You almost have to scrap the 2022 Denver Broncos season entirely. The combination of head coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson clearly didn’t work. With Hackett, the Broncos averaged just 15.46 points per game. After firing him in late December, Denver averaged 27.5 points per game in their final two.
There are, of course, other factors that contributed to their season struggles, but bringing in Sean Payton ahead of the 2023 season should turn things around which could yield worthwhile investments in their players for fantasy football purposes.
Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Preview
Key Subtractions and Additions
Subtractions: Dre’Mont Jones (DE), Chase Edmonds (RB), Mike Boone (RB)
Additions: Sean Payton (head coach), Mike McGlinchey (OT), Ben Powers (OG), Samaje Perine (RB), Zach Allen (DE), Marvin Mims (rookie WR), Jarrett Stidham (QB), Adam Trautman (TE), Chris Manhertz (TE)
After a huge letdown season of just 15.1 fantasy points per game, Russell Wilson is going to be an afterthought for most managers this season. I’m not expecting a QB1 season from Russ, but for the sake of the Broncos, I believe Sean Payton is the right man for the job of getting Russ back on track.
Given the combined $139 million in contract money to offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Ben Powers, I believe Payton’s offense is going to run the ball. A lot. Establishing a strong run game should open things up through the air for Russ in a more efficient manner. While trailing most games early last season, there was a ton of pressure to throw to stay in games. That’s one of the reasons he was sacked 55 times, the most of any quarterback last season.
I think Russell Wilson is more of a streamer for 2023 fantasy football. He is able to extend plays with his legs logging 19.3% of his 2022 fantasy points on the ground. That helps establish somewhat of a stable floor for fantasy football. However, if and when the Broncos find themselves in the red zone this season, it should be a heavy dose of handoffs. That’s going to limit Russ’ weekly ceiling to post QB1 numbers.
Javonte Williams is back on the field participating in OTAs. That’s after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 of the 2022 season. Now, that doesn’t mean Williams is back and ready to play just yet. However, getting reps this early could mean he avoids the Physically Unable to Perform list. If he does go on the list, and still is in some time in mid-to-late August at a specific deadline to come off, he will automatically miss the Denver Broncos’ first four games of the season.
In the meantime, I’m focusing on drafting Samaje Perine as a late-round target in 2023 drafts. At his current Average Draft Position, he is a great value. Perine is an experienced veteran who can run, catch passes, and should play a ton of snaps with the ability to provide pass protection, as well. In a totally revamped Broncos backfield, there are an incredible 92.2% of last year’s running back carries up for grabs.
After Joe Mixon’s exit from a concussion in Week 11 last season for the Cincinnati Bengals, Samaje Perine went on to 30.2 fantasy points after catching three touchdowns. Over the next two weeks, as the starter, he averaged 20.4 points per game in PPR formats.
I believe Perine will be busy early and often during the 2023 season. With a tremendous amount of opportunities available in this backfield, he can produce solid RB2 numbers with room for more if this offense proves to be efficient. Even with Javonte Williams back, it’s hard to imagine him taking on a full workload, especially right away. Sean Payton has a history of working a two-back system so both Perine and Williams should be relevant this fantasy football season. Monitoring Williams’ status during camp will be key to getting this right.
Jerry Jeudy needs to have a big season for the Denver Broncos. After setting career-highs in receptions (67), yards (972) and touchdowns (6) last season, he has a chance to do it all over again by taking another massive step forward. Up until now, Jeudy has primarily caught passes from Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, and last year’s version of Russell Wilson. It’s worth noting in the Denver Broncos’ final five games, Jerry Jeudy averaged 93.6 yards per game. That’s a 17-game pace of 1,591 yards. I don’t expect that with a higher rate of rushing, but Jeudy should come at a discount in drafts with a likeliness to produce high-end WR2 numbers this season.
Courtland Sutton’s name is one that continues to float around in trade rumors. Doing so after June 1 is a $3.8 million dead cap hit this season and $7.6 million hit in 2024 while saving $14.41 million against the 2023 cap. The dead cap hit is the same in 2024 if released or traded before June 1st of next year with a savings of $9.675 million. So, getting a deal done before this season isn’t out of the question.
If he is moved, the options behind Jeudy are Tim Patrick, rookie Marvin Mims Jr., and Marquez Callaway. A Sutton trade creates an incredible opportunity of volume for Jerry Jeudy. It also brings Patrick and Mims into flex consideration. Mims profiles more as a boom-or-bust deep ball threat.
After starting the season with an average of 15.44 fantasy points per game in his first five, Sutton went on to average just 7.22 points in his final 10 games. He’s a solid size and threat in the red zone, but Jeudy is the clear, better talent as far as route running and creating separation go. Sutton projects more as a touchdown-dependent WR3 in an expected run-heavy offense.
Greg Dulcich is the top fantasy option amongst Denver Broncos tight ends. Entering his second season, he could, once again, finish as the third option in this passing game. As a rookie, Dulcich came alive in the back half of the season. He had five or more targets in six of nine games from Weeks 7 to 16 before going on IR with a hamstring injury. That includes exactly eight targets in three of those six.
Dulcich’s 61.7 air yards per game with an average of 11.2 yards of depth per target are signs that he could be an elite playmaker getting open down the field for Russell Wilson. Unfortunately, Dulcich’s 10.2% target share from last year is what holds him back. To make matters worse, the Denver Broncos tight end rooms is that much more crowded in 2023. Trading for Adam Trautman, signing Chris Manhertz, and keeping Albert Okwuegbunam in the mix hurts all of these guys’ value.
I’m not drafting Dulcich, or any Broncos tight end, to be a reliable option for fantasy football. There is a major wait-and-see approach to this offense, especially this tight end group. If he shows signs of carving out a role amongst the other tight ends and in this receiving game, Dulcich will creep closer to the top-12 in rankings. As of now though, he’s carrying just a little bit of consideration as a weekly streamer.
The 2022 Denver Broncos defense is tied for the 12th-least amount of points per game allowed (21.1) with most of the starters returning in 2023. They’ll look to establish more of an identity this season after just 2.11 sacks per game, but tied for the 10th-most interceptions (15) as a unit. While playing in a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Jimmy Garoppolo, I’m most likely avoiding the Broncos’ defense as a steady starter for fantasy football. They’ll have a few streaming opportunities, especially early on.
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023