Tim Patrick: Denver’s Unlikely Early-Season Hero (2020 Fantasy Football)
It wasn’t that long ago during the offseason that the Denver Broncos were being lauded for having one of the most promising young offenses in the league heading into this season. Courtland Sutton was expected to make another big step forward along with tight end Noah Fant. They also used a high draft pick on rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy. Like many teams this season, luck has not gone their way when it came to injuries. With Sutton gone for the season, Fant missing time, and QB Drew Lock missing most of the first quarter of the season, the offense has still managed to get a spark out of third-year wideout Tim Patrick.
Tim Patrick played his college ball at Utah, but most of his college career was derailed by injury. He missed 17 games during his time there. He was able to overcome that and lead the Utes in receptions (45), yards (711), and touchdown catches (5) in his final year in 2016. He was praised for his speed and above-average catch radius at the college level and also presents plus size at 6-foot-4 and 208 lbs.
The combination of his minimal output in college and raw skills on the field resulted in Patrick going undrafted in the NFL. The Ravens first picked him up as an UDFA in 2017 but he only stuck on the team for two months before being waived. The 49ers claimed him, but he also stuck with them for two months before again being waived. The Broncos picked him up a month later as a member of the practice squad.
Patrick got his first taste of NFL action in 2018. He played a small role for most of the season but was trusted into a larger role for the final month as the team was again struggling with injuries. Patrick outplayed DaeSean Hamilton and provided the team their best receiving option catching two TDs over the last four weeks. In 2019, Patrick missed half of the season with a broken hand. He came back for the final half of the year but played a minimal role on offense, for the most part, being held without a TD.
With the injury bug biting hard in 2020, Patrick has once again been thrust into a larger role for the Broncos and has once again answered their call. Through the first five games of the season, he leads the team with 20 catches for 310 yards with two TDs.
State of the Offense
After losing their first three games, the Broncos have strung together back-to-back wins, giving them a 2-3 record. Injuries to Sutton, Fant, and Lock have been a big blow to the offense, but they could still get a win out of the Jets without them. Their most recent win was a big upset against the Patriots in Drew Lock’s return from injury. They relied on six field goals from Brandon McManus to get the job done, but Tim Patrick accounted for 101 of Lock’s 189 passing yards in that game.
The offense hasn’t exactly been potent thus far, averaging just 20 PPG — fourth-fewest in the league. They’re simply not moving the chains, having converted just 35.9% of their third downs, and they’re scoring on just 40% of red-zone drives. They’re bottom eight passing attempts per game this season, which is right about on par with what we saw from them last season. There is hope that Lock returning to a better form for the remainder of the season could boost this offense.
There are a few red flags with the situation around Patrick. First of all, this isn’t a prolific passing offense that he’s a part of. Even with Lock giving the team a boost, you’re rooting for them to perform closer to league average as an improvement. They’re not going to see the volume that the elite passing offenses put up that can create multiple fantasy-worthy options in the passing game.
Another issue is the fact that Patrick isn’t an elite talent. He’s not a bad player, but he’s not one of those guys who comes along that has a freakish athletic ability that you’re hoping stumbles into a larger role. He’s proven a solid option when there aren’t any left. Still, with Noah Fant very close to a return and Jerry Jeudy being one of those freakishly talented guys, Patrick could quickly be relegated to the third option in the passing game here.
Despite all of this, it’s still worth respecting his potential. He’s put up back-to-back 100-yard games and caught two TDs over his last three games. I wouldn’t drop a ton of FAAB on him, but he should continue to have a large enough role to warrant Flex consideration in 12-team leagues going forward with heightened value in 14+ team leagues. He’s proven to have the character to beat the odds and rise to the occasion.
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