2022 Denver Broncos – Fantasy Football Deep Dive
Vic Fangio may be a great defensive mind in the NFL, but his success as an NFL head coach was minimal. He coached for three total seasons in Denver and compiled a 19-30 record, which led the organization to go in another direction heading into 2022 and beyond. Insert Nathaniel Hackett, who will become the 18th head coach in Denver Broncos franchise history.
Hackett started his coaching career in the college ranks with UC Davis and Stanford and was able to get some quality control roles in the NFL as well with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills. He went back to the college level after the University of Syracuse gave him a more prominent role as a passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and tight ends coach. He was then promoted to offensive coordinator in just one season. After that, he came back to the NFL as an offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills. He then became a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He followed it up by being the offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers the last three seasons and is now the newest head coach for the Denver Broncos.
Hackett led the Packers offense to back-to-back top-10 scoring offenses, including a number one finish in 2020. The Broncos offense is lacking that type of potency, as they’ve finished bottom-10 in scoring in that same span which includes bottom-five in 2019 and 2020. Hackett is coming in to fix this offense and we can expect some good things with some great additions through the offseason. This also means that the fantasy outlook for the Broncos is trending upwards and you can find some great producers on this offense for your roster.
The interesting thing that we could possibly see with Hackett as the head coach is the implementation of the K-Gun offense. The K-Gun offense was first used by the Buffalo Bills teams of the 1990s under Marv Levy and with Jim Kelly as the quarterback. This offense is a no-huddle, hurry-up style of offense that took advantage of the skill position players in the offense (Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, James Lofton) and tired out the defense to prevent rotations to bring in fresher players.
During Hackett’s time in Buffalo, this style of offense was taught to him and this could benefit the style of play that Russell Wilson can flourish in. This offense has the quarterback in shotgun primarily, three wide receiver formations, and only one running back that can serve as a receiver as well. Wilson is an excellent deep-ball thrower and this style of offense uses deep passes and sideline passes to get the ball down the field.
The K-Gun offense could be really exciting, but it’s not something that Hackett will use all game long. He’ll balance that out with the use of West Coast concepts, as he did that in Green Bay and also something that his father employed when he was an offensive coach in the NFL (formerly coached with the 49ers under Bill Walsh in the mid-80s).
Along with West Coast principles in the offense, we should also see a shift in the blocking scheme for the running game. In Green Bay, they used a zone-blocking scheme that Mike Shanahan used during his time as head coach of the Broncos. This is of course used by his son Kyle Shanahan and other coaches like Matt LaFleur (Packers head coach) and Mike McDaniel (Dolphins head coach). We might also see a lot of inside zone plays, as this was a concept used more in 2021 by Hackett in Green Bay. So overall, Hackett is going to get the most out of the talent on his roster and will blend a lot of concepts he’s learned over his coaching career thus far.
Who Stands to Benefit?
Javonte Williams, RB
The unfortunate thing for Williams is that Melvin Gordon is back with the Broncos for another season. This may continue to handicap Williams’ full breakout in the NFL, but we should see an increased workload regardless. Williams had 15 more touches in the offense compared to Gordon and was just more productive with those touches as well. Williams had 1,219 scrimmage yards with seven total touchdowns compared to Gordon who had 1,131 scrimmage yards with 10 total touchdowns. The change in offensive style will fit both running backs but expect the Broncos to use Williams more and draft him with confidence in your fantasy draft.
Speaking of fantasy drafts, Williams is going to be targeted as a low-end RB1 and it makes a lot of sense. He finished as the 18th ranked fantasy running back last season with 161.9 fantasy points, as a rookie and a pretty even split in total touches with Gordon (Gordon actually finished at 17th last season with 167.1 fantasy points).
The biggest thing that was different last season was that Gordon scored three more times compared to Williams and that should swing in Williams’ favor this coming season. Williams is currently projected to go in the early second round and as the 10th running back off the board. Williams is going to be the lead back in the Broncos backfield this season and you shouldn’t be wary about Gordon being back in blue and orange. Expect Hackett to leverage Williams as a dual-threat back and he’ll rack up a good amount of receptions along with a heavy workload as a runner as well. No exaggeration here, Williams has a strong chance to finish in the top-five for fantasy running backs.
Jerry Jeudy, WR
As he enters his third season in the NFL, there’s a good amount of pressure for Jeudy to perform at a high level. He had an above-average season in his rookie year and then injuries shortened his second year. The hope is that the Broncos didn’t waste their 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Many can attribute the poor play for Jeudy to the inconsistent quarterback play the Broncos have had the last two seasons. Drew Lock looked good at times, but his ability to get through his progressions was poor and his slow reads led to receivers getting covered or busted plays. Teddy Bridgewater came into the fold next but even when Jeudy was on the field, Bridgewater was a little too passive and this limited the offense a lot of the time.
Now Denver is putting their trust in Wilson to lead the offense and this means that the passing offense is sure to be better. While Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are going to see an uptick in their fantasy stock, Jeudy looks to be the most promising. Sutton is a great deep threat which is something Wilson loves to have in his passing offense. When playing with deep threat Tyler Lockett in Seattle, Lockett averaged 11 yards per target last season and averaged 9.7 yards per target for his career. Having a crafty route runner that can also take the top off the defense, is something that Wilson will probably rely on more in this offense. Having a guy that can run those quick outs to move the chains or curl-outs to put them in more manageable downs is something that Jeudy will excel at and should give him a very small edge over Sutton.
Jeudy is currently being valued a little lower than Sutton and it makes sense. Coming off the injury-shortened season, Sutton having a great season in 2021, and Wilson liking to throw the deep ball all effects Jeudy’s stock. Look at this on the flipside though because as mentioned, you need a guy that can move the chains and convert short-yardage downs as well. This is where Jeudy will make his hay and he also can break a long reception to give him added value for more yardage.
So in PPR leagues, Jeudy is the more valuable receiver. He’s being drafted around the seventh round, which ranks him as a WR2. This makes a ton of sense and he can really fill that role nicely and could possibly have a WR1 season.
While all the main receivers in Denver are worth rostering, Jeudy could possibly become the best of the bunch once the 2022 season has concluded.
Potential Break-Out Player
Over the past three seasons, the Green Bay Packers ran the “11” or “12” formation an average of 82% of the time. This means that a tight end was on the field for at least 82% of the time over the course of the regular season.
Also, something else that is beneficial for Okwuegbunam is that Wilson throws to his tight end on a regular basis. On average over his NFL career, he has averaged roughly 104.5 targets per season to the tight end. With the trade for Wilson, Noah Fant is now a member of the Seattle Seahawks and this means that the target share is going to go all to Albert-O. UCLA rookie Greg Dulcich could push Okwuegbunam for targets but it won’t affect him too much as rookie tight ends tend to have a larger learning curve in the NFL.
Okwuegbunam is a very intriguing prospect this coming fantasy season. He’s in an offense jam-packed with talent at the receiver position. Guys like Jeudy, Sutton, and Patrick are going to garner more attention in fantasy drafts and Okwuegbunam is going to fall by the wayside. It’s all good that Okwuegbunam will go undrafted in your fantasy draft because we need to see how he’ll be used in the offense. The numbers don’t lie and he has a great shot at being a sleeper addition to your fantasy roster, but it’s not guaranteed. If you want to bet on this lottery ticket, grab him with one of your final picks in your draft. Otherwise, add him to your watchlist and monitor how the Broncos decide to employ Okwuegbunam in the offense.
Albert Okwuegbunam Will Finish As A Top-5 Fantasy Tight End
Wait, how did Albert-O go from being an undrafted tight end to monitor on your watch list to now being a top-five tight end?! Just because he’ll go undrafted in most fantasy leagues, doesn’t mean he can’t finish as one of the best fantasy tight ends in 2022.
Okwuegbunam is going to benefit from having Wilson as his quarterback and the tight end room being thin behind him. He will get the majority of the targets (as far as tight ends are concerned) and will be able to do some damage with those targets. Keep in mind that Okwuegbunam ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL Combine, which means he’s a big mismatch for opposing defenders. That sort of speed could mean Okwuegbunam can find a few home run plays that can help his fantasy stock as well.
Once the Broncos get into the red zone, Okwuegbunam will be a solid option and can rack up a fair amount of touchdowns. While we still need to be sure how he’ll be used in the offense, this is a risk worth taking. Low risk, high reward is something you always want to look for when playing fantasy football and that is exactly the type of player Okwuegbunam is.