Fantasy Reaction: Wes Welker Signs With Denver
In what we might be calling the stunner of free agency, Wes Welker has signed with the Broncos after what was perceived to be a lowball offer from the Patriots. This changes the dynamic of both the Broncos’ and Patriots’ offenses in large ways.
Welker is an ideal fit for the Broncos from this writer’s point of view. They don’t have tight ends like the Patriots do, but they do have Demaryius Thomas, a dynamic outside weapon. They also have Eric Decker, a very solid route runner and possession guy who caught over 70 percent of passes thrown his way last season. Now, they have Wes Welker, a guy who can operate in the middle and in the short areas of the game. Essentially, the Broncos have serious short, intermediate, and deep threats, and they pose a serious problem to the rest of the AFC with this move. It’s also a shrewd move because Peyton Manning is just as cerebral as Tom Brady, and it won’t surprise anyone if he’s quick to develop rapport with a guy who’s proven that he can adjust on the fly and have near-telepathic communication with his QB. Much has been made of Welker’s league leading 15 drops in 2012, but the guy will still pose a threat that Brandon Stokley couldn’t touch with a 20-foot pole.
On the Patriots side, the main guess here is that the Pats felt too reliant on Welker and saw some decline in him. They also have a player who operates well in a similar fashion in Aaron Hernandez, and a player who’s younger and more dynamic at that. However, this really puts the receiver position in a massive spotlight for the Pats. Do they bring back Brandon Lloyd and Julian Edelman? Will they address the draft hard with receivers? And will they go after Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer, or other big free agents with the money they didn’t spend on Welker? Regardless of what they do, there will likely be an adjustment period for Tom Brady. (Editor’s note: The Patriots had Danny Amendola in their hip pocket, which addressed some of these questions. Read about Amendola’s signing here.)
From a fantasy perspective, the biggest beneficiary is Peyton Manning. He now has the aforementioned dynamic weapons, and regardless of age, he should be viewed as a locked-and-loaded QB1 in drafts, especially in light of his finish to 2012. It’s a big boon to have three of the top 22 players in yards per pass route run. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker may take a reception hit, but their touchdown numbers shouldn’t suffer too much, as Welker isn’t the red zone threat they are.
From a Welker perspective, it’s definitely a long shot that he reaches 100 receptions again. He can still be drafted as a PPR plus player, as Manning had 400 completions last year and roughly 180 of them were to Thomas and Decker. This affords plenty of opportunity for Welker, likely at the expense of guys like Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley, and Joel Dreessen. Eighty receptions and 900 yards is very doable in this scenario for Welker. Tom Brady will likely suffer a consistency hit, but a large part hinges upon what happens next for the Patriots’ offense. It will also be interesting to see if the Pats rely even more on the run game, but overall, not much will change provided Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez stay healthy, as they’re the focal point in Beantown. Both of those guys are still TE1s, and the rest remains to be seen.