The Broncos surprised absolutely no one when they shipped wideout Brandon Lloyd to the Rams for a conditional sixth round pick on Monday morning. The move frees up space in the Denver starting lineup for Eddie Royal and 2010 first round pick Demaryius Thomas. Meanwhile, Lloyd reunites with Josh McDaniels in St. Louis and upgrades a very underwhelming receiving unit. Each team has already wrapped up their bye week, so let’s take a look at each of the involved players Fantasy prospects over their respective team’s next 11 games.
The Rams have thrown the ball on 67% of their offensive plays so far in 2011, which ranks them as the league’s third pass-heaviest team. This obviously bodes well for Brandon Lloyd’s prospects, especially considering that Denver was only going to get more run heavy with Tim Tebow under center. Additionally, Tebow isn’t a very accurate passer, which means that we can expect a higher catch rate for Lloyd in St. Louis.
Although the talent isn’t oozing from the Rams’ receiving unit, there are still a lot of mouths to feed. Mike Sims-Walker is likely going to be cut loose or deactivated from here on out, but that still leaves Week 6 starters Danario Alexander and Brandon Gibson, slot man Greg Salas, fresh of the PUP Mark Clayton, and 2011 early-round pick Austin Pettis in the mix. Additionally, only five teams run more 2+ TE sets than the Rams, which means we need to consider that Mike Hoomanawanui and Lance Kendricks will both be on the field about half of the time.
McDaniels could obviously go with fewer 2-TE sets going forward, but that seems unlikely. Instead, expect Danario Alexander and, to a greater extent, Brandon Gibson to suffer. The Rams will have two wideouts on the field most of the time and three out there about half the time. Gibson (13% of snaps in slot), Alexander (9%), Clayton (19% in 2010), and Lloyd (8% in 2010 under McDaniels) barely play in the slot, which means that Salas (91%) is the favorite to enter the game in 3-WR sets. Lloyd will play almost every down, which leaves a Gibson/Alexander/Clayton battle for snaps at the other wideout position.
Denver has called a pass play on 61% of their offensive snaps so far in 2011, but that number should drop significantly now that Lloyd is gone and Tebow is under center. In fact, in Week 5 vs. the Chargers, the Broncos called a pass on 53% of their snaps – a mark that is a safe projection going forward this year, especially with run-oriented John Fox at the helm. That mark would easily make them one of the league’s run heaviest.
Obviously, that takes a ton of steam out of the new-look wide receiver unit, but there are still players worth investigating. Tebow is a high risk/high reward thrower, completing a low percentage of passes, but accruing tons of yardage and scores when he does complete the pass.
At his disposal will be the team’s future (and hopefully immediate) No. 1 wideout Demaryius Thomas, slot man and 2011 breakout Eric Decker, and Eddie Royal. Thomas was the team’s first pick in the 2010 NFL draft (22nd overall) and showed plenty of potential in 156 snaps last season. He was targeted on a ridiculous 24% of those snaps, which shows how attractive of a target he is to the quarterback. He was in the slot on only 19% of those snaps and projects as a better outside receiver. Royal had played mostly from the right side of the field during his 72 pre-injury snaps this season and was in the slot only 11% of the time. That doesn’t figure to change much. Decker has been in the slot on 51% of his snaps this season, but that number decreased quite a bit thanks to the Royal/Lloyd injuries earlier this year. Going forward, he likely is on the field in two-wide sets, but will continue to move to the slot when Royal and Thomas are in the game.
The Broncos have favored the 3WR-1HB-1TE set this season, but they only run that set 41% of the time and have yet to use four wideouts. Another 47% of their snaps belongs to a split between the 2WR-1HB-2TE and 2WR-1HB-1FB-1TE sets. One tight end is on the field about two-thirds of the time, but a second TE is out there only 27% of the time.
This is where things could get tricky. Denver selected receiving tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green in this year’s draft. Daniel Fells appears to have the top TE job down, so could we see more 2-TE sets with Thomas and/or Fells dabbling in the slot over the next 11 weeks? Don’t be surprised. It’s a situation to monitor and certainly would hurt and chance of Fantasy relevance for Eddie Royal – the likely odd man out in that scenario.
Regardless, the best bet is that we’ll see lots of Willis McGahee-Daniel Fells-Demaryius Thomas-Eric Decker (Y)-Eddie Royal sets, with Spencer Larsen handling FB duties and Thomas/Green chipping in as the second tight end as needed.
Rest-of-Season Rankings / Projections
|PPR Rk||Player||Tm||G||Targ||Rec||Yds||TD||F Pts||Comment|
|30||Brandon Lloyd||SL||11||74||41||649||3||125||High upside, pass heavy offense, but TDs could be a problem|
|50||Greg Salas||SL||11||63||44||487||2||103||Expect him to stick in slot, but won’t score much – more value in PPR|
|54||Eric Decker||DEN||11||62||33||428||4||99||Should pace team in targets, but Tebow is inaccurate and DEN will run quite a bit|
|68||Danario Alexander||SL||11||53||25||455||2||83||One loser in Lloyd trade, should lead committee with Gibson and potentially Clayton|
|69||Demaryius Thomas||DEN||11||56||25||381||3||81||Injury risk, but upside exceeds Decker’s. Tebow/run-heavy offense hurts him|
|80||Eddie Royal||DEN||11||39||21||314||2||62||Should still see a handful of targets, but Thomas will eventually separate from him|
|97||Brandon Gibson||SL||11||25||16||224||1||42||The odd man out. Could be inactive some weeks if Clayton comes back strong.|
*assumes an inactive Mark Clayton