2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos Preview

by Kevin Huo
2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos Preview

The Fantasy Football season is fast approaching, and our Fantasy Six Pack team is rolling out team previews. Aaron Rodgers, if you're here to learn about your future teammates, I've got you covered in this 2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos Preview.

The 2020 Broncos finished last in the division at 5-11 with an offense and defense that ranked 28th and 25th in the NFL respectively. Management must not believe any of the core coaching staff was to blame, as head coach Vic Fangio, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and defensive coordinator Ed Dontall all reprise their roles from 2020. To be fair, they were dealing with a very young team that lost Pro Bowl wide receiver Courtland Sutton and All-Pro Von Miller to season-ending injuries early in the season.

Just by getting healthier, the Broncos should improve in 2021. The additions of rookies Patrick Surtain II (cornerback) and Javonte Williams (running back) along with veterans Teddy Bridgewater, Kyle Fuller, and Ronald Darby should only push that improvement further.

Even more intriguing are rumors of a trade for Aaron Rodgers. Obviously, that would push this team to exponentially greater heights. As of June 16th, 2021, that talk is all speculation, so while I will address it, the majority of this preview will continue as if Rodgers remains a Packer in 2021.

All of the information in the 2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos preview is up to date as of June 16th.

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2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos Preview

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Assuming the Broncos don't make a move for Aaron Rodgers, they've got a full-on competition at quarterback. Third-year quarterback Drew Lock and offseason addition Teddy Bridgewater are splitting starters' snaps 50/50 at training camp so far, and head coach Vic Fangio has said preseason performance will factor heavily into the decision.

Lock is a former second-round pick who was impressive in five starts as a rookie but disappointed when given the reins in 2020. He completed just 57.3% of his passes for 2,933 yards and 16 touchdowns but a league-leading 15 interceptions in just 12 games, finishing as QB24. However, it's only fair to note that he was dealing with a bruised shoulder that forced him to miss Weeks 3 and 4 and likely bothered him all season. Lock truthers will also point to a shortened offseason and primary target Courtland Sutton tearing his ACL in Week 2.

In his two seasons, Lock has displayed big-time arm talent and the kind of moxie that gives opposing defensive coordinators nightmares. His big-time throw rate was 6.4% last season, seventh in the NFL. He's capable of making big plays, but often times cancels it out with inane blunders and inaccurate passes.  In the best-case scenario, his potential career path could mirror Josh Allen, who struggled early, but broke out as an MVP candidate in 2020.

While it's true that Lock was dealt a bad hand in 2020, has talent, and was a decently high draft pick, that doesn't mean Denver will automatically give him the keys in 2021. They traded a sixth-round pick to the Carolina Panthers to bring in Bridgewater to push Lock. After years of playing as a backup, Bridgewater was finally given a starter's role and posted a moderate 3,733 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, good for QB18 on the season. In a quarterback-friendly offense, Bridgewater showed that he was who we thought he was: a floor-raiser with limited upside.

Unless Lock truly takes the next step, I'm not sure there's much point in paying attention to this quarterback room at this point in the offseason. Even in 2-QB leagues, Lock and Bridgewater don't come with too much of a difference. In standard leagues, if one of them truly emerges, they'll be readily available on the waiver wire.

If Aaron Rodgers comes to town, feel free to disregard the rest of this section and lock him in as a high-end QB1.

Running Backs

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On a dismal fantasy offense, Melvin Gordon was the only dependable week-to-week starter fantasy owners had to consider. He played in 15 games, rushing for 986 yards and nine touchdowns on 4.6 YPC. While he finished as the RB12, there's a lot of room for concern regarding his 2021 outlook. He's currently being drafted as RB24 which shows how little faith fantasy owners have in him.

First, Gordon is entering his age 28 season, an age when many running backs tend to fall off a cliff. Secondly, he offers next-to-nothing in the passing game. That's partially the offense's fault as he only received 44 targets in 2020 after averaging 60 per season in his first five seasons with the Chargers. What could be considered his fault is that he turned those 44 targets into a measly 32 catches for 158 yards and just one touchdown.

And lastly, we must consider the addition of Javonte Williams, a second-round draft pick. The Broncos traded up to get Williams early in the second round and Gordon is entering the final year of his contract. If that doesn't signify a potential replacement situation, I'm not sure what does. Williams is a well-rounded back who rushed for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 157 attempts (7.3 YPC) and also added 25 catches for 305 yards and three touchdowns. At this point, he is the more talented back and could win this backfield sooner rather than later a la Cam Akers or Jonathan Taylor.

While Gordon was able to hold Phillip Lindsay off to 67/33 split touches in 2020, that number is inflated due to Lindsay's injuries. Williams will push that to closer to 50/50. In 2020, the Broncos backfield had 444 total opportunities (rush attempts + targets). With that projection, Williams is well worth it at his current ADP of RB42. I'd target him much higher as he has league-winning upside if he can beat out Gordon, as Broncos beat writer Ryan O'Halloran suggests:

The rest of the backfield is irrelevant unless Gordon or Williams misses time due to injury. Royce Freeman is a serviceable third-back who will rotate into games now and again, but he's not a threat to either of the top two backs' starting positions.

Wide Receivers

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Courtland Sutton was a Pro Bowler in 2019 when he put up 72 catches on 124 targets for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns on an extremely limited Broncos offense (28th in points). He missed 15 games in 2020 after tearing his ACL but should be ready to go with a full year of rehab under his belt.

Sutton is a true alpha-WR and if your league-mates forget about him, make sure you swoop him up. He's a steal at WR37 in half-PPR leagues right now, going behind guys like Chase Claypool, Brandon Aiyuk, and Tee Higgins. As he gets healthier, I expect his draft range to fall around WR25.

Meanwhile, Jerry Jeudy lit it up (as much as he could with Drew Lock) as a rookie in Sutton's absence. He secured 52 of 113 targets for 856 yards and three touchdowns while flashing tremendous route-running ability, but also had 12 drops. Jeudy's ADP of WR37 is about right considering this is not likely to be a high-scoring offense, and he is the clear second fiddle.

That being said, the starting quarterback does make a bit of a difference. Lock is a big-armed quarterback, willing to take shots downfield which will help the prototypical X receiver Sutton out. Meanwhile, Bridgewater is better on shorter and intermediate routes which will be a boon for the technician, Jeudy.

I'd be remiss not to mention Tim Patrick, who might be one of the league's most underrated receivers. In Sutton's absence last year, he operated as the main X receiver and posted 51 catches for 742 yards and six touchdowns. However, with Sutton returning and Jeudy emerging, there simply may not be a large role available for Patrick. Still, his WR96 ADP is probably a bit low.

Lastly, KJ Hamler is an interesting dart-throw, especially in best ball leagues. He emerged as the Broncos' deep threat in 2020 and with Sutton, Jeudy, and Noah Fant drawing the defenses' attention, could get loose for a few connections with the big-armed Lock.

Tight Ends

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Noah Fant, a first-round draft pick in 2019, is being drafted as the TE6 in half-PPR leagues right now. While I am a believer in Fant's talent, I believe this is more of a referendum on just how weak the tight end position is at this point.

Fant is a nice player, but by no means a fantasy stud. Last season, he totaled 673 yards and three touchdowns as essentially the number two or three (depending on how you feel about Tim Patrick) option. That was only good enough for a TE13 finish.

While tight ends do take a few years to understand, I'm not sure how you can look at that production and see TE6 - especially since Sutton will be coming back to take more targets away.

Grab Fant if he falls to you later in the draft, but stay away from him at his current ADP.


The Broncos are hoping that the combination of increased health luck, a few heady veterans, and the development of their young players will let them compete with the Chiefs at the top of the AFC West, but I'm skeptical.

While the roster is solid, it's hard to put too much faith into a team that is having a quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. On top of that, Vic Fangio has done next to nothing to show me he's a decent NFL coach or developer of talent.

While the Broncos certainly have a lot of draftable players, they will need either of the quarterbacks to emerge to truly unlock that potential.

Or just trade for Aaron Rodgers.

I hope you enjoyed the 2021 Fantasy Football Denver Broncos Team Preview. Follow me on Twitter @KevinMHuo. Be on the lookout for more awesome content around the website. Please Like and subscribe to the Fantasy Six Pack YouTube channel as well.

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