Adam Levitan

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Daily Dose: Orange Crush

Friday, September 06, 2013

Ravens - Broncos Box Score

Sometimes, fantasy football isn’t rocket science.

Julius Thomas is a 6’5/255 former Portland State basketball player that drew comparisons to Jimmy Graham when he was going through the draft process in 2011. He ran a 4.64 forty and posted a 35 ½-inch vertical leap. In other words, he’s an athletic dude.

This season, Thomas is finally healthy and starting at tight end in an offense quarterbacked by Peyton Manning. It’s why I highlighted his face on the cover of Waiver Wired this week and why Evan Silva talked him up as a TE1 with upside in his Matchups Column.

As we saw in Thursday night’s NFL opener, Thomas is going to be running one-on-one against linebackers and safeties all season long. Defenses have to roll their coverage to the Broncos’ wideout trio of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. On Thursday, Thomas announced himself with five catches, 117 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets. His 97 first-half yards were the most by a Denver tight end in the first half since Shannon Sharpe in 1997. It happened in the preseason too, when “Orange Julius” had a 12/123/0 line on 157 preseason snaps.

Thomas did not come out of nowhere and overthinking this is not worth it. Athletic pass-catching tight end starting in a Peyton Manning offense equals legit back-end TE1 appeal. Some bust weeks are coming as defenses will adjust, but the booms will be big.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1. It's $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Here's the link.

I charted every snap played by a Broncos running back on Thursday night. By my unofficial recording, the final count looked like this:

Knowshon Moreno: 37
Montee Ball: 17
Ronnie Hillman: 14

Let’s dive deeper: Moreno started the game and played the first 10 snaps. Hillman was up next, getting two snaps. Ball didn’t even get into the game until the Broncos’ 25th play from scrimmage. At the end of the first half, the Broncos were down 17-14 with this RB snap distribution: Moreno 25, Ball 4, Hillman 2.

Moreno also started the second half, but was pulled in favor of Hillman after four snaps. And as the Broncos were nursing their big lead and killing the clock, they turned to Ball. When the dust settled (and the Broncos had outscored the Ravens 35-10 over the final two quarters), the second-half snap counts were Ball 13, Moreno 12, Hillman 12.

It’s worth noting that none of the trio blew a blitz pickup, although Moreno did get flagged for holding and Ball appeared to go the wrong way on a late handoff. It’s also notable that the Broncos turned to Ball in their red-zone package. Hillman was a change-of-pace guy that flashed a little as a receiver.

Conclusions: It’s obvious the Broncos have the most faith in Moreno. The problem is he has the least burst in this committee. Eventually, the coaches will have to take some risks and reach higher. If Ball can get his pass protection assignments down, he’ll be the man. Do not drop him. Until then, I would not want to start any Denver running back. If you must, Moreno is the best bet to play the most snaps in Week 2.

Peyton Manning threw for 462 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s the first QB since 1969 to throw seven TDs in a game. … Jacoby Jones sprained his knee on a punt return. That waiver gem Marlon Brown into an every-down player. Add him, the kid can play (4/65/1 Thursday). … Ed Dickson had four brutal drops. He’s an in-line blocker, not a pass-catcher. … Dallas Clark played the Dennis Pitta role and produced a 7/87/0 line on 12 targets. He also dropped a sure touchdown. The Ravens are leaning on Clark out of necessity, which makes him a TE2. … Torrey Smith got bottled up by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie most of the night and still had four catches for 92 yards. … Eric Decker caught just two passes for 32 yards and didn’t score, but he dropped a touchdown as well as a wide-open slant. Plenty of buy-low appeal despite being third in the pecking order. … Wes Welker looked like he never left New England. The guy just gets open at will. It's obviously not the system. 

Editor’s Note: Be sure to follow Adam Levitan and Rotoworld Football on Twitter to stay on top of your teams. And don’t forget to bookmark our dominant News Page.

Keep reading for a full recap of Thursday's news and Survivor thoughts.

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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
Email :Adam Levitan

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