The 2013 NFL season saw perennial fantasy football stud Wes Welker post his worst statistical season since he was a member of the Miami Dolphins way back in 2006.
Much of the blame can be placed on injuries that caused Welker to miss three games during the regular season. That said, he averaged over two fewer targets per game in Denver’s Peyton Manning-led offense than he did a season earlier with the Patriots.
I chalk that up to two things: unfamiliarity with Peyton Manning and being the third option on most plays.
In New England, it could be argued that various underneath routes to Welker were the bread and butter of the offense during his time there. Even during the rise of the tight end-centric scheme, Welker was the money man. That just wasn’t the case in Denver and predictably so. Manning has always shown love to his tight ends and slot guys, but his offense lives and dies on the X and Y receivers. There simply weren’t multiple plays drawn up with the exclusive intent of getting the ball in Welker’s hands like in New England.
The departure of Eric Decker and arrival of Emmanuel Sanders likely changes things — at least temporarily — for Welker. Decker was a much more complete receiver than Sanders. As such, he was always going to be a viable option on every passing play. Sanders, who is likely to fill Decker’s Y role, is much more of a threat to take the top off the defense than anything else. As such, I feel like that’s how Denver will use him — both as a deep threat to compliment Demaryius Thomas and as a decoy to draw coverage away from the middle of the field.
When you factor this in with Welker’s increased familiarity with Manning’s offense as well as Manning’s growing comfort with Welker as a safety valve, all signs point to a bounceback year fantasy-wise for Welker. This does not mean you’ll see him throwing up the numbers he did during his best days in New England. We should, however, notice a spike in his stats.
I think you can count on Welker for at least one more catch per game in 2014 at his normal 11 yards per clip. If he can stay healthy for an entire season, that means we are looking at 105 catches for over 1100 yards — much more Welker-like numbers than what we saw last season.
In terms of scoring , we did see him post a career high in touchdown catches for a season with ten. We can assume this is the result of Manning being comfortable with Welker’s dependability and ability to to get open in the endzone. I’d expect that number to stay roughly the same, give or take a touchdown either way, making Welker a solid WR2 option in any traditional or PPR league of 10 teams or more.