up the fantasy assets into three categories: high-end assets, usable contributors, and dart throws. I’ll reference my PPR redraft rankings at the time of writing, which are here. If you want to read my previous work in this series, the full list with links is at the bottom of the article. Let’s jump into the Broncos.

High-End Assets

Melvin Gordon

Gordon joins a new team in 2020, signing a 2-year, $16 million contract with the Broncos after five years with the Chargers. 

In 2019, Gordon held out for the first four games of the season, allowing Austin Ekeler to break out as a star. With his holdout backfiring, Gordon returned to the team for Week 5 and resumed the starting role. From that point forward, he averaged 15.1 PPR points per game and was the RB12. Even though Ekeler outperformed him in PPR, Gordon was still an RB1.

Gordon will share the backfield with Phillip Lindsay, who played well in two seasons with the Broncos. Lindsay played all 16 games in 2019 and finished as the RB19, forming a committee with Royce Freeman. He rushed for 1,011 yards on 224 carries and seven touchdowns while adding 35 receptions for 196 yards. In comparison, Freeman had 132 carries, which he turned into a measly 496 yards and three touchdowns.

Going into 2020, I believe that Gordon will take over Lindsay’s old role as the lead back, but he might do more with it. Gordon has scored eight or more touchdowns in each of the past four seasons and excels around the goal-line. Therefore, I think Gordon will take the majority of the red zone work. Gordon also had 42 receptions in 12 games in 2019, despite sharing the backfield with one of the best pass-catching backs in the league in Ekeler.

In my opinion, Gordon could push for 240 carries or more if he plays 16 games, leaving around 110 for Lindsay. The Broncos didn’t use a third running back in 2019 under the current coaching staff, so I expect Freeman to fade to irrelevance. Also, signing Gordon shows the Broncos’ commitment to the run, so those carry numbers could be even higher than in 2019. If Gordon gets those carries and continues his receiving and goal-line production from his past, there is no reason he can’t finish as an RB1. He finished in the top-seven in PPR points per game among running backs from 2016-2018, so he’s done it three times previously.

I think that Gordon is currently a value in redraft formats. The running back pool dries up so fast; therefore, finding a workhorse back of Gordon’s stature has to be considered high-end. He’s my RB17 but my 33rd overall player. If I can get Gordon in the early-fourth round after taking a superstar running back and two stud receivers, I will be ecstatic with that roster build. I expect to have Gordon on a lot of my redraft teams in 2020.

 

Usable Contributors

Courtland Sutton

As a rookie in 2018, Sutton flashed signs of greatness. He only caught 42 of 84 targets, but he turned those catches into 704 yards and four touchdowns. While he wasn’t fantasy-relevant outside of a few games, he was on the map for fantasy owners going into his second season.

In 2019, Sutton followed up his strong start with a breakout season. He pulled in 72 of 124 targets for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively, Sutton broke out despite uneven quarterback play from Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock. He finished as the WR19 in 2019 but was only 27th among receivers in PPR points per game. Even though he had poor quarterback play, his 58.1% catch rate does leave a bit of room for concern based on his 2019 performance.

Unfortunately for Sutton, he has a lot of question marks going into 2020. The Broncos made many acquisitions to their offense, overhauling the entire skill position group. They signed Gordon in free agency, which could signal their intention to go more run-heavy, as I mentioned above. They also drafted star receiver prospect Jerry Jeudy in the first round, speedy receiver K.J. Hamler in the second round, and potential touchdown vulturing tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round.

I don’t expect Okwuegbunam to make much of an impact behind incumbent starter Noah Fant, but the other two picks are concerning. Jeudy was a target monster at Alabama, and he was one of the clear top two receivers in the 2020 class. Jeudy will immediately start across from Sutton and should provide more target competition. In 2019, Fant had the second-most targets on the team with 66, and Jeudy will undoubtedly get more than that. 

While Hamler is a raw prospect, he’s still the third-best receiver on the team right now and should step right into DaeSean Hamilton’s role. I’m not sure Hamler will exceed Hamilton’s 52 targets, but he’ll be a part of the offense. His second-round draft capital dictates that. Combine the acquisitions with Fant taking a step forward, and you can see a picture of a very crowded offense in Denver.

There are also legitimate questions surrounding quarterback Drew Lock. I’ll discuss those more in Lock’s section, but suffice it to say, Lock was only a second-round pick and has only started five NFL games. We can’t know for sure if Lock is a good player and will be able to make Sutton a fantasy star. In the five games Sutton played with Lock, he was only WR27 and averaged only 12.4 PPR points per game, less than with the other quarterbacks. Therefore, we haven’t seen the combination of Lock and Sutton work in practice.

With all that said, I have Sutton as my WR20 and 48th overall player. As he finished as the WR19 in 2019, I think it’s a fair ranking. Sutton should progress further as a receiver in Year 3, but there is no doubt that his 124 targets from 2019 are likely his target ceiling in 2020. His targets could easily decline to the 100-110 range, which is around what I’m projecting for him. I’d prefer to go in a different direction for my WR2, and doubt I’ll have many Sutton shares in 2020.

 

Phillip Lindsay

As previously mentioned, Lindsay finished as the RB19 in 2019. While his 2019 was solid, he certainly regressed from his stellar 2018 season. In 2018, he was the RB13 in 15 games. He averaged 5.4 YPC in 2018 and scored nine touchdowns compared to 4.5 YPC and seven touchdowns in 2019. While Lindsay was still capable, the Broncos decided that their combination of Lindsay and Freeman wasn’t enough and brought in Gordon to be the starter.

There is no doubt that Gordon is going to receive the majority of carries. The main question is: how much of the pie will remain for Lindsay? I think Lindsay can retain his 35 receptions from both his 2018 and 2019 seasons and should come in around 100-110 carries. If the Broncos run even more in 2020 as I expect, he could even slightly better those numbers. Gordon has only completed one full season in his five years in the league, so Lindsay could get more opportunities than expected.

When drafting Lindsay, you’re getting a low-end RB3 or flex option with some upside if Gordon goes down. While I don’t believe Lindsay would be a full workhorse, I think he’d rank week-to-week similarly to Gordon’s previous ranking as a mid-RB2. Based on those expectations and the other players in his range, Lindsay comes in as my RB35. If you went zero RB early in drafts, Lindsay will get touches and provide a floor to your fantasy team. At that price, I think he’s a fine choice.

 

Noah Fant

In 2019, Fant had a solid rookie season for a tight end. Most tight ends take at least one or two seasons before becoming relevant, so his TE16 finish as a rookie was rather impressive. He caught 40 of 66 targets for 562 yards and three touchdowns and was the Broncos’ second receiving target behind Sutton.

While Fant should take a massive step forward in Year 2, he also will suffer from the increased competition for targets. To make up for that, he can score more than three touchdowns if he plays all 16 games again, so he has room for positive touchdown regression. However, the Broncos did select Okwuebugnam in the fourth round, who played with Lock at Missouri and excelled in a red zone role there. Therefore, those two factors could cancel each other out.

I have Fant as my TE12, but I probably won’t have any shares of him in 2020. I prefer other tight ends in his range, and my tight end strategy for 2020 isn’t likely to acquire shares of Fant. I’m trying to get an early tight end in most of my drafts, and failing that, I’m planning to wait until the end of the draft and pick a couple of late fliers. I think Fant will have significant hype and likely won’t fall far enough for me to choose as a flier. As a side note, I love Fant in dynasty formats, and I think he has extreme long-term upside. 2020 is probably one year too early for the true breakout, however.

 

Jerry Jeudy

The Broncos selected Jeudy with the 15th overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. I previously broke down Jeudy as a pre-draft prospect and did a quick take post-NFL Draft. In the pre-draft article, I saw Jeudy as a potential immediate contributor based on his substantial college numbers and impressive performance at the NFL Combine.

In the pre-draft piece, I did mention that I would be more interested in Jeudy if he went to a team where he could be the immediate top receiver, like the Raiders, 49ers, or Jets. Unlike what some might think, Jeudy will not compete with Sutton for the top receiver role, at least not in Year 1. With his level of draft capital and lack of competition on the depth chart, Jeudy will be an immediate starter in all offensive sets alongside Sutton but is the clear #2 WR. 

In the post-draft take, I projected Jeudy around my WR35, although I didn’t know the Broncos would select Hamler in the second round at that time. Based on that selection and reviewing my rankings, Jeudy comes out as my WR40. While he is my top rookie receiver in redraft, I don’t expect him to last until that stage in drafts. Fantasy owners are always excited to draft the shiny new toy, so I doubt I’ll grab many Jeudy shares in 2020. 

 

Drew Lock

Lock is a massive wild-card going into the 2020 season. The Broncos selected Lock in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, Lock missed the first 11 games of 2019 with a thumb injury, so he only suited up to play five games. He played pretty well in real-life, completing 64.1% of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns compared to only three interceptions. He also added 18 rushing attempts for 72 yards.

However, Lock wasn’t a good fantasy quarterback during that period. He only averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game and wasn’t a high-volume passer, throwing only 204 yards per game. Even though the Broncos added many weapons to the team, it’s just hard to assume that Lock will take a step forward that we haven’t seen in real-life. I have Lock as my QB19, but his opening schedule isn’t that great. He starts at home against the Titans where the Broncos are a 2-point favorite according to SportsBettingDime, one of only two teams who’ve opened as a one-score favorite at home to start the season, followed by a road trip to the Steelers. I think I’ll look elsewhere for a streamer in redraft.

 

Dart Throws

The Broncos don’t have any dart throws I rank in my draftable range or even that I find worth considering for redraft. If Gordon or Lindsay goes down, Freeman will likely find relevance, but it’s certainly not worth drafting him. Also, Hamler could flash in a downfield role, but he’s not someone to look at right away. Stick to the players listed above for the Broncos.


Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Karp. I love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out at any time! I take fantasy questions and help with all formats, so keep sending those questions my way.

Previous Redraft Team Focus Articles: Giants, Cardinals, Titans, Bills, Saints, Steelers, Vikings, Chiefs, Cowboys, 49ers, Texans, Jets, Panthers, Browns, Packers

jkarp

Columbia SPS Sports Management graduate. Director of content, writer, and ranker for @DFF_Redraft and writer for @DFF_Dynasty. #DFFArmy #FantasyFootball You can find me on Twitter @DFF_Karp.

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