The Denver Broncos are the poster children for the disconnect that sometimes occurs between great NFL defenses, great fantasy team defenses and/or teams loaded with IDP talent. Sometimes that disconnect exists because great defensive teams excel at getting off the field in short order. Sometimes it’s because on those defenses the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the case of the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, it’s a little of both, although there are still a few players of particular interest to fantasy owners who play in IDP leagues.
As is often the case with three-man fronts, there isn’t a lot of note for IDP owners along the Broncos defensive line. That’s partly by design. Wade Phillips’ scheme calls for his linemen to primarily take up space and occupy blockers, paving the way for the linebackers behind them to take out the trash. And it’s partly a matter of personnel changes, as after posting 45 tackles, five sacks and top-25 fantasy numbers last season, fifth-year veteran Malik Jackson (DL22) found a new home and a fat paycheck with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The cupboard isn’t entirely bare in Denver though — just close to it. It wasn’t the monster payday Jackson got, but back in January fellow end Derek Wolfe (DL30) inked his own four-year, $37 million extension, telling Troy Renck of The Denver Post he wanted to finish his career in Denver.
“‘I don’t want to leave,” Wolfe said. “I love this city, I love the them, I love the organization, the coaches, my teammates and everything, so I couldn’t be happier. I’m in a place that I love to be, so why would I leave?”
Wolfe isn’t going to single-handedly win fantasy owners any games, but he’s a decent high-floor addition late in IDP drafts as depth or a bye-week fill-in.
Just as with the defensive front, the Broncos suffered a loss among their LB corps in free agency, with Danny Trevathan (LB25) departing for Chicago. The fifth-year pro picked up an every-down gig in the Windy City, but recapturing his per-snap magic from 2015 will be difficult.
“Miller demonstrated that, at the peak of his play, there is no more fearsome edge rusher, as well as the effect a dominant rusher can have on an offense,” PFF’s Sam Monson said. “Miller has an ideal blend of quickness, burst, and bend to completely perplex most blockers tasked with stopping him, and while many players are examples of what you can achieve if you don’t fit the NFL’s ideal prototype measurables profile, Miller is the embodiment of what can happen if you fit it to perfection. Over the regular season, he was a key player on the best defense in the league, but there was no better postseason than the one Von Miller displayed, ending with four-straight dominant displays (including a must-win Week 17 encounter) in which he totaled seven sacks and 30 pressures.”
What Miller doesn’t have is a great deal of IDP value unless your scoring rewards sacks heavily. He’s just too dependent on them to rate as more than a LB4 in tackle-heavy or balanced formats.
No, from an IDP-standpoint the crown jewel of the Broncos defense is inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (LB26), who topped the 100-tackle mark for the second straight season in 2015. With Trevathan gone, Marshall is both guaranteed a three-down role and will see less competition for tackles. It’s a combination that could see the fifth-year pro crack the top 15 in 2016.
The inside track on the starting job next to Marshall appears to belong to third-year pro Todd Davis (LB176), who ran with the first-team in camp last year while Trevathan and Marshall were injured. There’s no guarantee Davis will win the job, or that he’ll earn subpackage snaps if he does. But there’s enough IDP “sleeper” appeal present to make it a situation worth monitoring as we move into the summer.
Get ready for that NFL vs. IDP disconnect again. The Broncos were the NFL’s stingiest pass defense in 2015, allowing fewer than 200 yards a game. And yet the number of Denver players who finished among the top 50 fantasy defensive backs in 2015 numbers exactly zero. Nada. A big fat goose-egg.
As much as I’d love to tell you that’s going to change in 2016, if I did I’d be lying. Strong safety T.J. Ward (DB80) has shown nothing to indicate that he’s going to recapture the DB1 form he once had in Cleveland. Cornerback Aqib Talib (DB59) demonstrated the volatility inherent to his position in IDP leagues last year, falling a full 45 spots after a top-15 finish two years ago. Fellow corner Bradley Roby (DB125) was surprisingly valuable as a rookie in 2014 but saw both his snap count and IDP production decline sharply last year.
It’s possible that one of these DBs could at some point in the 2016 season prove valuable as a waiver pickup or weekly matchup play. So could cornerback Chris Harris (Db61) or free safety Darian Stewart (DB84).
But not a one of them is worth any real draft-day consideration in the overwhelming majority of IDP leagues.
Numbers in parentheses denote 2015 positional finish in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.