The Denver Broncos have attempted to solve a massive need on their draft board, acquiring free agent quarterback Case Keenum early Tuesday morning. While the details of the trade have yet to be released, some are reporting it’s a three-year deal, meaning the Broncos aren’t exactly committing long-term.
Whatever the case, Keenum will be the starter for the Broncos next year even if they do draft a quarterback. You aren’t going to pay the second-best quarterback on the free agent market in the neighborhood of $20 million per year to be a backup. He’ll be playing under the same coaching staff that was there in 2017, making it an easier projection than some.
Head coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said prior to last year that they wanted to make running the football a priority, and they did, totaling the eighth-most rushing attempts in all of football. They also had the 12th-most passing attempts in football. How is that, you ask? They ran an absurd 67.2 plays per game, which ranked second in the league. This is good news when projecting an offense, as their per-play efficiency isn’t quite as important for someone whose team is running 57.9 plays per game, like the Bengals did last year.
Keenum is no stranger to a fast-paced offense, as the Vikings ran 66.3 plays per game, the sixth-highest number in the league last year. The issue’s that he still threw the ball just 32.1 times per game, which ranked 19th among quarterbacks. Looking at the quarterback he’s replacing, Trevor Siemian averaged just 31.7 attempts per game with the Broncos last year. A positive sign, though, is that the longer coaching staffs remain intact, the more they tend to pass as the years go on according to a study I did last offseason (read it here).
The Broncos are now likely to focus their attention elsewhere with the No. 5 pick in the draft, though it’s also possible they’re considering a trade back with the Bills, who are looking to get into the top-five. Offensive line help would be great for Keenum, as their unit allowed a ridiculous 52 sacks last year, the third-most in the league. Meanwhile, the Vikings offensive line was one of the best in the league, allowing just 27 sacks on the year.
He’ll walk into an offense that has Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on the perimeter, but it’s hard to say they’re an upgrade (likely a downgrade) from Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. On top of those two, he also had a fantastic tight end (Kyle Rudolph) and one of the better pass-catching running backs in the league (Jerick McKinnon), while the Broncos don’t really have a tight end worth mentioning, and they’ve reportedly considered releasing C.J. Anderson.
Knowing that the offensive line play is going to get worse, his receiving options are worse, his play-caller is worse, and his attempts per-game won’t rise significantly, it’s hard to say that Keenum is anything close to a fantasy option in standard 1QB leagues. He’s going to likely fit into the conversation with the Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton types where you can start him in good matchups, but don’t bother wasting a draft pick on him. If someone decides to do that during your draft, don’t worry, he’ll be on the waiver wire before long. What this move should do, ideally, is make Thomas and Sanders a bit more consistent fantasy options, as they’ve both been a tad boom-or-bust since Siemian came under center.