2013 Fantasy Football: What Wes Welker to Broncos Means
Wes Welker has traded in his tri-cornered hat and Uggs for a horse head and Sprint phone – signing as a free agent with the Denver Broncos. For all the Brady vs. Manning debates, Welker is actually the first starter to go from one to the other – so everyone will be watching to see how he does.
From a real football perspective, the change is fascinating – Broncos fans are salivating at the thought of what Welker will add. But from a fantasy football perspective, Denver is actually a questionable destination – the Broncos got 94 receptions from Demaryius Thomas and 85 from Eric Decker last season, and 23 TDs between them – which means Welker will need to siphon off some of their touches to reach his the 110-120 he’s been putting up in five of the last six years. Welker ostensibly replaces number-three WR Brandon Stokley and his 45 catches – but unless the NFL extends games to 90 minutes long, or one of the three gets hurt, they’re going to have to learn how to share the ball. That, or Welker fans may have to face the distinct possibility that the 32-year old slot machine is now third in his new team’s passing pecking order, and no longer a sure-fire PPR god.
Decker is primed to be the biggest loser here, as Thomas is still the unquestioned deep threat. Perhaps head coach John Fox will stop running the ball completely, relying on slant passes to Decker and Welker as an ersatz ground game. The biggest beneficiary could actually be the tight end – but the Broncos have two, Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, who also split touches.
Another problem is that Welker may be on his way down – his production in the second half dropped off, even though he still got touches – so it remains to be seen if it was due to feuding with Brady and/or management, or if his actual game took a step backward, which may be the real reason the Patriots were willing to let him go.
So the Broncos have the pieces in place to put up possibly historic passing numbers – but probably not historic fantasy numbers for individual receivers. Upgrade Peyton Manning, who should be near the top of your QB chart anyway; and continue to think of Thomas as a low-first-tier WR1. Welker still has the ceiling to be another WR1, but he has a floor that needs to be noticed, too. Let the Broncos fans in your fantasy league draft him way too early.
And what will the Patriots do? They just signed Danny Amendola, who is certainly white and gritty, but has a hard time staying healthy and has never been counted on to get the sheer volume of touches that Welker got. Expect more two-TE sets with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez now being Brady’s best and most reliable targets. Brady might take a step back, but it would still be a slight one. I think that the Welker signing pushes Manning ahead of Brady on the chart, for sure, however.