It’s almost August, so it’s high time we turn our attention to fantasy football sleepers, breakouts, and busts for every NFL team. The ADP is per 4for4’s ADP data. We round out the AFC with a look at the AFC West’s four teams. How will the target distribution play out in Denver in 2023? Can Javonte Williams handle an entire load? Do you think Russell Wilson got to keep the sunglasses and leather jacket? We answer none of those questions, and more, with the Denver Broncos’ sleeper, breakout, and bust!
Sleeper: Tim Patrick, Wide Receiver (WR72, Pick 201 Overall)
Tim Patrick was an incredibly hot sleeper last offseason, with some folks going so far as to say that he might just be the best wide receiver on the roster, a roster that included first-round pick Jerry Jeudy. He tore his ACL in the offseason and everyone just sort of… forgot about Tim Patrick. Allow me to self-plagiarize from last offseason, because very little has changed since I wrote this (except the Broncos added Sean Payton):
“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 are 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 invested equally strongly 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: Samaje Perine, Running Back (RB34, Pick 98 Overall)
While recent reports indicate that Javonte Williams is hopeful that he will be ready for week one of the NFL season, Javonte Williams is yet to show that he is a bell cow back in the NFL… or the NCAA, for that matter, since he shared his backfield at UNC with Michael Carter. While he had more touches in college, in the NFL, Williams averages just 14.7 touches per game, which isn’t anything to sneeze at, but also leaves plenty of space for other running backs to fill in around the edges. Melvin Gordon, the back he shared with over the last two seasons, averaged 14 touches per game in the games that Williams played. That is to say: Samaje Perine is going to get a bunch of touches.
The Bengals rarely gave Perine the reigns, mostly because they are inexplicably obsessed with giving Joe Mixon as many touches at a league-average rate as humanly possible. But, he had 9 games with at least 10 touches in Cincinnati, and in those games, he finished as a top-24 back 8 times, averaging 15.7 touches for 18.2 fantasy points per game, with an average finish of RB15. The opportunity will be there, and Perine has snatched that opportunity in the recent past. At his price tag, I’m more than willing to roll the dice on a bet that he will snatch it again.
Bust: Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver (WR49, Pick 131 Overall)
Sutton is sneakily older than you would think, as he’s entering his sixth season and turns 28 in early October. He’s also failed to finish inside the top-36 in fantasy points since returning from injury. In 2019, he finished with his career high (WR19), but he missed all of 2020 with injury, and finished as WR43 in 2021 and WR44 in 2022. According to BRotoFantasy, Sutton has just six games in his five-season career as a WR1, 9 as a WR2, 9 as a WR3, and 35 games where he finished outside the top-36. Since returning from injury, he has 3 WR1 weeks, 3 WR2 weeks, 5 WR3 weeks, and 17 WR WR4 or worse weeks. Jerry Jeudy won the “Courtland Sutton vs. Jerry Jeudy” battle, and there’s no real reason to draft Sutton this season. He’s one of the worst separators in the NFL, and the Broncos will have two additional pass catchers (Marvin Mims & Tim Patrick) compared to Sutton’s incredibly subpar 2022. You’re looking at a WR40 finish, at best, from a guy you have to take in the eleventh round.