Fantasy Reaction: Danny Amendola Signs With New England
The ink hadn’t dried on Wes Welker’s new two-year contract with Denver when the Patriots responded by signing Danny Amendola to a five-year contract. The role that Welker vacated is one of the most appealing in fantasy. In it, Welker exceeded 100 receptions in four of the previous five seasons. I’m not convinced Amendola can do the same.
There is no denying that Welker’s role had more to do with his fantasy success than his actual skill set. Welker is small and not particularly fast, relying on his precise route-running and chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady to put up points in small increments. In fact, Welker’s hands — historically considered one of his few elite tools — had come into question following his failed catch late in Super Bowl XLVI. Welker combined to drop just 13 balls from 2008-2009, and he has had at least 13 drops in each of the three seasons since, while Amendola has had only 11 drops in his four-year career.
In absolute terms, Welker has been near the league lead in drops recently, but it’s important to keep in mind the volume of targets he has been seeing. Welker had 15 drops in 2012, for example, which was his career high, but he also had 118 catchable balls. His 11.28 percent drop rate was better than other prominent slot receivers such as Randall Cobb (12.09 percent) and Victor Cruz (12.24 percent).
Amendola still represents an upgrade in terms of hands. He has never seen 118 catchable balls in a season, but he has seen 201 over his four-year career and had a 5.47 drop rate, twice as good as Welker in 2012. And Amendola does look similar to Welker on paper. In 2012, Welker had a 7.6-yard average depth of target and Amendola had a 7.9-yard average depth of target. Welker took 82.2 percent of his routes in the slot while Amendola took 80.3 percent. However, that all belies the big concern with Amendola, which is that it took him four seasons to do what Welker has done in one.
Amendola has been plagued by myriad injuries in his career. These included a dislocated elbow, a broken collarbone, and, most recently, a heel injury. Yes, Amendola has had games that showcase his full promise — most notably his 15-catch, 160-yard performance in Week 2 last season — but you cannot overlook the fact that he has never reached 700 yards or four touchdowns in a season.
And injuries are not my lone concern. In Week 1 of 2012, Welker had just three receptions and 14 yards on five targets. Time proved the panic that performance caused to be unwarranted, but I wonder if there was real reason to panic that circumstance wiped away.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combined for a +51.1 overall grade in 2011 in just under 2,000 snaps. However, last season, Gronkowski and Hernandez shared the field in only five of the 16 possible games because of injuries, so it is hard to get an accurate rating. They may wear tight end numbers on their jerseys, but there is no question that they are the best two receiving threats on the team, with or without Amendola. If they can remain healthy in 2013, and with the late-season emergence of running back Shane Vereen — who is another threat to catch passes in the middle of the field — I do not believe Amendola can expect the 150-plus-target seasons Welker enjoyed in his best years.
The upside is certainly there for Amendola to become a top-20 receiver. I only question if it is there for him to join the top 10, and given his history of injuries and the other elite options he will have to compete with on the Patriots, I would have a hard time drafting him ahead of more-proven options like Steve Smith and Greg Jennings.