New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker certainly disappointed every one of his fantasy football owners in Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans with just three catches for 14 yards while also playing a lot less than he has during his time with the Patriots. The team said the gameplan led to Welker’s reduced role, though it’s worth mentioning an offseason contract dispute that was thought to be fairly timid as a potential factor.
Welker was then benched in favor of Julian Edelman in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, but his playing time increased when tight end Aaron Hernandez went down with a right ankle injury early in the game and he ended the contest with five receptions for 95 yards on 11 targets. An explanation that has been offered for Welker’s reduced role is Edelman’s ability as a blocker since the Patriots are trying to run the ball more often and more effectively through two games. Blocking is clearly not Welker’s strength, due in part to his lack of size (5’9″, 190 lbs.)
Welker has confirmed he is not injured, so that is not an explanation for his reduced role thus far this season. Now that Hernandez is expected to be out until at least October, it’s fair to think the Patriots will have to feature Welker in the passing game more over the next few weeks no matter what issues there may be off the field.
Welker has become a certifiable fantasy stud during his time in New England, with four seasons with at least 111 receptions over his first five full seasons with the team. He has led the league in catches three times as well during that span, with a high of 123 in 2009. Welker has had four 1,000 yard seasons as well as three seasons with seven or more touchdowns catches with the Patriots, including career-highs in both categories in 2011 (1,569 receiving yards, nine touchdowns).
Rumors of Welker’s demise as a fixture in fantasy football lineups appear to have been premature, and I think he makes for a nice buy-low target right now if the owner in your league is looking to deal him. Any savvy owner will not just give him away for next to nothing in a trade, but there could be an opportunity to get him for far less than you could have at any time over the last handful of years.