The presence of Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform proved to be a game-changer in his first year in 2012. He showed that he was healthy enough from multiple neck surgeries to return to elite status as an NFL quarterback.
He wasn't quite 100 percent, either, so we can expect similar production from him in 2013, assuming he stays uninjured through 16 games. As long as he's under center, he makes the rest of the offense better. A young yet above-average offensive line has the task of keeping him upright, and the addition of Louis Vasquez should make that easier.
Another toy for Manning
A healthy Manning coincided with breakout years from wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Tight end Jacob Tamme was valuable for stretches and matchup plays. New addition Wes Welker makes Denver perhaps the most explosive offense in the league. Manning is a kid in a candy shop. Now he's ready to go to back to work.
Behind him, backs Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and second-round draft pick Montee Ball await. All four of those backs would probably start, if not serve a prominent role, in any other club's running attack. While McGahee and Moreno are likely fighting for one roster spot, Hillman and Ball figure to fight for significant touches.
My head is already spinning from the possibilities.
Even if McGahee or Moreno are cut before Week 1, there is a ton of talent and mouths to feed in Denver. Head coach John Fox, the rest of the coaching staff and No. 18 would have it no other way. They'll be able to create plenty of confusion in opposing defenses, and mismatches will present themselves often.
Pick your poison. That sorta thing.
Fantasy owners may be faced with the same concept. Every fantasy option in Denver will be a hot commodity, but there may be some frustration that accompanies that. Welker was often considered a WR1 in point-per-reception leagues while in New England. Not anymore. Even he conceded that he shouldn't be counted on for Patriot-like production in his new digs.
If you owned a pass catcher from the Green Bay Packers last season, you know what I'm referring to. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb… So many options. Big-time offensive production as a whole, but it was impossible to predict individual performances on a weekly basis.
While Denver doesn't have as many top-notch options overall, the three they do have will certainly have to make individual sacrifices here and there that will keep fantasy gamers honest. Don't get me wrong, they all deserve to be owned, but they won't all be WR1s in this offense.
The running back situation is similar. While Manning acknowledged that they're expecting more out of Hillman in his second year, the fact remains that he'll likely be the No. 2 back in Week 1, barring injuries. Hillman and Ball both have the skills to be every-down backs in the NFL, but in Denver, they'll probably be used in a variety of ways to give opposing Ds new looks.
The situation should clear up more in training camp in July, but based on the potential for this offense, as many as three backs from this stable could warrant ownership on fantasy rosters.
At the end of the day, the safest fantasy option in Denver is easily Manning. He's running the show and will be the biggest beneficiary of the addition of Welker and all of the other weapons Denver has at their disposal. He won't come cheap, obviously, so your aggressiveness in pursuing him will depend on how confident you are in his health and his ability to repeat 2012.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
Don't miss these great reports....