There was a time very recently that the Broncos were one of the most consistent NFL teams when it came to fantasy football. Owners knew they could bank on a Denver running back gaining more than 1,000 yards on the ground, no matter if it was stars like Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis or unknowns such as Reuben Droughns and Olandis Gary. A Denver receiver being an elite option was also an annual occurrence, usually Rod Smith or recently, Brandon Marshall. And for more than a decade, PK Jason Elam was always one of the top players at his position.
Things have changed in a big way. Entering the 2011 season, there is not a single Bronco worth having on a fantasy roster. While there is some talent present, every draftable player from the team presents a serious risk, one that fantasy owners should steer clear of on draft day. With a new head coach and new quarterback, plus major concerns on both sides of the ball, the Broncos are far from being the fantasy juggernaut they were just a short time ago.
Looking at the PFW rankings, the highest-rated Bronco is RB Knowshon Moreno, our 18th-ranked running back and No. 42 overall player. Drafting Moreno is the fantasy football equivalent to pigging out on Taco Bell. It seems good in theory, but in all likelihood, it isn't going to end well. During his first two seasons, Moreno's rushed for 100-plus yards in only two games, not showing the big-play ability the team thought it was getting when it picked him in the first round of the '09 draft. With John Fox now running the show, the Broncos brought in Willis McGahee to team with Moreno, imitating the tandem Fox had with the Panthers that featured DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That should further limit Moreno's opportunities to produce the kinds of numbers he was expected to pile up, with McGahee likely to get the goal-line carries.
Another Bronco who is likely to be drafted by someone in every league is WR Brandon Lloyd, who had a breakout season in 2010. The career journeyman found his place in Denver, shattering his career highs with 77 catches, 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns, and earning a Pro Bowl appearance. That, however, was mainly in Josh McDaniels' offense with Kyle Orton at quarterback. Now that Fox is running the show and Tim Tebow is expected to be the QB, Lloyd's opportunities to stretch the field and burn opponents deep will be limited. Tebow is not as skilled of a deep passer as Orton, so if the second-year player is under center, Lloyd's numbers are likely to decline. Even though he is Denver's clear-cut No. 1 receiver, fantasy owners might be better off taking a better passing team's No. 2.
Other fantasy options, such as Tebow (or Orton if he re-signs), WR David Anderson and rookie TE Julius Thomas are all marginal fantasy talents. The defense, which ranked last in the NFL in 2010, should be improved, but is nowhere close to being a weekly difference maker. Even PK Matt Prater, kicking in the thin air of the Rockies, didn't do much last season and could see his stats dip a bit as the offense takes a step back.
After a season in the AFC West basement, the Broncos are hoping a youth movement and coaching change helps them return to the top of the division. Until that is proven on the field, however, fantasy owners should avoid selecting players from a team that used to churn out top picks on a regular basis.
Follow Eli Kaberon on Twitter