As I advised about Week 1 in general, it was too early to truly learn anything about the running back situation in Denver from this game. RB Ronnie Hillman got the start and to me he looked terrible. Granted the Niners starting run d is formidable, but Hillman took too many runs outside and for small yardage. If he was in there as the “veteran” back to help in pass protection for QB Peyton Manning’s one series that’s understandable, but that’s the only reason I can think of that Hillman is topping the depth chart at the moment.
RB Montee Ball who was receiving a lot of fantasy heat after the draft in April looked pedestrian as well going with 5 carries for 9 yards. And forgotten former 1st round pick RB Knowshon Moreno looked the best of the 3 by far, but this is schewed because he has the most experience and was running against the worst opposition.
While it’s worth fantasy owners of all types (dynasty, redraft, ppr, etc) to keep tabs on the Broncos backfield throughout training camp, I don’t know what to expect that to payout once the season begins. QB Peyton Manning appears healthier even now than he did last year (on his few attempts he did finally let one fly deep) and if he’s healthy I think Manning outweighs John Fox. This means that whomever wins the Broncos RB job for 2013 will likely have to be an asset in the passing game 1st (receiver, blocker, change of pace guy) and a RB 2nd. Manning has had guys like RB Edgerrin James blow up in the past – but has also had committees of lesser guys and with lesser rushing results. I’m less excited about Denver’s rushing attack than most no matter who wins the job.
TE Julius Thomas stood out for the Broncos in a big way in this one. Smooth and fast with a large and imposing combination. He was buried last season behind the veterans Joel Dressen and Jacob Tamme – but now that injuries have slowed those guys – it’s possible he moves into the starter’s role. If Thomas wins a starter’s share before the season begins he has a chance to be a top 10 TE in redraft leagues. And if it doesn’t work out for Thomas this season – he absolutely should be owned in dynasty leagues as a stash for the future – which may be sooner than most people think.
QB Colin Kapernick looked very good on his one and only series. In fact, I’m convinced the only reason it didn’t end with a TD was because the Niners insisted on running the football too much with LaMichael James and other underwhelming RB’s. Kapernick had some sharp passes and one really excellent short scramble – I am resistant on some of his hype for fantasy because of the scheme, but I think anyone hating on Kapernick and calling him a flash in the pan that the league will adjust to, has it completely wrong. He will flirt with being a top 8-10 fantasy QB this season.
RB LaMichael James got the start here, with RB Frank Gore getting rest, and RB Kendall Hunter still rehabbing an injury. James was not particularly impressive – he ran laterally more than downhill, and he nearly lost a fumble near his own goaline. James could be useful as a 3rd down back, but will the Niners evolve their offseason to the point where that is a fantasy factor?
The WR target battle for the Patriots may be getting all of the preseason attention, but San Fran’s 2nd WR battle in the wake of WR Michael Crabtree’s injury may have some serious fantasy implications, if just one person can lock this down. Unfortunately nobody at the WR position in this game had a moment you’d really say stood out.
In fact when you’re waiting to see what WR Mario Manningham and WR Austin Collie are going to bring to the table, well you know the meal must be pretty weak. The battle for targets after TE Vernon Davis and WR Anquan Boldin may take the entire preseason to sort out.