Friday, September 24, 2010

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Kyle Orton's Stock Rising As He Continues To Play Well

By Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

One of the biggest questions coming into the season for the Denver Broncos was how the offense would make up for the loss of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Losing a playmaker who caught more than 100 passes in each of the past three seasons was perceived by many as making the team weaker, with a rough 2010 in store. However, the transition of life after Marshall has been smooth and in some ways makes the Broncos more dangerous thanks to the improved play of quarterback Kyle Orton.
Many fantasy owners passed over Orton until late in their drafts with the modest goal of hoping he could have a decent game in the weeks their starting quarterbacks had byes. But with the way Orton looked throughout the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, he's going to be pressing many owners into starting him sooner than those bye weeks.

Through two games, only five quarterbacks have more than Orton's 602 yards passing and a rating higher than his 103.9. He's also tied for eighth in the NFL with 46 completions and has thrown three touchdowns with only one interception. While NFL ratings don't necessarily equate to fantasy points, it does show that Orton is moving the ball efficiently, which has equated to the team having success on offense.

Orton's evolution began last season, when he jelled quickly with first-year Broncos coach Josh McDaniels' passing scheme. Despite the tough task of taking over for the popular Jay Cutler, Orton still completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns, with only 12 interceptions. He wasn't flashy and didn't produce any huge fantasy totals for any one game, but he was a consistent earner.

This year during the preseason, there was a considerable change in Orton. He had a confident swagger and for the first time in his career had the look of being an NFL quarterback who truly was in charge. His passes were crisper than ever, and he carried that attitude through the Broncos' first two regular-season games.

The beneficiary of Orton's rise in confidence is a nice group of underrated receivers who many fantasy owners still are trying to gauge. The offensive system has plenty of balls going around, but the passes are going to several receivers rather than the big bulk that went to Marshall last year. Eddie Royal leads the team with 13 receptions, but rookie first-round draft pick Demaryius Thomas looks to be one who should flourish the most, and he's available in several fantasy leagues.

Thomas fell under the radar because no one saw him play. A broken foot kept the former Georgia Tech star out of the preseason, and he missed Denver's season opener at Jacksonville. But in Week 2, everyone saw what he was capable of by catching eight passes in nine targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. With the way the 6-foot-3-inch, 229-pound rookie caught a few of Orton's passes Sunday against the Seahawks, you couldn't help but think of the similarities between him and Marshall.

Thomas has played only one game, but with the way Orton looks and the potential Thomas brings, he is a must-buy this week and could be used immediately as your No. 3 wide receiver.

As for Orton, this might be the week to give him a shot in the starting lineup in what looks to be a high-scoring home game against the Colts. By no means should you rest one of the elite quarterbacks, but if you have the likes of Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning or worse, Orton could be an upgrade in Week 3.

■ SAINTS RUNNING BACKS -- With Reggie Bush expected to miss up to six weeks because of a broken leg, someone is going to have to fill his role in New Orleans' offense.
History has shown that the Saints hardly miss a beat offensively without him. In the 12 games Bush has missed during his career, the Saints have gone 8-4 and averaged 33.3 points a game with others filling his role. The candidates to keep an eye on this week are Ladell Betts and rookie Chris Ivory.

■ BILLS' LYNCH -- Marshawn Lynch has been a popular buy this week because of rumors that the Packers might have interest in trading for the Bills back. If Brandon Jackson doesn't work out in the next few weeks as Ryan Grant's replacement, the rumors could become reality. Lynch's style of running is similar to Grant's, and he would be a great replacement if the trade happens. The possibilities are worth taking the gamble on Lynch now.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas sports book director who covers all sports for multiple publications. He can be reached at

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