Denver Broncos Depth Chart and Fantasy Preview: Will Javonte Williams Make the Jump Into RB1 Territory?

    After parting ways with Russell Wilson this offseason, what can fantasy managers expect from the Denver Broncos offense in 2024?

    The Sean Payton impact on the Denver Broncos offense certainly had somewhat of a positive fantasy football impact but fell short of producing any significant fantasy difference-makers in 2023.

    Now with a rookie quarterback potentially taking the reigns under center, what can fantasy managers expect from the Broncos’ offense in 2024?

    Denver Broncos Fantasy Depth Chart

    QB
    Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham, Zach Wilson, Ben DiNucci

    RB
    Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin, Audric Estimé, Blake Watson

    WR1
    Courtland Sutton, Josh Reynolds, Brandon Johnson

    WR2
    Marvin Mims Jr., Tim Patrick, Jalen Virgil

    WR3
    Troy Franklin, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Devaughn Vele

    TE
    Adam Trautman, Greg Dulcich, Lucas Krull

    Bo Nix’s Fantasy Outlook

    If I could simply put “Broncos’ QB” as a section in this fantasy preview, I would. Yet, we are left trying to figure out exactly who the starting QB will be for the 2024 season opener, and my money would be on the 12th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

    Now, Bo Nix will likely have to beat out Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson for the starting role in training camp to be the starter on Day 1, but my guess is Nix will ultimately finish the year with the most snaps taken under center for Denver this season.

    Is that role going to be fantasy-relevant in 1QB leagues in 2024? I don’t particularly see the upside for any of these signal-callers this year, especially for a rookie quarterback who doesn’t do a ton of damage with his legs.

    There is always the outside possibility that this marriage between Nix and Payton is perfect and delivers C.J. Stroud-type rookie production, but I’m not willing to go that far.

    Nix flashed plenty of processing potential, with an average time throw among the quickest in the class. This suggests he is able to play on time — which is a huge thing in Payton’s offensive scheme — and he was one of the more accurate throwers of the football in the class with an ideal completion percentage.

    Of course, this production does require a bit of context with Oregon’s offensive scheme utilizing a heavy amount of screens. But this concern in the Oregon passing game was debunked with the success we have seen from Justin Herbert in the NFL, though they are obviously different prospects.

    Nix has the most upside of any of the players in this quarterback room. He is a good athlete who can give you something with his legs occasionally, but ultimately his fantasy value will be closely tied with his ability to produce through the air.

    If he had the same type of weapons on the perimeter as Caleb Williams or J.J. McCarthy, I’d be a bit more excited. Yet, his fantasy ranking at the QB position will firmly be in the QB3 territory.

    Javonte Williams’ Fantasy Outlook

    Most fantasy managers still want to believe in the Javonte Williams RB1 upside heading into the 2024 NFL season. Yet, he was the leading man in the Broncos’ backfield last season and managed a disappointing RB29 finish with 1,002 total yards and five TDs in 16 games.

    Sure, those numbers aren’t horrific by any stretch, and he was coming off of a torn ACL from the season before. But Williams’ lack of ability to firmly establish himself as the featured player in this backfield certainly should be concerning to fantasy managers as he heads into his fourth year in the NFL. He has made some highlight-grabbing runs in his career, but even those have been falling away in recent seasons.

    Williams’ yards per carry (YPC) has dropped in three consecutive seasons, which hit a career-low 3.57 in 2023. When you combine this with some of his pedestrian analytical numbers, it’s hard to project much more than an RB2 ceiling for him this upcoming year in an offense that will likely be a work in progress with below-average quarterback play.

    It doesn’t exactly help matters that Payton invested NFL Draft capital in the bruising back from Notre Dame, Audric Estimé. The former Golden Domer went in the fifth round and could potentially factor into short-yardage situations as soon as this season.

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    Another factor not working in Williams’ favor is his limited role in the passing game because of Samaje Perine — who caught 50 passes last season — robbing him of some of his PPR floor. It’s unfortunate because Williams did catch 47 passes last year but produced 227 fewer receiving yards than Perine on just three fewer receptions.

    Ultimately, the first Broncos RB to be selected in fantasy drafts should be Williams in 2024, but the idea he will ever be a feature back in this Denver offense doesn’t feel like it is in the range of outcomes.

    Courtland Sutton’s Fantasy Outlook

    Many in the fantasy community would agree that Courtland Sutton had a bit of a bounce-back season in 2023, with 59 receptions for 772 yards and 10 TDs. Yet, his return to fantasy relevance only produced a WR35 fantasy finish in PPR formats.

    I don’t say this to throw any shade at Sutton. Only he, Jayden Reed, and Deebo Samuel finished as top-35 fantasy WR with fewer than 100 targets, and those other two players both see a significant amount of work in the running game to supplement the lack of targets.

    By all accounts, Sutton had a very productive season considering his overall amount of opportunities.

    Yet, can we confidently project Sutton will maintain this amount of efficiency with either a rookie quarterback or below-average starter under center next year? Of the six WRs who caught 10+ TDs last season, only two of them had fewer than 135 targets — Sutton and Jordan Addison.

    Sutton proved he can still be a great red-zone and contested-catch threat in 2023, and he still has enough route-running chops to create decent separation. But the level of quarterback play certainly drops Sutton’s fantasy outlook into the same range where we saw him finish last season.

    Troy Franklin’s Fantasy Outlook

    The meteoric fall down the draft board was a brutal watch for dynasty fantasy managers who had Troy Franklin high in their fantasy rankings. He started the pre-draft discussion as a potential Day 1 prospect but fell all the way to Day 3 after running slower (4.41-second 40-yard dash time) and coming in smaller (6’2”, 178 lbs) than expected at the NFL Combine.

    Fortunately for Franklin, he was selected by the team that invested first-round draft capital in his college quarterback at Oregon (Nix) to help ease his transition to the NFL game.

    Franklin had an exceptional collegiate career as a Duck as he saw his receptions, yards, and touchdowns drastically increase over every season at Oregon. In addition, he is an early declare who could stand to get even better in the near future.

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    Franklin has great chemistry with Nix and provides his rookie signal-caller with a great vertical threat with plenty of route-running savvy and run-after-catch (RAC) ability. The two biggest concerns for Franklin entering the NFL are his rail-thin physical frame — where he did have his fair share of struggles against physical bump-and-run corners in college — and his inconsistent hands.

    Franklin has the skills and production profile to project in the NFL, but don’t be surprised if he gets off to a bit of a slow fantasy start while learning the professional game at the same time as his rookie quarterback counterpart.

    Broncos’ Fantasy Sleepers

    You may notice that not one single tight end was mentioned above for the Broncos’ offense in 2024. That is because they arguably have one of the weakest tight end rooms in the league, with Adam Trautman, Greg Dulcich, and Lucas Krull on the depth chart.

    Trautman signed a two-year contract extension this offseason, which is great for him personally but doesn’t exactly give fantasy managers much to get excited about. He appeared in all 17 games last year and finished as the TE40 in PPR formats.

    Trautman’s 22 receptions and 204 yards weren’t even career highs, which tells you that his fantasy ceiling is similar to touching the roof of your car. You know it’s there, and it isn’t very high.

    I still believe if there is a tight end to throw a dart at in this offense, it would be Dulcich, who had a stat line of 33-411-2 in his rookie season but barely saw the field last year while battling hamstring and foot issues before being placed on injured reserve.

    Dulcich flashed some nice receiving chops as a move tight end in 2022, but his lack of consistency as a blocker could keep him off the field a bit too much to make him fantasy-relevant.

    Marvin Mims Jr. and Tim Patrick are two names at the WR position to keep an eye on.

    Mims had just three games of 50+ yards receiving in his rookie year but was getting on the field more frequently toward the end of the 2023 season. His role could expand now with Jerry Jeudy being traded to the Cleveland Browns.

    Additionally, Patrick has suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries the last two years but has managed to be productive when on the field during his career. He finished as a top-45 fantasy WR two straight seasons back in 2020 and 2021 but could struggle to reach those heights because of recent injuries and turning 31 years old later this year.

    Lastly, the running backs behind Williams certainly deserve a mention. Perine caught 50 passes last year, which could give him some stand-alone value in very deep PPR formats.

    Another intriguing name is Estimé, who is a powerful 221-pound ball carrier who regularly dismisses would-be tacklers with great contact balance and surprising agility for a bigger back. Unfortunately, his lack of home run speed (4.71-second 40-yard dash time) will likely limit his upside if he manages to get some occasional run in this backfield.

    Yet, last year’s rookie surprise came from Jaleel McLaughlin, who had a couple of nice fantasy performances in the first half of the season but quickly fell into obscurity after Williams got healthy and Perine’s role expanded in the passing game. His roster spot may not be secure this season.

    This brings me all the way to a name that is way off of the 2024 redraft radar with undrafted free agent Blake Watson out of Memphis, who has exceptional burst and great top speed but lacks the overall size at 5’9”, 195 pounds to warrant feature-back duties. But Watson could carve a role similar to McLaughlin’s last season if he manages to catch Payton’s eye during training camp.

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