In case you haven’t been following too closely (read: if you have lives outside of fantasy), the staff here at RotoViz has been using the Projection Machine to power some of the Apps on the site. One of the teams under a lot of scrutiny right now is the Denver Broncos. Be it the supposed decline of Peyton Manning or the impact of Gary Kubiak, they seem to be a hot topic this summer. With that in mind, I wanted to walk everyone through my projection of the Broncos.
A great part of the Projection Machine is the ability to look at the offensive history for given teams and years and use those to look at usage. Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison have been together for a while. Dennison was Kubiak’s OC in Houston from 2010 through 2013 and was his QB coach last year in Baltimore. Since I think the Manning factor weighs more heavily than it does for most offenses, I decided to take a look at the last two seasons in Denver and the 2014 Baltimore season.
Using these seasons I was able to come up with the pass tendency and pace to use in my projection under the “Team Level” tab. I also added a 3.95 point margin based on the projected 10.5 wins Denver has.
QB play seems like more of a function of the player than the scheme to me, so I took a look at what Manning has done recently on the Broncos.
The grey dashed line matches the input you see above it. As you can see, I stuck with the sack rate Denver has had the last two years with Peyton running the show. The QB rush percent I toned down since Manning’s individual rush percent has been 0.05 and 0.07 the past two seasons respectively.
Manning’s INT rate was the highest it’s been in three seasons, so I toned it down slightly while still keeping it relatively high to factor in any possible decline we may see. I think it is universally accepted at this point that he was playing through an injury last year when he threw six interceptions over the final four games of the regular season, so I didn’t want to make his 2014 rate the standard.
For receivers, I like to look at usage from the coach and efficiency from the player. Here are the historical usage rates based on the seasons I took as a baseline.
And now let’s see how the top two Bronco WRs, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, have done the last few seasons.
My first takeaway is to not be worried at all about Thomas. Kubiak loves to target the WR1 in his offense, and Manning targeted him 30 percent of the time last season. Over the last three seasons, Thomas has averages of 0.64 in catch rate, 9.68 YPT, and a 0.077 TD rate. You’ll notice that the historical average TD rate comes in at 0.068, so I’ll drop Thomas’ rate down a tad. Still, I have no problem giving him optimistic inputs.
For Sanders, I am not feeling so optimistic. His 2014 season was a clear outlier in his career production, and he is almost certainly due for some kind of regression. I cut his usage based on historical data and split the difference between his 0.72 catch rate last year and the historical player comps projected catch rate of 0.603. I then took his three year average at YPT and dropped his TD rate a little.
Predicting WR3 usage is a little tricky right now since it is unclear exactly who it will be. Wes Welker certainly isn’t coming back through the door, and I think we could see a relative increase in two WR sets. I took the WR3 rates from the average of Kubiak’s last two seasons and the 2014 Denver season. For WR4+ I kept the rates the same as they were in 2014.
For the tight ends, I’m straying away a little bit from the historical usage. The Broncos only targeted TEs a shade over 18 percent the last two seasons.1 This is low for a Manning offense, as TEs have averaged 22.7 percent of the targets in Manning’s last five seasons. Also, in Kubiak’s last 12 years as a head coach or coordinator, the TE1 and TE2 have combined for a 22 percent market share. As a result, I think an increase here is reasonable overall.
Owen Daniels has spent his entire career with Kubiak, so it’s worth looking at what he’s done.
Daniels has never been an overwhelming TD scorer, so I think it’s unlikely he all of a sudden finds the end zone a ton this year. I kept his usage the same as the historical TE1 and gave slight bumps in YPT and TD rate.
Virgil Green is the player I think will be the TD threat. He is an athletic specimen, not unlike the departed Thomas, and the two have both shown the ability to find the end-zone at a high rate.
I am confident in Green’s potential to be efficient on relatively few targets, and I reflected that in his projection.
The RB position is perhaps the most fun of the Broncos position groups to examine. First, a look at the historical trends based solely on Kubiak’s last 12 seasons.
Considering how impressive C.J. Anderson was last season, I think it is likely he remains the team’s workhorse. The team should also keep Montee Ball relatively involved. This should come at the expense of Ronnie Hillman, but I think his value as a receiver should still get him on the field. The career graphs can give us an idea of what to expect from each player.
With all of this info, we can come up with quality inputs for the RB group.
The Final Projections
Now that we have all of our inputs, let’s take a look at the final projections.
Here are a few takeaways:
- The demise of Manning seems to be greatly overstated, as Justin Winn explains. He comes out as a top three QB in my projections.
- Since we may not have to worry about Manning, Thomas also looks to be a small value at the time being. He’s someone I’m looking to buy right now in dynasty leagues.
- There is zero reason to buy Cody Latimer, as Mr. Winn has already pointed out.
- My love for Green is well stated, but Ty Miller’s love of Daniels seems to also be properly placed. A heavier shift in usage towards him would make him a great buy.
- If you want RB1 production at the turn this year, there may not be a better target than Anderson. I still think there is some upside not currently priced into his projection, particularly if his overall usage goes up.
- I believe this is due to the presence of Welker and the injuries Julius Thomas dealt with last season (back)