Audric Estime 2024 Fantasy Outlook and Dynasty Value: Sneaky Upside in Loaded Broncos Backfield

Audric Estime 2024 fantasy and dynasty outlook
The bruising RB will carve out a role in Sean Payton's offense.

It’s been widely acknowledged that this year’s rookie running back class isn’t particularly strong. While I won’t argue against that view, it doesn’t mean there won’t be a few standout fantasy talents emerging, both for redraft and dynasty leagues.

Fantasy managers will need to dig a bit deeper to uncover these gems. One such potential find is Audric Estime. Despite being part of the Broncos’ running back committee, he has the chance to shine as a hidden gem in both dynasty and redraft formats.

2024 Fantasy Football Rookie RB WINNERS: Jonathan Brooks, Kimani Vidal, Tyrone Tracy Jr.

SEAN PAYTON’S HISTORY FAVORS ESTIME

My first line of reasoning for backing Estime has more to do with his coach than Estime himself. Sean Payton is a bit of a cock. He just has a smarmy arrogance about him. That guy has to always prove he’s the smartest in the room.

As a point of reference, here’s how he responded to a question about “baiting” Minnesota on JJ McCarthy:

I don’t really care about Minnesota here; they can do what they want. The point of emphasis is to look at the smugness with which Payton responded. He’s full of himself, and he doesn’t hide it.

Why does this matter?

Payton has a history of trying to take “undervalued” assets and making something of them. Many forget Drew Brees was a generally unwanted asset when Payton got him from the Chargers. Taysom Hill was a concept that others laughed about.

Sean Payton likes to be right. He likes to have others see how smart he is. This is actually part of why I’m bullish on Bo Nix, too. The common grade on Nix was as a second-round talent. Payton reached out to get him. I don’t think his ego will allow Nix to fail. Either way, I digress. This is about Estime.

Payton has a history of using “lesser” RB talents in high-end roles. Pierre Thomas was undrafted, and Latavius Murray was a sixth-round pick. Many other late-round/undrafted players have been sprinkled in with volume, like Tim Hightower. The point is that Sean Payton is not afraid to use late-round RBs prominently.

Payton has a clear style. He likes to have his hammer and his elusive back. This is how Sean Payton has historically used his RB. Last year, he didn’t have his hammer—can Estime be that hammer?

LANDING SPOT: ESTIME’S ROLE IN BRONCOS’ CROWDED BACKFIELD

It certainly appears that Sean Payton sees Estime as a 1st and 2nd down runner. It is also obvious by looking at Estime (5’11”, 227 lbs) that he has the size to be a goal line back. He fits in the middle of Mark Ingram (5’9″, 215 lbs) and Latavius Murray (6’3″, 230 lbs) who held the hammer role for Payton’s backfield before.

It seems clear that Estime brings a dimension to the Broncos running game that was missing last year. Looking at Estime’s line from Notre Dame last year (210 carries, 1341 rushing yards, 18 TDs), it doesn’t seem like he would have major trouble handling the wear of being the bruiser in a committee role.

The Broncos do not lack other options at the position. They have Javonte Williams returning (who I am an admitted simp for), Samaje Perine, and Jaleel McLaughlin on the roster. The best-case scenario would be to clear the room up a bit with a Perine release, but I still think Estime does something unique in this group.

Is there a risk here of too many cooks in the kitchen? I do think that risk exists, but it might be a false narrative. As a Javonte Williams backer last year, I thought some other RB was always on the field. However, looking at the numbers – Javonte had 63% of the RB carries in Denver last year, even while missing one game. Perine and McLaughlin split the remaining carries. These numbers feel less like a three-headed backfield than it felt while watching it.

Additionally, going back to 2017 on the Saints, when Payton brought Adrian Peterson in to join Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, there were major concerns about it being a frustrating three-person timeshare. Peterson only ended up carrying the ball 27 times, while Ingram and Kamara essentially divided up the backfield 65-35%.

All of this is to say that I think Payton will use Javonte and Estime as his 1-2 lead guys with complementary skill sets for the vast majority of carries. McLaughlin will jump in for some juice plays here and there. Perine is the only piece that would muddy this a bit, but at worst, I expect that to be for only one year.

AUDRIC ESTIME 2024 FANTASY OUTLOOK & DYNASTY VALUE

I think that Estime perfectly fits Sean Payton’s direction for his running game. He also offers a skillset that overlaps the least with the other backs on the roster, making his role relatively safe.

As an option in 2024, there is a little more risk than long-term because of the crowded RB room (although if Perine usurps carries, I think it will be to the detriment of Javonte more than Estime).

On the conservative side, I think Estime is in line for at least 125 carries and 5-plus touchdowns this season, possibly much more. He won’t be a major player in the passing game, but he doesn’t have hands of stone either, so he may also chip in a reception or two a game.

I would draft Estime in the later rounds of redraft leagues this year as an RB5/6 with the potential to rise to flex consideration if he gets a big role right away. If Perine gets cut, I would bump him to RB3/4 status instead. If you roster Javonte Williams, Estime becomes a priority as a handcuff with benefits. The Wolf isn’t too high on him, ranking the rookie RB60 on his 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings.

For dynasty leagues I’m even a little more sold on targeting Estime. I think there is a very real possibility (based on past Payton teams) that Estime can become the Mark Ingram to Javonte’s Alvin Kamara or, for newer football fans, something like the David Montgomery to Jahmyr Gibbs. At any point in the 3rd round of rookie drafts, I’m all in on getting Estime. Estime settles in at RB9 on our 2024 Dynasty Rookie Rankings.

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