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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Denver Broncos

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Denver Broncos.

 

Below, Sam Choudhury and Michael Dolan tackle the Broncos, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Denver Broncos

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Choudhury: Samaje Perine
DolanGreg Dulcich

Biggest Bust

Choudhury: Courtland Sutton
DolanCourtland Sutton 

Bold Prediction

Choudhury: Jerry Jeudy posts 1,000 yards and finishes as a top-15 receiver
DolanJerry Jeudy establishes himself as the alpha WR

The Explanations

Sleepers

Choudhury: Samaje Perine

After an abysmal start to the Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson era in Denver, the Broncos hit the reset button, trading away their 2024 first- and second-round picks to the Saints in exchange for new head coach Sean Payton and a 2024 third. Shortly after his arrival, Payton made a splash in free agency, signing former Bengals running back, Samaje Perine to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with $3 million guaranteed, the fifth most among all backs on the market. When asked about the singing, Payton stated, “This is a guy that gave us flexibility. We signed him because we knew he was durable and reliable.”

Although the team is optimistic about Javonte Williams‘ status for Week 1, there is no guarantee that he will be 100% at any point next season, coming off a devastating knee injury last October. Even if Williams is active to start the year, Perine should carve out a significant role, playing in Payton’s offense that has historically featured multiple backs. Last season, Perine rushed for 394 yards and two touchdowns, while tacking on 38 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns. In two games as the starter, Perine averaged 24 touches and 124 scrimmage yards, and he scored a touchdown.  

Dolan: Greg Dulcich

Russell Wilson won’t suddenly turn into Drew Brees with the arrival of Sean Payton, but the new coach should do great things for the Broncos offense. One primary beneficiary of the improved offense/quarterback should be Greg Dulcich. The second-year tight end posted impressive numbers in year one, finishing as the TE14 despite playing just 10 games due to injury.

Entering 2023, Dulcich should be an even bigger part of the offense. All signs indicate he’s fully healthy, and Year 1 to Year 2 is a great time for tight ends to make a leap. Payton will likely run a fair amount of multiple tight end sets, thus putting Dulcich in a position to serve primarily as a pass catcher and a mismatch for opposing defenses. In all likelihood he doesn’t do enough to finish as a top-five guy at the position, but a back-end TE1 finish feels within the range of outcomes, and that’s a bargain at his current cost. 

 

Busts

Choudhury: Courtland Sutton

Courtland Sutton Denver Broncos Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

There was a lot of hype behind Courtland Sutton’s connection with his new quarterback last offseason, with high expectations for the fifth-year wide receiver finally getting a chance to play alongside a competent signal caller. Unfortunately, Sutton’s 2022 season was rather disappointing, catching 64 passes for 829 yards and two touchdowns. It was clear Sutton was not the alpha of Denver’s bottom-ranked offense, averaging less than 4 receptions (3.97) and 50.67 receiving yards in games Jerry Jeudy played at least 10 snaps. There will be more target competition next year with the return of Tim Patrick and the addition of 2024 second-round wide receiver Marvin Mims.  

Dolan: Courtland Sutton

Even though I think Russell Wilson’s going to perform better, that doesn’t mean all his pass catchers will benefit. Denver’s offseason moves indicate they likely won’t be a high-volume passing team this year. Pair that with Payton’s creativity with multiple TE and RB sets, and I think we see Sutton’s involvement in the offense decrease significantly this year.

Sutton may catch a few TDs this year, but that’s where his upside stops for me. There were trade rumors surrounding him this offseason, and with guys like Dulcich and Tim Patrick in the mix, Sutton’s role as the No. 2 in this offense is anything but guaranteed. I don’t think Wilson is going to support more than two good fantasy pass catchers this year, and we haven’t even mentioned the name Jerry Jeudy yet…

 

Bold Predictions

Choudhury: Jerry Jeudy Posts 1,000 Yards and Finishes as a Top-15 Receiver

Jerry Jeudy hit the ground running last season, catching four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in his first game with Russell Wilson at the helm.  After Week 1, Jeudy struggled to post meaningful production, failing to log more than 54 receiving yards in his next five games. He turned a corner in Week 7, after Wilson was ruled out due to a concussion. With Brett Rypien’s under center, Jeudy saw a season-high 11 targets, catching seven of them for 96 yards. In his last eight games where he logged more than a single snap, Jeudy averaged 7.88 targets, 6.25 receptions, 85.25 receiving yards and half a touchdown. Extrapolated over a 17-week season, that would have put him on pace for 133.96 targets (WR15), 106.25 receptions (WR8), 1,449.25 receiving yards (WR5), and 8.5 touchdowns (WR11). Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Jeudy’s 4.19 yards per route run (YPRR) against man coverage last season, ranked first in the NFL. If he can stay healthy, I believe Jeudy can eclipse 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career and potentially finish as a top-15 wide receiver.

Dolan: Jerry Jeudy Establishes Himself as the Alpha WR

Last year both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton played 15 games. Sutton saw 9 more targets (109) than Jeudy (100), but despite this Jeudy finished the season with more:

  • Yards: 972 to 829
  • Catches: 67 to 64
  • Yards per reception: 14.5 to 13.0
  • Touchdowns: 6 to 2

I don’t know about you, but if I’m Sean Payton or Russell Wilson and I look at those numbers, I’m making a substantial change. We’ve seen Payton-coached offenses pepper the No. 1 receiver with targets (think Michael Thomas), and I expect Jeudy to get that same treatment in this new look offense. Even though Jeudy hasn’t gotten the alpha treatment in the past, he has the skill set to demand that type of role. Come season’s end, I expect Jeudy to finish the season with at least 25 more catches than the next closest Bronco, which could have him nearing WR1 territory in fantasy.

 
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