by Greg Talcott
In a previous article, I said Denver was the top of the class of the AFC West with Kansas City nipping at their heels and I meant it; but that could change by the end of this season. Personally, I think Peyton Manning should have retired after last season. I think a lot of people share that opinion and that list may include John Elway and Gary Kubiak. Manning is no longer the answer at quarterback and the sooner they get to see what they have in Brock Osweiler, the better. While I believe John Elway wants to win a Super Bowl as much or more as an executive as he ever did as a player, I don’t think he expects to win one this season. For Manning’s part, his arm looked dead at the end of last season. Peyton has never thrown the prettiest ball in the world, but it was always where it needed to be and that was not the case in the playoffs last year against Indy. I think the Broncos will have a winning record, but I see no more than 10 wins with a possibility of 8-8 or worse. If they beat Kansas City again this year, it won’t be by much.
For fantasy owners, Manning is still a legitimate QB1 to start the year, but you need a real solid QB2 option or a handcuff with Osweiler because there is no guarantee Manning finishes the year, injuries or not. If he just isn’t able to perform or the Broncos are out of contention he may not keep playing and that is not something you want to chance your whole season on. In dynasty leagues, there is no reason to protect Manning going into the draft – better to start fresh.
The best production for fantasy owners this season will likely be at WR, with Demaryius Thomas being deadly with either QB at the helm. I would expect a slight drop off in receptions and yards as a result of the offense Gary Kubiak wants to run more than anything else. He is still looking at 10 or more TD’s by the end of the season. On the other side of the field, Emmanuel Sanders had a monster year, nearly doubling his yardage total from a year prior in Pittsburgh (1404 in 2014 vs 740 in 2013). Like Thomas, I expect some drop off potential in receptions and/or yardage. Sanders could surpass the 10 TD mark this season with the departure of Julius Thomas to Jacksonville. Speaking of, Julius Thomas has been replaced by Owen Daniels, who would be the most likely recipient of the “Manning Multiplier” when it comes to his normally pedestrian statistics. Owen Daniels is no spring chicken or athletic dynamo, but if he stays healthy, he could end up finding more playing time for fantasy owners than what one might think. He is worth drafting in late rounds or as an early season free agent pickup.
CJ Anderson is going to be taken pretty high in most drafts and while he may be worth his draft position by season end, fantasy owners would be best served having Anderson as an RB2 on their rosters. Anderson had some real boom or bust weeks last year and he will be giving up some opportunities to Montee Ball who is back from injury. Don’t bet the farm on Anderson…
Denver has a solid defense that is close to a weekly play status for owners in 2015 unless you have a more favorable match up option. Like all teams, Denver’s season will likely come down to quarterback play. Just because Manning’s career is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean Denver won’t keep winning. The Packers and Patriots are two teams that did quite well when transitioning from one long tenured successful QB to another; there is no reason the Broncos can’t do the same. If Manning has one more year of magic left in that arm then maybe he can go out on top like, just like John Elway.