Every summer, we take a deep dive into the fantasy football average draft position (ADP) of players on each real-life NFL team. We do this so that we can determine which guys are undervalued, overvalued, or valued just right. As we Goldilocks this ADP, our draft board forms based on our opinions of players and where they go in fantasy football drafts. Since drafters draft (mostly) by site algorithms, site algorithms drive ADP on that site. So, we use FantasyPros’ aggregate average draft position data in order to smooth out those edges. To really smooth out the edges, I will use half-PPR average draft position, which you can find here.
The Denver Broncos had one of the most stunning off-season acquisitions. They went out and traded for Russell Wilson, in a move that shocked the NFL and fantasy football worlds alike. Denver also did the most annoying move this offseason, not moving on from Melvin Gordon in order to give Javonte Williams 300 touches per game. While the Russell Wilson addition was the only major change this offseason, keeping Melvin Gordon around will still have ripple effects to the rest of the team. What can we expect from the 2022 Denver Broncos for fantasy football? Who will be their sleeper, breakout, and bust?
Sleeper: Tim Patrick, Wide Receiver (WR69, 183 OVR)
Tim Patrick finished 2021 with 85 targets, 53 receptions, 734 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Those all scream “useful guy for the NFL but not much to look at in fantasy football.” Well, he did all of that with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, and now Russell Wilson is on the case. Sure, he sits third on the depth chart behind Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, but the two receivers have managed to play just 11 games together across the two seasons they’ve shared the roster, meaning there’s plenty of opportunities to go around down the depth chart when one or both of them get banged up.
Some people would look at the depth chart and just toss aside Patrick, as he’s clearly the #3 receiver there, given the investments in both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton. However, the Broncos made an equally strong investment in Patrick, giving him a three-year, $34.5 million extension. That’s probably because Tim Patrick was the man for Denver last season. The 28-year-old led the Broncos in yards per game, yards per catch, and yards per target last season. He’s actually been on the field consistently for Denver, is a strong deep threat (he caught 86% of his passes 20+ yards downfield, per Pro Football Focus), and produces when given the opportunity.
Breakout: Melvin Gordon, Running Back (RB37, 103 OVR)
Bust: Javonte Williams, Running Back (RB10, 18 OVR)
These two players obviously go together, given their disparate ADPs at the same position in Denver. They also play a zero-sum game: the better Gordon performs in fantasy football, the worse Javonte Williams will perform. And I’m here to tell you that their performances in 2022 will be a lot closer than people thing, given the massive gulf between their draft prices. But, if the Broncos use them mostly like they did last year, and given that the Broncos brought Melvin Gordon back on a nice deal, we should expect that. I’m not going to say that Melvin Gordon is going to outscore Javonte Williams, or even that Javonte Williams is bad, but given the massive gulf in their price differences, I am more likely to draft Melvin Gordon than Javonte Williams.
First, let’s look at their touches: Melvin Gordon finished the year with 28 receptions and 203 carries; Javonte Williams finished the year with 43 receptions and 203 carries. So, that’s almost an extra catch per game for Javonte over the course of the year. But, Melvin Gordon out-touched Javonte in the red zone by about the same amount (46 to 37). Both had eight goal-line carries.
Now, let’s look at their efficiency stats. They both finished the year with three drops, and near-identical yards per touch (4.9 for Melvin Gordon and 5.0 for Javonte Williams). They also had similar evaded tackles, juke rate, and the same number of breakaway runs, all per playerprofiler.com. There isn’t really much on an efficiency tip to separate the two players, and there really isn’t much to separate them on an opportunity basis, either. So what separates their ADP? Well, it’s dynasty players getting really excited about Javonte Williams’ future. He’s incredibly good at football, so they want the future to be now. And it could very well be now, but I’m not betting a top-eighteen pick on things getting drastically different, when I could spend a pick outside the top-100 to bet that things will stay the same.
If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but my investment makes it really easy for me to be wrong. If the Javonte Williams drafters miss on what 2022 will look like, they’re out a top-two round pick. I don’t want to risk being wrong with that on the line.
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[Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f0/Javonte_Williams_2021_%2851650645333%29_%28cropped%29.jpg, Cropped under CC BY SA 2.0]