The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
Denver Broncos (5-11)
I found myself duped into thinking Trevor Siemian would take a step forward in his second year as the Broncos starting quarterback, though I suppose the warning signs were there as he only really won the gig by default after Paxton Lynch suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason. Siemian’s passing stats regressed in nearly every major category, and he was even benched for a few games mid-season until a shoulder injury of his own (suffered during the Broncos’ Week 14 win against the Colts) prematurely ended his 2017 campaign. Brock Osweiler was brought back on board last September as a result of the Lynch injury, making a few spot-starts in Weeks 9, 10, 11, and 16, and showing everyone why the Broncos were so reluctant to give him a long-term deal at the end of the 2015 season. Paxton Lynch made starts in Weeks 12 and 17, and was borderline horrific in both. Injury prone and seemingly incapable of playing quarterback at the NFL level, the Broncos are expected to make a decision about his future with the team sometime between now and training camp. With quarterback being essentially the only thing holding the Broncos back from being a legitimate playoff contender, they are expected to either make a run in free agency (there’s talk of heavy interest in Kirk Cousins) or take another shot in the first round of April’s draft. Siemian appears best suited as a backup at this point, while Osweiler and Lynch could be goners depending on how free agency and the draft play out.
Props to C.J. Anderson for being able to churn out 1,000 rushing yards in the Broncos abomination of an offense, though his path to get there wasn’t pretty. Anderson started 2017 hot out of the gate, with 397 total yards and two touchdowns over Weeks 1 through 4, while averaging 20.8 touches per contest. After the Broncos Week 5 bye, Anderson had a seven-game skid where he amassed just 299 total yards and one touchdown while averaging just 10.7 touches per contest. Anderson then closed out his 2017 season with 535 total yards and a score over his final five games while averaging 22.8 touches per contest; all this after most fantasy owners (myself included) had given up on him. Additionally, Anderson was able to pass the durability test by playing in all 16 games for the first time in his five-year NFL career and should be able to return RB2 value in 2018 so long as the volume is there. Jamaal Charles was signed in the last off-season as a change-of-pace back with the potential for more. Charles did end up leading the Broncos backfield in yards-per-carry (YPC) but was never given more than 10 touches in any game and was essentially phased out of the offense over the final quarter of the season. Now 31 years old, Charles is most likely not in the Broncos’ 2018 plans. A wrist injury cost Devontae Booker most of training camp, as well as the first three games of the regular season. Hyped at various times during the season as someone who could steal Anderson’s starting job, Booker never once went over 44 yards rushing and averaged below 4.0 YPC for the second season in a row. Going into 2018, Booker projects as a passing down specialist at best.
Demaryius Thomas once again led the Broncos in receiving for the sixth consecutive season, though his 949 yards was his lowest total since 2011 (breaking a streak of five straight 1,000 yard seasons) and his 11.4 yards-per-catch were the lowest of his career. Now on the wrong side of 30, Thomas is probably more of a WR3 in fantasy circles than the WR2 he was being drafted as last summer, unless the Broncos receive a talent injection at the quarterback position. In addition to quarterback woes, Emmanuel Sanders battled an ankle injury that plagued him from Week 6 onward, causing him to miss four games and hobbled him in several others, thus resulting in Sanders’ worst receiving stats as a member of the Broncos. As with Thomas, Sanders’ expectations for 2018 should be severely tempered barring a quarterback upgrade. What both Thomas and Sanders do have going for them however, is that they remain the top pass-catchers on their team with little competition for targets at their position or from the tight ends.
The Broncos have been searching for someone to fill Julius Thomas‘ shoes at tight end ever since he left for Jacksonville via free agency after the 2014 season and it appears the search will continue this off-season. A.J. Derby began 2017 atop the Broncos depth chart and while he did have a couple of decent games (4-75-1 in Week 4 and 6-66-0 in Week 7) it wasn’t enough to save his roster spot after suffering a shoulder injury in Week 10 as Derby was waived shortly thereafter. Derby was eventually claimed off waivers by the Miami Dolphins, which is where he remains for the time being. Virgil Green is a guy many fantasy experts have been long awaiting a breakout from and going into his age-30 season, it’s safe to say that ship has long since sailed. The Broncos tight end position projects as a wasteland yet again for 2018 barring any significant off-season upgrades to the position.