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AFC West Preview: Denver Broncos

Let me guess, you're here because you thought it would be fun to fly airplanes. No? Oh. You came back for week two of the Team Previews? How about that. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the "fasten seat belt" sign, and you'll be with us as we travel to four cities: Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and our final destination in Oakland. We're off to our first stop in Denver, and to see if Joe Flacco, Phillip Lindsay or Courtland Sutton can do anything for your fantasy teams this year. Make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position, as we embark to the Mile High City.


JOE FLACCO


I'd like you to Meet Joe Black. I mean Flacco. Meet Joe Flacco. You know, the Super Bowl winning MVP. Flacco has had quite a fall from glory after winning the city of Baltimore their second title, and being replaced by rookie Lamar Jackson. But Flacco had a good run in Baltimore, and as all good things do, his time in Mobtown came to an end. Flacco is getting an opportunity to show the world he's still a starting caliber player. This isn't the first former Super Bowl winning quarterback John Elway has brought to Denver. The question is, will Flacco look like 2012-2014 Peyton Manning, or will he be more like the 2015 version?


Does Flacco still have it? This will determine his usefulness to us during our fantasy season. His new offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello, is bringing in an offense Flacco is familiar and had success with. Scangarello comes from the coaching tree of Gary Kubiak and Kyle Shanahan, and Flacco threw for his career high in touchdowns (27) under Kubiak in 2014. Some optimism there.


In 2018, Flacco got replaced by Jackson in week 11, so what would Flacco's passing stats look like had he played a full 16 games, and kept the same pace? 412/674/4382/21/11. He would have finished top ten in passing yards, but tied for 17th for passing touchdowns. Not terrible. Let's look at some Next Gen Stats though. Flacco was 17th for average completed air yards, 13th for average intended air yards, 13th in aggressiveness, 32nd in completion percentage, and 31st in Yards per Attempt. His career completion percentage is 61.7%, and his career Y/A is only at 6.7. Both numbers are considered very bad.


Must you draft Joe Flacco? Don't be Dumb and Dumber. No. Not at all. I currently have him ranked as QB27 with a stat line of 372/559/4358/23/17 passing and 25/54/2 rushing. For you streamers out there, he has a couple of plus match-ups, and he should be available on the waiver wire for those games.


COURTLAND SUTTON


Every Butch Cassidy needs their Sundance Kid, and just because I have Joe Flacco ranked so low, doesn't mean there aren't any fantasy assets on the Broncos. Notice the amount of yards I have him throwing. If a receiver was to get about 25% of that, they would have over 1000 yards on the season. Now, let's say I have a receiver projected to get a little over 32% of those passing yards and 30% of those passing touchdowns, would that tickle your fancy? Enter Courtland Sutton.


I have this second year wide receiver breaking out in a big way in 2019. How big, I'll get to that, but I will tell you this now: DRAFT COURTLAND SUTTON EVERYWHERE! I mentioned Rich Scangarello earlier, the new OC for Denver. The offensive scheme he will be running features a prominent X Receiver. This offense doesn't spread the ball around too much like, for example, the Rams, but hones in on one guy. He learned under Kyle Shanahan, who learned under Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak. 147/91/1331/6. That is the average stat line for the X Receiver in this offense the last five years. In terms of 2018, that would be good enough for WR6. Add the fact that Joe Flacco tends to single out a favorite receiver, and we've got a target monster on our hands.


Alright, we have the offensive system, what about Sutton himself? Time to check those Next Gen Stats. Sutton's average separation ( The distance, in yards, measured between a WR/TE and the nearest defender at the time of catch or incompletion) was 2.2. Better than Josh Gordon, Mike Evans and A.J. Green. Not bad company. Sutton also had over 27% of the targeted air yards last season, a number that is sure to rise in 2019. Sutton's 6'3" and 218lb frame also makes him huge end zone target for Flacco, as he should funnel most of his passing touchdowns Sutton's way. I'd like to see him improve his route running a little more, but regardless, I'm all aboard this hype train.


I am also not worried about Emmanuel Sanders. The 32 year old is returning from a torn Achilles, and don't expect him to be the same this year, or ever. Most older players returning from this injury don't fare well the following season, and Sanders is currently being drafted ahead of Sutton. Sutton's ADP is in the 10th round, as wide receiver 46. And do I ever have him blowing that out of the water. For my initial projections, I have Courtland Sutton as a top ten wide receiver with a line of 144/98/1395/7. As I mentioned earlier: DRAFT HIM!


PHILLIP LINDSAY


If you're a fan of underdog stories, then you loved Phillip Lindsay last year. Going un-drafted in 2018, Lindsay was The Shining spot for the Broncos as he ended the season leading the team in rushing, and took the starting job from fellow rookie, Royce Freeman. Do I have Phillip Lindsay repeating his Cinderella Story? Let's see if the glass slipper still fits.


Lindsay finished 2018 as the third most efficient runner, according to Next Gen Stats. He also ran for over 1000 yards, averaging 5.4 YPC, and scored 9 rushing touchdowns, leading him to finish as the RB12 in Half PPR. Not bad for being in a RBBC for part of the year. Weeks 1-6, while sharing the ball with Freeman, Lindsay was RB21. From weeks 7-16, Lindsay was the RB9. Barring injury to Lindsay or the offensive line, I see this success continuing.


Will Scangarello feed Lindsay the ball, or will he employ the RBBC again? I don't see the RBBC coming back. I know Kyle Shanahan has been doing so in San Francisco the last two years, but he's only doing so because of injuries. In Shanahan's two years in Atlanta, Devonta Freeman saw an average of 64% of the rushes. Even with Royce Freeman hanging around, I believe Lindsay will see somewhere around 60% of the rushes, which is a healthy number.


I would love to see Lindsay featured more in the passing game, and his size is always cause for concern, but none of that scares me off. Currently, Lindsay is being drafted in the fourth round as RB21. My initial projections have him going for 256/1160/9 rushing and 72/48/368/1 receiving. Lindsay has huge upside, and I'll be rooting for his success (kind of impressive as I'm a Raiders fan).


Thanks again for visiting FantasyPilots.com. Give us a follow on Twitter @FF_Pilots, and you can follow me @MichaelVoyu. Join us tomorrow as we continue on our travel itinerary through the AFC West.

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