The coaching carousel wasted no time hitting full swing in 2023, and the Denver Broncos were not shy about pushing their (newly acquired) chips all-in on former Saints legend Sean Payton. Some huge swings brought some huge misses in the last year, but the Broncos’ top brass is once again swinging for the fences in an ambitious bid to bring post-season buzz back to the “Mile High City.”
What could possibly go wrong?!
In a fairly unusual turn of events, Denver had to trade for their coach of the future. Sean Payton had “resigned” from the New Orleans Saints at the end of the 2021 football season, but the Saints still owned the rights to his contract. Denver ended up trading the San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick in 2023 (which they had acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins for Bradley Chubb) and a 2024 second-round pick in exchange for Sean Payton and New Orleans 2024 third-round pick.
The Broncos have already tied Payton down to a five-year deal worth reportedly in the neighborhood of 85-100 million dollars! This makes Payton and Wilson the most expensive QB/HC duo in the league and surely one of the most scrutinized this off-season. (Any team that goes 5-12, has forfeited multiple first-round picks, and committed such a large chunk of their future cap space to do so is understandably going to be under the microscope.)
Is this move a blueprint for future success or a desperate gamble after your bluff was called?
Most importantly of all…will this be good for their fantasy options?! Let’s dive in!
The Broncos have struggled for years to put it all together on the field. After winning the Super Bowl in 2015, they have not had a winning record since…2016. The Super Bowl 50 champs were led to the promised land by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (on his last legs) and an incredibly strong defense. What do the Broncos have right now? A very good quarterback they traded (a lot) for and a very strong defense. You can see what they are trying to do.
Sean Payton has always been known as an offensive guru, and he has the stats to back it up. Under his leadership, the New Orleans Saints were the top-scoring offense in the entire NFC from 2006-2021. In fact, only the New England Patriots averaged more points per game during this time than the Saints. It is easy to say, “Well, he had Drew Brees” and that is true, but how much of Brees’s success was due to having a head coach like Payton willing (and able) to cater the offense to his strengths?
If you look at Drew Brees’ top-10 best seasons statistically, every single one came in New Orleans and under Sean Payton. Not a single San Diego Chargers season cracks the top 10 for completion percentage, total yards, yards per game, touchdowns, or interception rate.
The Saints were not a powerhouse franchise when Payton arrived, either. They had won their division only twice from 1967-2005. On top of that, Hurricane Katrina had just devastated the city of New Orleans, and newly acquired Drew Brees was coming through off-season shoulder surgery that had most likely played a part in his departure from San Diego. It was a lot of big changes and risky bets at the time.
Payton has also won the Super Bowl, which is a very impressive feat. Only 35 head coaches in NFL history can lay claim to this accomplishment. To bring experience like that into your building is a shot you have to take if you have the opportunity. The Broncos were already “all-in.” They are just doubling down.
What does all this mean for our dynasty assets? As we have seen far too often, supposedly “great moves” can go in many directions, and there is nothing in dynasty fantasy football that is a “sure thing.” I believe this is a positive for many of the Broncos’ offensive skill position players, and I will try to outline why below.
QB – Russell Wilson
Last year was rough for Mr. Unlimited, and there are no two ways about it. In 11 NFL seasons, 2022 was his worst for completion percentage, touchdowns, touchdown percentage, and quarterback rating (as well as being sacked the most times in his career.) Statistically speaking, it was a nightmare for Russ; realistically, there is a LOT of room for improvement. You have to imagine Payton was keenly aware that he would be working with Russell Wilson if he took this job.
If we look at Drew Brees’ career under Payton from 2006-2020, he averaged over 582 pass attempts per season, over 4,500 yards, and 27+ touchdowns. Wilson’s career average is around 3,700 yards, 28 touchdowns, and +/-475 attempts. Getting into this ballpark would be a sizeable step forward for Russell Wilson, but one he is capable of, in my opinion.
From 2013-2020 Russell never finished lower than QB10 in fantasy. He is only 34 years old, and with his massive contract, I expect he will still be around for at least a couple more years.
According to Sleeper, Russell is currently going in the QB16-20 range in Superflex ADP. He will set you back a late first-round rookie pick in a 12-team Superflex league, according to Dynasty Trade Calculator, and QB17 or roughly an early second-round rookie pick in a Superflex league, according to Keep Trade Cut.
If those are the current prices, I am most certainly a buyer in any Superflex league. There is a very real chance that Wilson has several more years inside the top-12 at his position with Payton in charge.
WRs – Jerry Jeudy & Courtland Sutton
As mentioned above, Payton has a penchant (historically speaking) for loving to throw the ball. The main issue for the wide receivers will be that, (historically), Payton tends to utilize only one wide receiver heavily. There are not many instances of two receivers having massive seasons under Payton at the same time. This could change, but if we are trying to decipher historical trends, it is certainly worth considering.
Jeudy will be entering his fourth season as an NFL receiver in 2023. In most ways, he had his best year as a pro in 2022. He set career highs for receptions, receiving yardage, receiving yards per game, and receiving touchdowns. He managed all this in only 15 games and with an awful Denver Broncos offense.
On Sleeper, Jeudy is coming in around the WR24-27 range. Over on Dynasty Trade Calculator, he is worth roughly the 1.08 rookie pick in a 12-team Superflex league. He shows a similar value on Keep Trade Cut as the WR23 or a late 2023 first-round rookie pick.
At those prices, I would count him as a hesitant buy. I don’t hate it, especially if you can acquire him as your WR3 or WR4 on a competitive squad. I would be less enthusiastic if you were making the investment for him to be your WR1 or WR2. Jeudy’s status seems very league and team dependent based on your current roster construction and the current asking price.
Courtland Sutton is the bigger buy here, in my opinion. Sutton feels like he has been in the league forever but is only 27 years old. He is just in his prime as a wide receiver and will have the best QB/HC combo of his career. Statistically speaking, Sutton had the second-best year of his career in 2022. The main issue was it wasn’t a very good year. Courtland fell victim to an offseason “hype-train,” and the crash feels even more dramatic.
On Sleeper Superflex ADP, Sutton is going around the WR43-45 range. According to Dynasty Trade Calculator, he is worth roughly a mid-second-round pick in a 12-team Superflex league. Lastly, Keep Trade Cut has him as WR42, right next to Kadarius Toney. Given the price discrepancy, I am probably more likely to check on Sutton’s availability, especially if I am a contender.
RBs – JavontBAE Williams
One of the more exciting and intriguing storylines will be Payton’s thoughts and decisions on Javonte Williams. One of Payton’s calling cards was his ability/willingness to utilize his running backs in the passing game. Which, as we know, is gold for fantasy. If Sean sees Williams as capable of playing the mismatch role, it would be massive for his dynasty value. If Sean decides to look elsewhere to fill that need, it would be a disaster for JavontBAE SZN.
JavontBAE is going to cost you a mid-first-round pick in a 12-team SuperFlex rookie draft, according to Dynasty Trade Calculator. He shows up as RB9 on Keep Trade Cut, worth a slightly later first or maybe a 24 first. On Sleeper ADP, he is RB10 and going in the fourth round. It doesn’t look like you are getting much of an injury discount on Mr. Williams. Before paying up, you will need to make a gut call on how you see his future playing out.
TEs – Greg Dulcich & Albert Okwuegbunam
Dulcich feels like one of the sneakier potential benefactors of this whole situation. Sean Payton loves using a good tight end when he has one. Dulcich was the last regime’s pick, which needs to be remembered. However, he is athletic, had nice production in college, and showed flashes of rapport with Wilson last season.
Dulcich was sixth in his percentage of snaps out of the slot and fifth in route participation last season. You could see a world where Payton utilizes Dulcich heavily as a pass-catching mismatch against the defense.
The main issue is the price. There seems to be a lot of love for the “Sugardaddy” (my nickname for Dulcich) on the dynasty streets. He is coming in as TE9 on Keep Trade Cut. He shows up a little lower on Sleeper Superflex ADP at the minute, around the TE12-15 range. Over on Dynasty Trade Calculator, he is worth roughly the 1.08 in a 2023 Superflex Tight End Premium league rookie draft. It feels like a fairly hefty price to pay for someone we do not yet know is this regime’s “star.”
Again, I might want to look around for some Albert O shares this offseason based on cost. Albert was very involved in the offense in 2021, and many hailed him as a breakout candidate in 2022. Sadly, he landed in Nathaniel Hackett’s doghouse for most of the season. Sometimes these things happen, and we must account for them the best we can. Will Payton favor Okwuegbunam in his scheme? We don’t know. How much will it cost to find out? Not much.
According to Dynasty Trade Calculator, a third or even fourth-round rookie pick should suffice. TE30, according to Keep Trade Cut (or roughly a 2024 late third-round rookie pick?) On Sleeper, he comes in around TE28-30 as well.
Was Sean Payton the right hire for the Denver Broncos? In all honesty, only time will tell. He was about the best they could do in their current circumstances. They tried the first-time head coach approach, and that was a disaster. In theory, they have a “win now” roster and need to make the most of it. Payton was the most experienced and qualified head coach available this off-season. It could be an incredible coup for the team or blow up in their face. Honestly, I like the go big or go home approach, and I hope it works out for them.
As the great Babe Ruth once said,
“Every strikeout brings me closer to the next home run.”
You can find me on Twitter @FFEvanlution, or check out my podcast Dynasty Debates (@DynastyDebates) year-round on all major podcast listening platforms. Don’t forget to get your hands on the DynastyGM tool here at Dynasty Nerds and start doing some wheeling and dealing of your own!