The Tim Tebow Show is over, and I don't think I'm unjustified in saying that no team in the history of the NFL has improved so much at the quarterback position from one season to the next. Going from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning is like going from a brand new car that won't run to a 2000 model that never fails you. Something about this team really felt like it gelled last season...probably the defense. That and Matt Prater's ability to hit clutch field goals. Before we get into the important players, I just want to say that I wouldn't actually draft Prater this season. His average is about 80%, and he doesn't make enough 40-49 yarders to be really valuable in your fantasy league.
Let's talk about Peyton Manning. As a point of reference, Manning absolutely must be drafted and placed ahead of Ben Roethlisberger. Manning has had 11 of 13 seasons over 4,000 yards against 2 of 8 for Big Ben. Manning has 6 of 13 seasons over 30 touchdowns against 1 of 8 for Ben. There really isn't any competition between the two of them. So what should we expect from Manning, other than better stats than Roethlisberger? I would say that 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns is a fair, relatively conservative, estimate. I think Manning will whip these young receivers into shape and create a solid rapport with them during training camp. That really shouldn't be a worry. The only issue is whether Manning's neck will hold up when he gets sacked, and the commentators and trains are going to freak out the first few times he goes down. But Manning will get back up. I don't think Manning is any more likely to get injured than any other NFL quarterback, so just don't worry about it and think of him as the 9th-11th best QB in fantasy this season.
The biggest problem with these receivers is that we have no idea what they could do with a real quarterback. If I was going to set odds, I would say that the odds of Eric Decker being the primary receiver this season is probably 2 to 5 while the odds on Demaryius Thomas are 3 to 1. Decker thrived with Kyle Orton under center, who is much more similar to Peyton Manning than Tim Tebow is. Eric Decker, therefore, should end up with 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. That touchdown total is only two more than he scored this season, and he was looking towards a 1,000 yard season before Tim Tebow took over as the starter. That leaves Demaryius Thomas as the number-two receiver. I think Thomas is going to be way over-drafted, so you shouldn't worry about him. The 800 yards and 6 scores he will compile won't be worth the 6th round pick he is going to cost you. If he falls, feel free to give him a look. If it turns out that I am wrong, I'll admit it at a later date. Right now, I think Decker wins the WR competition easily. At this point, Jacob Tamme is an extremely intriguing prospect. It is a well known fact that Manning loves tight ends. Tamme put up 600 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 4 games that Dallas Clark missed while Manning was in Indy. While that doesn't necessarily mean that Tamme will have the same success this season, I would bet on Tamme more than any other tight end on this team. It is extremely difficult for me to think of any reasons not to believe in Jacob Tamme. Unfortunately, I can't really put a numerical value on him, so take this prediction with a grain of salt. 900 yards and 8 scores. We'll look back at this when I write up my second round of prediction posts, but that is everything I can give you at this point.
Knowshon Moreno is pretty much out in Denver. He has been injury prone for three seasons, and he will only get real carries if Willis McGahee gets hurt. Save yourself the draft pick and don't even think about Knowshon Moreno. The alternative, drafting McGahee, is almost as scary as drafting Moreno. The 30-year-old will probably see a similar number of carries (249) and rush for a similar number of yards (1,199). Hopefully for fantasy owners, he will amass more than 5 total touchdowns, but even those numbers make him a pretty good RB2. I don't really know where other owners are going to draft him, but late 4th/early 5th is probably average value. Anything later than that is good for a relatively featured back. Lance Ball is the dark-horse candidate in this race. Ball is young and moderately talented, and if McGahee gets injured he might get an opportunity to start. I'm not telling you to draft him, but I want to put him on your radar as someone you might target in FA next season.
This defense is good, but they don't generate enough turnovers. I don't think I'll be drafting this defense, since they didn't really add anything new to create new turnovers. They might finish top-10, but I don't consider this a strong scoring defense (especially since Eddie Royal is off the team).