Training camps. Fantasy football mock drafts. The Home Run Derby. Beer.


During this phenomenal month of anticipation, I plan to bring some fantasy football insight for each team in the NFL. I’ve creatively coined this “32 Teams in 32 Days”.

Man, my originality has hit an ESPN low, hasn’t it?

But what better way to start this series of blog posts than to do so with one of the more controversial teams in the league? I’m talking about the Tim Tebow-less Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are completely revamped on offense simply because the man who had worn blue and white his whole professional career is now in the Mile High City. Peyton Manning is a Bronco.

Just what kind of impact will the Manning-led Broncos have on the 2012 fantasy landscape? Here’s my take:

The fantasy MVP on the Broncos in 2012 will be…

Demaryius Thomas. The wide receiver position is unbelievably deep this year, which means if you don’t get one of the elites, you can definitely wait and still get some very solid guys. And not only that, if one of your wideouts flop, you should still be alright because of the depth at the position. As of today, Thomas has an ADP (average draft position) of 4.10 (4th round, 10th pick) in standard 12-team leagues. Meanwhile, his teammate, Eric Decker, is being drafted just a round and a half after him. I like Thomas a lot more than I like Decker.

While Manning does love going to guys coming out of the slot (Austin Collie, Brandon Stokely), he’s also historically been able to make his number 1 wideout the best in fantasy football.

Mind you, we’re talking about Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, and Demaryius isn’t there yet. But Thomas did show some signs that he can compete during the December and January months of last year’s season.  In fact, 60% of his final 5 games ended in double-digit fantasy scores, including a 26-point performance Week 13 against Minnesota. And don’t forget about the playoffs where Thomas torched a solid Steelers’ secondary.

With more looks, I expect Demaryius to end up being a low-end WR1 in most leagues. He’s being drafted as the 17-19 wide receiver right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at 10 or 11 at season’s end.

The player I’m afraid of most is…

Willis McGahee. What? Not Manning? No, not Peyton.

While McGahee is being drafted as a low-end RB2/high-end flex play, we need to realize that this is the same Willis McGahee that disappointed us for plenty of years throughout his career. And this Willis McGahee will be 31 in October of this season, creeping up on 2,000-career rushes.

The Broncos running back situation is confusing and crowded too. They have rookie Ronnie Hillman, a decent Lance Ball and potentially Knowshon Moreno fighting for touches. And not only that, Manning isn’t one to dump it off to the running back in the passing game. In 2010, his last season playing in the NFL, he only threw 10% of his passes to the guy coming out of the backfield.

I think McGahee is most definitely draftable, but round 6 in a 12-team league is a bit early. I value him around the 30-35th ranked running back this year.

The guy you shouldn’t sleep on is…

Peyton Manning. BOOM. I said it.

He’s the 8th ranked quarterback off the board right now, going right before his brother in the mid 6th round in most 12-team leagues. While I’ll warn you not to draft a quarterback even this early, if Manning stays healthy and continues with this ADP, you could get a steal.

Of the seasons he’s played, Peyton has finished outside of the top 10 in fantasy zero times. In fact, aside from his rookie season, he’s been in the top 7 every single season.

In addition, Manning has thrown 30 or more touchdowns in 6 of his 13 seasons (46.2%). Compare that to Brees (40%), Brady (30%) and Rodgers (50%), and you see that he’s right there with them in terms of touchdown pass production.

I understand there is risk with Manning because he’s coming off a near-career-ending injury, but if you want to talk risk and early round quarterback picks, look at guys like Michael Vick and Cam Newton. Vick has played a full 16-game season once in his career. Newton just came off the most unbelievable statistical season from a rookie quarterback, and we’ve seen just a small sample of what he can and can’t do. Regardless of what you want to say – that’s risk. And those players are going in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of drafts.

At least we know what to expect from a healthy Manning: Greatness. There’s little chance that he ends up being unstartable if he stays healthy all season, and, as history shows us, he’s going to finish as a top 50% starter.

I just don’t see why you shouldn’t take a risk on him if he’s there in the middle rounds of your draft. I’ll take a chance on Manning’s well-being over Michael Vick’s health any day of the week.

The one word to describe the 2012 Broncos is…

Risky. You’re taking a gamble with any of these players. That’s why I wouldn’t draft any of them before the end of round 4 in most leagues. If you’re getting a guy like Demaryius Thomas, try to get a consistent wide receiver – even if he’s a consistent WR2 – to balance your lineup. If you’re going to take a chance with Peyton, make sure you’re not reaching for him. His ADP, and value, are pretty accurate right now. He’s just got a pretty high ceiling.