QB Peyton Manning (QB - #7) - Gamble (high risk)
The focus of Denver's offensive camp was pace and timing. The offensive needs to work like clockwork around the actions of Peyton Manning. Manning's play calling and audible skills will only be as good as his supporting cast. I think Manning has enough weapons that this Denver team will be one to watch. Bringing Manning to town was a great move for Denver. Manning will have his freedom and the support of ownership. The call to-date will be a hybrid offense that consists of some of what Peyton used in Indy and part of the effective Denver running game that was abadonned last season. I think Manning will be good to go.
Update 8/26/12: I am beiginning to think of Manning as less of a gamble. He looked close to the Manning of old against San Francisco and the offense seems to be coming together. We will still have to wait to see the real deal when we enter Weeks 1-3, but he might be a pleasant surprise for those of us who scored him very late in drafts.
QB Brock Osweiler (QB - #46) - Dynasty Only
Brock Osweiler will serve as one of three back-up QBs. The thing to watch is Osweiler's ability to play Manning's schemes. If he shows that he has it, he might secure himself a starting gig down the road - two to three years. We'll get a look at Brock in pre-season. I think he will likely be better than Caleb Hanie.
RB Ronnie Hillman (RB - #47) - Sleeper (undervalued)
Hillman is nursing a - what is called - non-significant hamstring injury. I suspect it is just that and we will see Hillman and the pre-season progresses.
Hillman was drafted to provide the passing game a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, replace Knowshon Moreno and help spell Willis McGahee. We will have to see how these three compete this season for carries and while they all have potential, McGahee has the early edge. Peyton Manning can make a back's job easy with play calls and should be a great teacher as Hillman gets with the program. The shifty rookie will get carries this season, but I think Denver will be a big RBBC approach until things shuffle out with roles. Hillman will be drafted in leagues, just how early is a good question.
RB Lance Ball (RB - #76) - Deep-league Only
Ball tends to fall into the third down back pile in Denver. His special teams play and ability to run downhill give him some different qualities than some of the other backs. Jerimiah Johnson might steal some of Ball's third down carries this season, but these backs differ in style of play from Hillman, McGahee and Moreno. Ball has a defined role and will be used accordingly. He is also good for ta big game every once in a while.
Update 8/26/12: Ball appears to be working at the #2 RB position as Ronnie Hillman re-injured him hamstring. Watch the RBBC approach in Denver. McGahee is number one, but Ball could pick up significant work in this scenario and be worth something until Hillman returns.
RB Knowshon Moreno (RB - #88) - Over the Hill (decreased production)
Update 8/26/12: Moreno is on the roster bubble at this point. He has failed to impress during preseason and the number of backs in Denver could push him out. We will see soon.
Moreno might have seen more work than anticipated in pre-season thus far. I was hopeful that we would see him spark something and gain some fantasy interest. I am not sold yet as to his cemented role in the offense, but I do like that he is seeing action and given the chance to prove himself. If Moreno can challenge McGahee, Ball and Hillman then I think he will get more chances then expected and provide some interesting fantasy value.
Moreno might find himself without much work this season. Willis McGahee will be coming back to start and Denver drafted Ronnie Hillman. Lance Ball and Jerimiah Johnson also exist on the Mile-Higher roster. Moreno has not been what Denver hoped for when they drafted him to take the lead rushing role and Hillman is projected to replace him. We will have to sit back and watch how this RBBC unfold.
WR Demaryius Thomas (WR - #17) - Solid/Safe Pick
Thomas had a solid second part of last season under Tim Tebow. He will now have to get used to Peyton Manning, and fast. For Thomas to be effective he will need to elevate his level of play and constantly work to improve. Thomas has great natural ability and will be a solid wide out this season if he can work with Manning's systems and get to where he needs to be on the field. Route running will be a key element for Thomas this season.
Thomas appears to be getting into sync with Manning and his timing is becoming better by the week if not day. Watch for this duo to light things up.
WR Eric Decker (WR - #25) - Solid/Safe Pick
Decker is one of the biggest targets for Peyton Manning. Decker played well last season under Kyle Orton. For Decker to be successful this season he needs to really learn Denver's new playbook and be ready to learn from Manning. Decker will play opposite Thomas and this combination could prove to be highly effective. Decker must be up for the challenge and produce day in and day out. If he does all will pay out nicely.
Decker has a minor groin strain, but it did not keep him down during pre-season against Chicago.
Update 8/26/12: Decker and Manning seem to be putting the pieces together. Two TD receptions is not bad for the big wide out. I am beginning to expect more from Decker and would consider him in my wide out fantasy rotation.
WR Brandon Stokley (WR - #85) - Deep-league Only
Come on, you have to love the Stokley - Peyton Manning comeback story. When healthy, Stokley is one of the best slot receivers in the league, or he was anyway, but now he's poised to flash that form now the reunion with his former Indy QB is taking place. Of course, Stokley's slot in the Broncos passing game hierarchy is sketchy and regardless will be behind the two starting receivers plus Jacob Tamme. Upside is iffy, but if Peyton starts looking his way early and often, we could have a bye-week fill-in on our hands, especially in PPR.
WR Andre Caldwell (WR - #105) - Deep-league Only
Caldwell looks to factor into the Denver wide out squad as a slot receiver. He will compete with Brandon Stokely for this job and that might be difficult given Stokely's history with Manning. However, Stokely is aging and Caldwell could fit nicely if needed.
TE Jacob Tamme (TE - #16) - Solid/Safe Pick
Tamme follows Peyton Manning to Denver from Indy and now battles for playing team with Joel Dressen. Both have both been reported to be working with the first team, but expect Tamme to be the primary option (We might even get to see the athletic Julius Thomas if he gets worked into some plays, but...). Tamme is a solid pick with his knowlegde of the playbook and he might be favored by Manning.
TE Joel Dreessen (TE - #35) - Deep-league Only
Dreessen joins Denver this season. He is another big TE target for Manning. I think he an Tamme will rotate in the position and be assigned to plays that best fit their skillsets. Look for Dressen and Tamme to be on draft lists. The order they go in could be interesting.
PK Matt Prater (K - #8) - Solid/Safe Pick
Prater kicked game-winning field goals in nearly half of Denver's 2001 campaign. He is a solid kicker who rarely misses an extra point and has just over a 78% career field goal percentage. Prater wil be worth your draft this season with a Manning led offense.
Denver Defense (Def - #16) - Bye Week Fill-in
Denver's defense is working to iron out the wrinkles. They have plenty of speed down the sides of the field and now has to work on containment of the run and tackling. This defense has the ability they now have to put it all together. I am looking forward to seeing how this defense progresses with such a power projected offense.