2013 Outlook: The man they call "Bebe" makes defensive backs cry. He's 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, runs a 4.38 40-yard dash and outmuscles cornerbacks in the end zone. Combining him with Peyton Manning last year just wasn't fair. Thomas finished as the No. 5 fantasy WR even as teammate Eric Decker finished No. 8, illustrating just what an efficient year the Broncos' passing offense had. But now there's yet another mouth to feed in Denver: Wes Welker. Thomas had 140 targets in 2012, Decker had 120 and slot man Brandon Stokley had 57. There's no way in the world Welker gets only 57 targets this season, which means the other guys will see a drop-off. We still love Bebe. But some of his ultra-high potential is curbed.
2013 Outlook: It was pretty easy when Welker was in New England. You just penciled him in for 110 catches and 1,200 yards every year. But now he's in Denver, sharing the receiving spotlight with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and things feel less certain. For sure, Peyton Manning loves to throw it to the slot; heck, he gave fading Brandon Stokley 57 targets there last year. But the Broncos' outside weapons are so dangerous. Can we really assume Welker will approach the 160-plus targets per season he routinely saw from Tom Brady? We downgraded Welker a bit from his Patriots days, and we'd draft Thomas ahead of him. But he's still a fantasy starter, and should continue to be a PPR monster.
2013 Outlook: In 2012, Decker caught 13 TDs and notched his first 1,000-yard campaign. He's big and fast, and while his hands can be shaky, he's got Peyton Manning throwing him the rock. In short: There was lots to love, right up until the point when the Broncos signed Wes Welker. Denver goes three-wide a ton, so it's not like Welker will send Decker to the bench. But there are only so many targets to go around, and if Decker is a good outside WR, Demaryius Thomas is a superlative one. Decker will have moments in '13, but his overall workload figures to diminish.
2013 Outlook: The Broncos made Ball a second-round pick in April's draft, and cleared up their backfield in the process. Willis McGahee is gone from Denver, and Knowshon Moreno is returning from a knee scope to a backup role. Ball's collegiate workload was intense -- 983 touches, to be exact -- so maybe his long-term upside is curbed. But for one year, as Peyton Manning's feature back, Ball looks like a TD maker. Moreno and Ronnie Hillman will be factors, but Ball is our nominee for the most valuable back in Denver.
2013 Outlook: It only seems like you've been debating spending a draft pick on Moreno for the past 15 years. He's actually been in the league only since '09, but it sure has been a bumpy ride. The injury-prone Moreno has yet to register a 1,000-yard season, needed a knee scope this winter, and the Broncos selected Montee Ball in April's draft. Willis McGahee is gone from Denver, but with Ball and Ronnie Hillman in the mix, it would be a long road to fantasy stardom this season for Moreno. That said, he might be the most reliable pass-blocking RB Denver has, and that could get him on the field for third downs.
2013 Outlook: The glass-half-full assessment of Hillman reads like this: After a decent regular season, the rookie did a brilliant job taking over for injured Knowshon Moreno in a playoff loss to Baltimore, piling up 103 total yards on 25 touches. The glass-half-empty assessment goes like this: Coach John Fox's praise this offseason was limited to calling Hillman "capable," and then Denver drafted Montee Ball in the second round of April's draft. For a time this summer, it appeared Hillman might be a legit candidate to start, but then he started to fumble in preseason games. At the moment, we view him as third on the depth chart, behind Ball and Knowshon Moreno.
2013 Outlook: Thomas was active for only four games last season, and has battled injuries throughout his two-year NFL career. But as a converted hoops player out of Portland State, he was always a developmental prospect, and his development might finally be paying off. As Joel Dreessen has struggled with a knee injury and Jacob Tamme has been unimpressive, Thomas has become a legit threat to start as Peyton Manning's No. 1 TE. A hulking athlete in the Antonio Gates mold, Thomas has as much upside as any lower-ranked TE around.
2013 Outlook: Tamme has been Peyton Manning's security blanket for a couple of NFL seasons, but with Wes Welker coming to Denver and freak athlete Julius Thomas developing as a legit starting threat, Tamme's solid 2012 -- when he made 52 receptions -- is a distant memory. Never a good red zone threat and not a strong blocker, Tamme will really be an option this season only if Thomas doesn't pan out, and if Joel Dreessen's knee injury continues to sideline him.
2013 Outlook: Dreessen needed knee surgery this winter, and lasted only a few days of training camp before suffering a recurrence of his knee problems. He underwent another procedure, and will miss the remainder of camp. This is bad timing. Third-year man Julius Thomas has impressed the Broncos and has an inside track on a starting job, while Jacob Tamme is also on the roster. Dreessen has been a red zone contributor for years, but in reality he's a better blocker than he is a receiver. Given his knee troubles, you're better off looking elsewhere for a sleeper this year.