Calling the Denver Broncos offense productive for fantasy owners is like saying the Peyton Manning had a decent season last year. On his way to his multiple records, Manning turned several receivers into fantasy studs as he took what the opposing defense gave him and turned it into pure fantasy platinum. Manning and the prolific Broncos offense is also good enough to make some interesting fantasy football sleepers, which is why Andre Caldwell is worth a late round pick in your fantasy football drafts this week.
Andre Caldwell is a six-year veteran who joined Denver before the 2012 season and had 16 catches for 200 yards while finding the end zone three times in limited action last year. He didn’t make a catch in Denver’s Super Bowl loss, but the Broncos brought him back this offseason signing him to a two-year deal. At the time, Caldwell was just a depth chart addition, but the obstacles in between him and fantasy relevancy have been fading out one by one, and he now offers some intriguing upside.
After Caldwell re-signed, the Broncos lost Eric Decker in free agency to the New York Jets moving Caldwell closer to the starting lineup. On Saturday, the Broncos lost another receiver when Wes Welker sustained his third concussion in two seasons with Denver on a hit from D.J. Swearinger of the Houston Texans. Right now, it looks like Welker will be able to return from his concussion relatively quickly, but the situation could change with the growing awareness of the damaging effects of multiple head traumas.
If and when Welker misses time this season, the most direct beneficiary appears to be Caldwell who seems ready to step right into his slot position. The slot receiver is a huge part of Peyton Manning’s passing offense both in the open field and especially around the goal line. Caldwell has shown he has earned Manning’s trust in his limited work with him in the last couple of seasons, and would be a good flex play if he gets the start in that role in any matchup this season.
Another name that is gathering some momentum as a sleeper in the wake of the Welker injury is Cody Latimer, a rookie the Broncos drafted out of Indiana in the second round. Latimer has definite potential, but he’s still a raw talent and seems to be securely behind Caldwell at this point on the Broncos depth chart. Latimer could emerge as an option, but I don’t think it will be until later in the season. If Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas were injured, Latimer would be the natural replacement on the outside, but I don’t think he can step into the role of slot receiver. The other reason I prefer Caldwell to Latimer is that Coach John Fox has a tendency to bury rookies on the depth chart and bring them along more slowly while relying on veterans–like Andre Caldwell.
Caldwell isn’t someone to overpay for, but if you’re filling in your roster in the finishing rounds of your draft and you want to take a flier, he’s definitely worth considering. Normally wide receiver handcuffs don’t work, but Caldwell is worth a look if you end up drafting Wes Welker or already have Welker on your roster from an earlier draft this preseason.