By Jeff Melbostad
The Denver Broncos made their first splash in free agency a big one signing Welker to a 2-year 12 million dollar contract. Welker leaves the Patriots and stud QB Tom Brady after 6 years in search of greener pastures. The Pats seemingly let Welker slip through their fingers much to the chagrin of Tom Brady and Patriots fans alike. It’s a big move especially considering he moves to another top team in the AFC and likely makes the Broncos a true Super Bowl contender. This one could really come back to bite the Patriots but what does it mean for your dynasty team and for Welker’s dynasty value in general? Read on and find out.
Welker goes from one great QB to another and will now be catching passes from the one and only Peyton Manning. That’s certainly a good thing and Welker is one lucky man to work with two potential all time greats. I think the real story here is the impact this move has on Peyton Manning. Just a year ago there were still doubts about Manning and his injury woes. Lots of dynasty owners (including myself) had concerns about his durability and how much longer his career would truly last. In 2012 Manning answered those concerns to the tune of 4659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. That’s pretty fantastic work for a 36 (soon to be 37) year old man coming off a serious neck injury and a year of inactivity. Well the job just got a lot easier for the old man. It’s well-known that Manning has lost some zip on his fast ball and nothing helps with that more than a good slot receiver to provide a security blanket. It just so happens they landed the best slot WR in the business. I honestly think this could extend Manning’s career a bit. Certainly, I think those worried about Manning’s ability to perform in the standard 3 year dynasty window can rest easy knowing he’s got plenty of game left in him and plenty of help on the field.
Now this move may not be quite so positive for Welker’s other new teammates, specifically the current starting WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. These guys made up a pretty solid receiving corps for the Broncos already. Add Welker to the mix and they are one of the strongest bunches in the entire NFL. Still, nothing comes without a price and the price in this case could mean a downturn for each of the receivers involved. For the Broncos last year Thomas caught 94 balls, Decker had 85 receptions, and then slot receiver Brandon Stokley had 45 grabs. Welker had 118 receptions last year for the Pats and has posted over 100 grabs in 5 of the last 6 years. Obviously there’s some reception re-distribution that needs to go on here for this move to work. Manning threw 400 completions last season so there’s room for some movement but only so much. Especially when you throw Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, and whoever plays RB into the mix. I definitely think the Broncos will make it work but as I said it could have a negative effect on all pass catchers in general. I think Demaryius may escape the Welker vacuum to the greatest extent. His size and physical style make him a very different receiver than Welker and I think he’ll be targeted about the same both in the red zone and out of it. Thomas can survive more on his TD total as he makes a very good end zone target. Eric Decker I feel is a very different story. Decker’s whopping 13 TD total from last year was bound to go down anyway. Add in the fact that Welker comes in as a target hog and fellow possession receiver and I can only see a down-tick in all of Decker’s receiving totals. I still feel he can be a decent WR3-4 in fantasy leagues but I don’t see him repeating last year at all. I think the TE’s become the real odd men out here. They won’t be a focal point of this offense at all. This team will be built greatly upon the WR passing game with just enough running mixed in to keep people honest.
With regard to the team Welker is leaving this can only have a negative effect. The Patriots are losing one of their most prized possessions over the last half a decade. As I’m writing this (damn I love the NFL free agent frenzy) the Pats signed Danny Amendola to a 5-year deal but I’ve always maintained that Amendola is no Wes Welker. The 100+ catches and security blanket that Welker provided for Brady will be difficult to replace. Amendola can try but he’s got injury concerns and I just don’t see any way he can match that type of production. There’s no question Danny’s value goes up but it would be foolish to expect a direct translation of Welker’s numbers. I think Brady takes a hit but not as big of one as you might think. He’s still got Gronk and Hernandez who now become even more important to the team than they were. Speaking of the two TEs, their value goes up as well. As I said the Pats will likely make them the focal point of the passing offense. They may even go to a more balanced attack, which we saw to some extent last year with Ridley running strong.
So what does all of this mean for the man of the hour Mr. Wes Welker? I see Welker’s value staying fairly steady but it probably goes down a little. I think his receptions will go down as I don’t see him necessarily catching 100 balls again even though that’s become what we expect from him in fantasy. Manning just likes to spread the ball around and there’s far to much competition for targets and receptions. In New England Welker was always a focal point of that offense. While I think Denver will use him similarly, I don’t think he’s ever had this type of talent surrounding him in the passing game. Sure he had Gronk and Hernandez surrounding him but TE’s are a different ball game and they’ve never put up stats quite like Thomas and Decker did last year as a pair. I don’t see this move as a true net gain for Welker but I don’t see it as much of a loss for him either. He can translate his game very well to Manning and the crew even if there is likely more competition for targets. I feel that Welker remains a strong buy at least once the initial hype dies down. Older WRs tend to get written off too early in dynasty leagues and I, for one, think they can provide some of the best dynasty bang for your buck.
Good luck to all of you Welker dynasty owners and good luck to those trying to acquire or move him. I don’t need to wish Broncos fans good luck since they’ll hardly need it. Manning now has sufficient weapons to steamroll opposing defenses on a consistent basis. As long as the Denver defense shows up to play they will be the favorites in the AFC after this move. I like the move a lot for the NFL team and you’ve just read my thoughts on the move from a fantasy perspective. Enjoy the free agency period while it lasts and stay tuned for more DFW coverage of every big move made.