For a fourth straight season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some actual in-depth football knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer. This installment comes courteous of Bronco Mike from leading Denver Broncos blog Mile High Report (date of interview – August 15):
1) Thanks for sitting down with us! The Broncos RB situation is as cloudy as a Seattle morning. Montee Ball has gotten a lot of the rookie buzz, Ronnie Hillman has gotten praise and Knowshon Moreno showed he could get it done after Willis McGahee got hurt last year. Who do you think emerges out of the three to get the most work this season?
Early on it will most definitely be Ronnie Hillman. Right now I’m dissecting training camp play by plays from a buddy of mine who attends camp everyday and keeps pretty detailed records, especially of 11 on 11′s. While both have been splitting reps with the 1′s, Hillman is seeing more quality carries than Montee Ball who runs against the 2′s about as much as he does against the 1′s. Going further (I’m only done with two practice through from the last week), Hillman has had 10 rushes for 85 yards and a TD while Montee has 16 rushes for 51 yards and 4 receptions out of 4 targets from the backfield.
Hillman’s gaudy numbers aren’t the result of one huge run either, he has consistently carried the ball for chunks thus far. Montee on the other hand, he’s a rookie. He’s in the exact same position Hillman struggled in last year. Montee will get some playing time, and may push for more carries eventually, but Hillman is the starter for now. Ball isn’t going to make a huge impact until the game slows down for him and he can trust the great vision I know he has.
Knowshon Moreno is the trusted vet who can fill in for someone if they can go down, he can also give other folks some breathers. But his days as a feature back in the NFL are over. He’s just not durable enough.
For fantasy football purposes however, I wouldn’t take any RB on the Denver Broncos until someone proves they can carry the load and be consistent.
2) Wes Welker is a huge acquisition for you guys, giving you three elite WRs for Peyton to dissect defenses. What sort of numbers do you see from Welker this year?
That is up for a lot of debate. Last season Brandon Stokley put up 45 catches on 58 targets for 544 yards and 5 TD. Jacob Tamme had 52 receptions on 85 targets for 555 yards and 2 TD’s. That is important to note because Tamme was often used in the slot like a WR would be. Folks shouldn’t expect Welker to have the sort of numbers he put up in NE especially since he won’t be the feature receiver in Denver like he was there. But I think it is entirely possible for him to get at least 80 catches for 850-950 yards and 6-8 TD’s. His redzone use will go up here in Denver as will his TD receptions.
3) Last year I was all in on Eric Decker, but Demaryius Thomas really stole the show. I still think Decker is awesome, but Thomas has shown he’s elite. Stemming from the question above, do you expect them to both be close to replicating last year’s numbers? Or will the acquisition of Welker cannibalize the production of all 3 WRs?
Demaryius was definitely that big play receiver. I don’t know how many deep balls (20+ yards down the field) I saw Manning throw to Thomas. One thing is clear, Manning will take shots to Thomas and trust his big WR to go up and make plays. I saw it over and over where with Thomas more than any other receiver, Manning would pick a spot to throw to, no matter how ridiculous it may seem at the time, and not only would the ball be where the defender couldn’t get to it, but Thomas would seemingly go up and get anything. Go back to game footage and watch some of the sick catches Thomas made–a one-handed grab in the endzone against the Chiefs to close the season pops into my head right away. One interesting stat to throw out there–in 141 targets to Demaryius Thomas, Peyton Manning was never intercepted.
More than anything, I think Welker might hurt Decker who is more of a possession type receiver. Don’t get me wrong, Decker can produce big plays, but certainly not to the extent of Thomas. An interesting note from last year, Decker had more TD receptions than Thomas (12 to 10), but many of those came in the redzone where he was one of Manning’s favorite targets. Like I said before, I see Welker having better matchups in this area especially with these two on the outside. So expect Deckers TD reception numbers to go down a bit.
4) I said on our Football QB Preview Podcast that I think Peyton Manning with an ADP in the middle of the 3rd round in standard leagues is way too high. I know he has the weapons, but I’m worried about a) big leads early in games playing against teams in that division and b) a bad hit hurting that surgically repaired neck. Do either of those factors bother you when thinking about Peyton’s end of year numbers?
Absolutely not. The Broncos had big leads late in games through a majority of their late season contests last year. In fact 4 out of the last 5 games of the season, the Broncos won by at least two scores. In those games his statline is 96-136 (70.5%), 1157 yards (289 per game), with 8 TD’s. There was a stretch early on where he posted 5 consecutive games with at least a 70% completion percentage and 3 TD’s. During that stretch he averaged 316 yards per game.
Injuries don’t bother me. He measured the 2nd quickest release on all drop backs last season amongst quarterbacks and was sacked 21 times last season. I’ve expressed a personal opinion that the Broncos might keep him on a “pitch count” so to speak at least during the weeks to ensure his arm strength remains at the highest level throughout the season–especially for a potential super bowl run. But to see if that actually comes to fruition is entirely different matter completely.
5) I absolutely loved Jacob Tamme heading into last year, but he didn’t really do too much. Joel Dreessen gave the Broncos a nice 1-2 punch at TE, but effectively made neither guy a fantasy-usable TE in standard leagues. With the addition of Welker, I’d assume there would be constant 3 WR sets and virtually no 2 TE sets. If that’s the case could one of these guys step up to play most downs and be a fantasy sleeper?
Someone who has emerged as a sleeper this training camp is 3rd year player Julius Thomas. He was drafted in the 4th round out of Portland State in the 2011 NFL draft. He was a one year player who was actually a college basketball player. He was drafted in that strike shortened season with no offseason, gained much of his initial experience with Tim Tebow at the helm, and then suffered an injury that lingered off and on throughout last season.
He has talent, that’s for sure, and while I’ve been skeptical, he has shown me a unique skillset this training camp/pre season. His blocking has improved immensely (which is a huge plus for an offense like the Broncos who figure to run their offense out of 11 personnel most of the time like you mention) and can create mismatches receiving anywhere on the field. To be fair, he’s also seen a lot of time because the other two Broncos starters Tamme and Dreessen have been a bit banged up, but he’s made the most of it.
Generally speaking, I would stay away from Broncos RB’s and TE’s in fantasy football, but Julius Thomas should be on everyone’s radar. For that matter, the two you should look at the most are Julius Thomas and Joel Dreessen. Dreessen is also a well rounded TE suited for 11 personnel who can also catch the ball. Between he and Tamme, Dreessen outperformed especially in the redzone. I always saw Tamme brought in on longer 3rd down opportunities to move the chains.
Bronco Mike is a staff writer for Mile High Report. He provides unique and detailed analysis of the Broncos on MHR through film study, statistical analysis, and game theory. He also isn’t afraid to mix it up and trash talk with fans from opposing teams. Follow him on twitter @Bronco_Mike251.