Fantasy Football Team Previews: AFC West

Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

records 2021: 7-10

Notable coaching and system changes

When Denver fired Vic Fangio and named Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hacket as the new head coach, speculation grew that he was paving the way for the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers. Although that never materialized, the Broncos pulled the trigger to add a franchise quarterback in longtime Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

Hackett has hired the Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten to be the new OC, so we’ll see if we get a variant of the Matt LaFleur system at Mile High this year. Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs Coach Ejiro Evero was hired as a defensive coordinator.

Major Free Agent Additions

  • QB Russell Wilson (acquired from Seattle Seahawks)

Top Free Agent Departures

  • QB Teddy Bridgewater (Miami Dolphins)
  • QB Drew Lock (traded to Seattle)
  • TE Noah Fant (transferred to Seattle)

Main additions to the draft

  • TE Greg Dulcich (Round 3)

Quarterback Preview

After winning the Super Bowl in 2015, the Broncos spent six seasons in quarterback purgatory, failing to finish above .500 or qualify for the playoffs during that span. The acquisition of Russell Wilson is supposed to change that. Wilson was considered an elite quarterback for most of his NFL career.

Outside of the short-lived ‘Let Russ Cook’ phase in 2020, he’s spent much of his time operating as Plan B, with Seattle preferring to rely on the ground game. Wilson comes into a good spot with talent around him. It should provide a mid-range QB1 value.

Running back overview

While it might not be quite the equal of what Hackett had to work with in Green Bay, the backfield combination of Melvin Gordon (203-918-8) and Javonte Williams (203-903-4) is still going strong.

Despite being the less explosive of the two in 2021, which was especially apparent after a Week 14 knee injury, Williams has a brighter future. The second-round pick in last year’s draft proved to be a tough runner, and he showed better-than-expected hands by adding 43 receptions out of the backfield – it was the fourth-most in the league. ‘team.

A year ago you could have called the then-rookie 1b to Gordon’s 1a, but this season expect Williams’ workload to reach fantastic value as a strong RB2.

That’s not to say Gordon won’t have an important role. Denver re-signed him just before the draft, and he should get plenty of shots alongside fellow former Badger Wilson in the backfield. Now 29, Gordon still has the speed to take it home and is a quality receiver. However, ill-timed fumbles continue to follow in his footsteps, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams get more short-range/goal-line work. Gordon is an RB3/flex.

Wide Receiver Overview

There may not be anyone at the level of DK Metcalf here, but on paper it’s the best depth of talent Wilson has worked with. The question is who will become his favorite(s)? The best candidates are Courtland Suttonwhich led Denver to host in 2021, and jerry jedywho had a strong rookie year before his sophomore season was derailed with a sprained ankle in Week 1.

Many considered Jeudy the best receiver in the 2020 draft thanks to his skillful running and ability to work all over the court. He didn’t have the impact of Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson, taken seven spots later, but at 23, there’s still plenty of time left.

At this point, Jeudy is a solid WR3 with an edge; his arrest on May 12 raises questions, although it is too early to know what, if anything, will happen.

Sutton broke through in 2019, but a torn ACL cost him most of 2020, and he wasn’t as productive last year. While how much of that speaks to any erosion of Sutton from the shaky quarterback game is unclear, he feels better suited as a midrange WR3 with a lower ceiling.

Tim Patrick (53-734-5) was a great find, but lacks the physical edge of the pair listed above. Still, Patrick could be targeted as a late-round depth.

Fast slot man KJ Hamler is coming back from an ACL tear inflicted on him in Week 3 and could be used more as a third outlet than a star target. Other than DFS and best ball, he has no draft value.

Tight end preview

Last season, Noah Fant led the team in receptions with 68. He was part of the price Denver paid to acquire Wilson, so the Broncos will rely on a third-year pro. Albert Okwuegbunam (33-330-2) to take another step forward after an encouraging performance in 2021. He will be joined by a third-round pick Greg Dulcichwho has the speed to make things happen.

Okwuegbunam is an intriguing TE2 type that warrants late consideration in deeper formats.

Dormant/breakout candidates

In 2021, the Williams/Gordon split was as close to 50/50 as possible. In 2022, look for something closer to what Hackett had with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams where, in two seasons together, Jones had a 66/34 advantage. Williams has very real RB1 potential.

Eliminate potential/overvalued players

When Jeudy was injured for six weeks early last season, Sutton averaged 6.2 receptions for 87.5 yards and scored twice. In his other 11 games, Sutton caught 1.9 passes for 22.8 yards per game and didn’t score. Those are worrying numbers for anyone considering Sutton on draft day. That’s not to say he’ll be a total flop, as the QB leveling should be obvious, but don’t assume he automatically rebounds.

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