Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was brought in via trade
by the Broncos the day before the draft, signaling that the team
would no longer be targeting a quarterback with their first round
draft pick. That turned out to be true as Denver now enters the
preseason with a quarterback competition between Bridgewater and
2020 starter Drew Lock. Bridgewater joins the team after having
started 15 games for the Panthers in 2020. He threw for a career
high 69.1 completion percentage, as well as career highs in both
passing yardage (3,733) and touchdowns (15). Despite this, Bridgewater
narrowly held on to a top-20 quarterback season and without a
substantial change to his play style, he’s probably never going
to be a QB1 for fantasy, even though he’s joining a Denver team
that is loaded at the skill positions.
Bridgewater’s checkdown style does benefit running backs in the
passing game as well as short-to-intermediate pass catchers like
Noah Fant. Him being the starter probably isn’t ideal for wide
receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, however, and it would
likely be especially poor for deep threat KJ
Current ADPs have Bridgewater and Lock ranked almost identically,
so there doesn’t yet appear to be a consensus on which player
will actually end up starting in Week 1, but either way, Bridgewater
is outside even QB2 rankings and should be avoided in everything
other than 2QB and Superflex formats.
Drew Lock showed some promise in the limited playing time he
got as a rookie, but actually seemed to regress in his second
season. Lock’s completion percentage dropped 7% despite
the fact that his yards per attempt stayed at an ugly 6.6. Lock
also showed signs of being a dangerous passer as he ended the
season tied for league-most with 15 interceptions.
Like Bridgewater, the 2020 version of Lock doesn’t give
much hope to fantasy owners. He doesn’t run the ball and
despite the fact that he has plenty of skill position weapons
to work with, the likelihood of Lock suddenly becoming a QB1 for
fantasy just looks very minimal, especially as he’s now
entrenched in a battle for the starting job with Bridgewater.
Lock himself should be avoided for fantasy, other than in very
deep Superflex and 2QB formats, but he does have a substantially
more aggressive play style than Bridgewater, which could potentially
lend itself to some big plays down the field - something that
wide receiver Courtland Sutton is excellent at converting. Lock
and Sutton did have a solid connection in their rookie seasons
back in 2019, which is going a bit under-the-radar right now.
It doesn’t really affect Lock’s value, but it could
be interesting for Sutton.
The shiny, new toy in the Broncos offense is rookie running back
Javonte Williams. The Broncos moved up in the draft to select
Williams early in the second round, a sign that they truly targeted
him as a player they wanted.
Williams rushed for 1,140 and 19 touchdowns in his junior season
at North Carolina, adding 25 receptions for 305 yards and another
three touchdowns in the passing game. He did this despite sharing
the backfield with fellow rookie running back, fourth round Jets
selection Michael Carter. Williams brings excellent agility and
strength but lacks high-end straight line speed, as he ran just
a 4.57 forty yard dash at his pro day, at 5’10”, 212
Williams’ ADP has now actually surpassed 2020 starter Melvin
Gordon’s ADP as fans are excited about a potential new bell
cow fantasy running back. He’s an all-purpose back with
legit RB1 upside for dynasty, but he’s in a tough situation
this season, playing in an offense that is not expected to be
very good, especially through the air. Not to mention, we’ve
seen quite a bit of recent history with even highly-drafted rookie
running backs that would lead us to believe that the Broncos won’t
just completely hand over the reins to Williams. Gordon wasn’t
bad last year and he’s a veteran who understands the offense,
is a quality pass protector, and contributes in all phases of
the game. That type of player typically doesn’t just go
Williams does have league-winning potential if he ends up somehow
taking over as the bell cow in Denver, but the risk is that he
may never play substantially more than 50 percent of snaps in
2021, and the Broncos offense probably isn’t good enough
to boost two running backs to fantasy relevance. If there’s
a full on split, they might not even be good enough to produce
one weekly fantasy starter at RB.
Veteran running back Melvin Gordon skipped OTAs this offseason
which is a risky option if he’s trying to hold onto his
starting job now that the Broncos have invested a high-second
round draft pick on Javonte Williams. Gordon was, however, quietly
solid in 2020 and actually finished just inside RB1 territory
in standard scoring formats.
While it’s easy to see the writing on the wall that Gordon’s
time as the bellcow back in Denver is probably over, we’ve also
seen recent situations where veteran starters have held off perceived
stud rookie running backs much longer than we had initially believed
they would. Examples include Miles Sanders not being able to supplant
Jordan Howard, Nick Chubb not being able to supplant Carlos Hyde,
Jonathan Taylor not being able to supplant Nyheim Hines, J.K.
Dobbins not being able to supplant Gus Edwards, Cam Akers not
being able to supplant Malcolm Brown and Darrell Williams, and
We might end up seeing Williams play on a lot of passing downs,
which could limit Gordon quite a bit in PPR formats, but there’s
still a good likelihood that Gordon is the top back in the offense
at least to start the season. This could make him an attractive
later-round complementary option for those who have invested in
other running backs similar to Williams who might not start the
season as starters but are expected to eventually take over as
their team’s lead back.
The point here isn’t that Williams is worse than Gordon,
but rather that NFL coaching staffs can oftentimes be extraordinarily
frustrating for fantasy owners. This could mean a much longer-than-expected
“starting” role for Gordon. He could be a value, particularly
early in the season.
Courtland Sutton was one of the hottest second-year receivers
coming into the 2020 season, but suffered an unfortunate season-ending
torn ACL and MCL in Week 1. Now heading into his third professional
season, Sutton appears to be fully rehabilitated and ready to
He’s currently flying under the radar in a lot of drafts,
likely due to the uncertainty surrounding his knee and, of course,
the ugly quarterback situation in Denver. But with a physical
specimen like Sutton who can make his own plays on even poorly-thrown
passes, the upside is still there.
Sutton was the absolute alpha in the offense prior to being injured,
but is now surrounded by much stronger supporting talent, including
second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy. The Broncos also drafted KJ
Hamler last year and saw improvements from Tim Patrick, which
may limit Sutton’s overall target share.
The quarterback situation here isn’t great no matter if
it’s Lock or Bridgewater behind center, but Sutton’s
fantasy owners should be cheering for Lock to win the job. While
he’s not nearly as accurate as Bridgewater, Lock has a much
stronger tendency to push the ball down the field, which would
benefit a player like Sutton. A QB like Bridgewater who plays
much more conservatively and doesn’t look deep nearly as
often could allow the Broncos offense as a whole to be better
and certainly avoid turnovers, but it could be a big blow for
someone like Sutton.
One of the league leaders in unrealized air yards as a rookie,
Jerry Jeudy was unable to get into a consistent rhythm with quarterback
Drew Lock in 2020. Unfortunately he’ll likely have to deal
with some truly bad quarterback play again as the Broncos opted
to pass on quarterback in the draft, instead turning to a competition
between the disappointing Lock and veteran Teddy Bridgewater.
It’s worth noting that Jeudy didn’t help his quarterbacks
at times, as he was also one of the league leaders in dropped
passes, but he was overall quite good on a per-snap basis. His
route running appeared to be excellent and he finished the season
with 856 yards on 52 catches. Jeudy will now be joined by 2019
rookie Courtland Sutton, who missed almost the entire 2020 season
with a torn ACL and MCL, which should allow Jeudy to see less
attention from the defense, even if it will likely also mean fewer
total targets for him.
Unlike Sutton who could see a serious downgrade in efficiency
if Bridgewater becomes the starter, Jeudy is the kind of receiver
who could make things happen regardless of which quarterback is
throwing him the ball. He’s a tactician as a route runner
while still having the ability to make plenty of plays down the
field. That, along Sutton’s rehabilitated knee, makes Jeudy
the safer of the two starting Broncos receivers, even if he doesn’t
have quite the upside this season that Sutton could.
2020 was a fairly disappointing and ultimately mediocre fantasy
season for third-year tight end Noah Fant, who finished the season
as the 15th-highest scoring tight end in standard scoring formats.
Fant had plenty of hype from those who opted to wait on tight
ends in their fantasy drafts, but he failed to live up to expectations
and ended up with just three touchdowns on the year.
On a positive note, Fant did fly a bit under the radar as he
finished seventh among tight ends in total receptions and he was
also one of the league leaders at the position in yards after
the catch. This information contributes some factual information
to the idea that Fant might just not be getting utilized well
enough in the Denver offense.
While he hasn’t yet put it together for a full season,
we have seen moments of greatness. He’s a lightning bolt
at the position and he can be a nightmare matchup for the less
athletic defenses throughout the league.
Unfortunately, in an offense as loaded with pass catchers as
Denver’s is, there’s also a pretty good chance that
Fant doesn’t see enough targets to really break out. He’s
typically being drafted in the second half of starting tight ends
during drafts, which is probably closer to his ceiling than those
who’ve drafted him would like to admit. There are quite
a few other tight ends going near him in drafts that provide a
higher floor plus ceiling combination than Fant does in 2020,
so it’s probably best to look elsewhere unless he slips
outside the top 10 tight ends in your draft.