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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2024 Denver Broncos

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2024 fantasy football season. Our Chris Meaney and Daniel Kelley are going to go team-by-team around the league all summer. They’ll pick sleepers, busts and bold predictions for each team. Sometimes they’ll agree! Sometimes they will go completely opposite one another! And that’s fine, because they’ll defend their positions, and you can decide for yourself who to side with. Up today: The Denver Broncos.

Below, they tackle the team, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2024 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Denver Broncos

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Meaney: Josh Reynolds
Kelley: Veteran RB Not Named Samaje Perine

Biggest Bust

Meaney: Javonte Williams
Kelley: Courtland Sutton

Bold Prediction

Meaney: Zach Wilson Leads Denver in Starts
Kelley: Troy Franklin Leads the Broncos in Receiving Yards

The Explanations

Sleepers

Meaney: Josh Reynolds

Josh Reynolds comes over from Detroit and has a real opportunity for targets in Denver with Jerry Jeudy gone. Reynolds had 40 catches for 608 yards last year and scored five touchdowns on a Lions team where he was the fourth option at best in the passing game. The wide receiver room in Denver is thin, with Marvin Mims Jr. (who showed very little last season), Tim Patrick (who has hardly touched the field in three seasons) and Courtland Sutton (who could get traded at any moment).

Kelley: Veteran RB Not Named Samaje Perine

Sorry for the vagueness here, it’s just that I can make good arguments for and against both Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin:

Given the question marks the Broncos have at quarterback (Bo Nix? Jarrett Stidham? Literally Zach Wilson?) and the dearth of guaranteed production at receiver (more on that later), the running game in Denver is going to get worked hard in 2024. The problem is deciding who to invest in. Javonte Williams has the pedigree, the draft stock, the size. Jaleel McLaughlin has the recent production, the shiftiness, the “new hotness.”

In a vacuum, I’m probably opting for Williams, given how much of a believer I am in “the year after the year after” when it comes to torn ACLs. But I expect both to have productive seasons, and with Williams available at RB30 in early drafts and McLaughlin RB52, the undrafted free agent McLaughlin could be a very savvy late-rounder in 2024.

Busts

Meaney: Javonte Williams
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 03: Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) gets dragged down by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) during a NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos on October 3, 2021 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, CO. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)
DENVER, CO – OCTOBER 03: Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) gets dragged down by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey (44) during a NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos on October 3, 2021 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, CO. (Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

This one pains me, because I’m a huge Williams fan … but I don’t think Sean Payton is. Williams only had two games with more than 18 carries last season, and he only had four with more than 15. I don’t think it had anything to do with the torn ACL or LCL he suffered early in 2022. I expected a bit of a slow start last season, and there was a price discount because of it. His RB31 price tag this year is similar to last year, and while it seems fair given his upside, I wonder what his usage will look like in year two with Payton. I expect him to be the lead in touches again, but he’s part of a crowded backfield. Samaje Perine, who finished third on the team in catches (50) last season, is in the final year of his deal, so he may get some extra run. Jaleel McLaughlin finished with a team-high 5.4 YPC on 76 carries in his rookie season, and he caught 31 passes. Denver also drafted Audric Estimé. Williams didn’t even receive 50% of the Broncos’ red zone rushing attempts last season. They are super thin at WR and have plenty of questions at QB. The Broncos will be a bottom-five offense in 2024, so for those reasons I’m out. Buy low in dynasty, but fade in redraft. 

Kelley: Courtland Sutton

Sutton scored 10 times on 90 targets last year. That’s an 11.1% rate. There have been 2,643 player-seasons in the last 20 years with at least 50 targets. Of those, 111 (4.2%) scored on at least 10% of those targets.

That’s not a lot of players. You know what’s an even smaller number? The ones who did it again the next year. The group went from 1,108 touchdowns on 9,168 targets (12.1%) the first year to 550 TDs on 8,850 targets (6.2%) the next, basically halving the rate. Only 14 players in our sample reached a 10% rate again the next season, and you can find some common bonds in that group:

  • Tight end (Julius Thomas, 2013-2014; Rob Gronkowski, 2010-2012; Jimmy Graham, 2020-2021; Jared Cook, 2019-2020; Tyler Eifert, 2015-2016; Visanthe Shiancoe, 2008-2009)
  • Hall of Fame quarterback (Jerick McKinnon, 2022-2023; Jared Cook, 2019-2020; Julius Thomas, 2013-2014; Rob Gronkowski, 2010-2012; Donald Driver and James Jones, 2011-2012; Mike Evans, 2020-2021)
  • The second-year production came on (way?) fewer than 50 targets (Jerick McKinnon, 2022-2023; Jimmy Graham, 2020-2021; Tyler Eifert, 2015-2016; Donald Driver, 2011-2012; Kenny Britt, 2010-2011)

In the last 20 years, the only players to top a 10% scoring rate in consecutive years without falling under one of those umbrellas are Chris Henry (2005-2006, with Carson Palmer) and Adam Thielen (2020-2021, with Kirk Cousins). Can Courtland Sutton do it? Sure, it’s possible. But he’s not a tight end, and Bo Nix is very likely not a Hall of Fame quarterback (he’s very likely not even Palmer or Cousins). Even with his touchdown luck in 2023, Sutton was only WR35. He’ll come in worse than that in 2024.

Bold Predictions

Meaney: Zach Wilson Leads Denver in Starts

A shout out to our guy Mike Randle for this one. I do buy into the fact the Broncos bought Wilson on the cheap and that a change of scenery could do him good. I also buy Payton as a head coach, and if there’s someone who could “fix” Wilson, it’s probably Payton. I’m also not sold on Bo Nix as a QB. 

Kelley: Troy Franklin Leads the Broncos in Receiving Yards

Troy Franklin’s drop to the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft was surprising to many, and maybe that portends a less-than-exciting NFL future. On the other hand, the fall enabled him to get paired back up with his college quarterback in Bo Nix (whenever Nix becomes the starter, whether that’s Week 1 or later).

Franklin hauled in 81 passes for 1,383 yards last year at Oregon, sixth in college football. He was fourth in the draft class in PFF receiving grade (88.5) and third (min. 30 targets) in yards per route run at 3.55. In Denver, he’ll run alongside Courtland Sutton (772 yards last year), Marvin Mims (377) and Josh Reynolds (608). Our FTN Fantasy projections have Franklin lined up for 568.6 yards in 2024, third on the team behind Sutton and Mims. Well, trade rumors have swirled around Sutton all offseason (and he’s my bust pick in Denver), and Sean Payton appears to believe Mims is not allowed to top 30 snaps in a game. So Franklin could easily lead this team in receiving yards and still only get to 600 or so … though I think something like 850 yards and the team lead is more likely for the rookie.

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