In the wake of their defense-dominated Super Bowl run, the Broncos suddenly found themselves quarterback-less as Peyton Manning rode off into the retirement sunset and Brock Osweiler dodged the pressure of following in his footsteps by taking a free agent payday in Houston. Denver landed Paxton Lynch in the draft, but ideally they’d like to bring him along slowly as opposed to making him the Day One starter. Mark Sanchez arrived from Philadelphia as the stopgap solution, but there’s more fantasy upside here than you might think.
The “butt fumble” Sanchez many remember from his Jets days actually produced a top-10 fantasy season in 2011 when he threw for 3,474 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for another six scores. And his numbers operating Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly actually project to a full season that resembles what Ryan Tannehill delivered last year, ranking 15th in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks.
Such a performance would be a significant step up from the quarterback play Denver received last season. Osweiler and Manning ranked 30th and 31st, respectively, in fantasy scoring and even worse—31st and 38th, respectively—when broken down on a per-game basis. Sanchez has never had a season in which he has thrown as many passes as the Broncos did last year (606). In fact, in his most prolific season—the aforementioned 2011—he still averaged four passes per game fewer than Denver quarterbacks combined for last year. So volume, or lack thereof, shouldn’t be an issue for Sanchez.
In Denver he’ll have one of the better receiving tandems in the league in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who compare favorably to the Plaxico Burress/Santonio Holmes pairing Sanchez enjoyed during his 2011 heyday. Like his days in New York, he won’t be asked to carry the team—merely to hold serve while the defense does its thing. And if he’s able to build on his Philadelphia success running Gary Kubiak’s offense in Denver, Sanchez will provide a sneaky low-end fantasy helper.
Now all he has to do is enough to keep Lynch on the headset for the entirety of the 2016 season. If Sanchez is taking the significant snaps in preseason and giving the Broncos no reason to rush their rookie into the lineup, he’ll provide spot-starter help and maybe even play his way into a viable fantasy role in 2QB leagues. And you certainly won’t have to pay full retail price.