This may sounds like heresy, but WR Wes Welker’s time in New England is limited. If there is one area in which the New England Patriots lead the NFL, it’s being resourceful with their money and developing young, cheap talent. Unfortunately for Welker, the bell tolls for thee now, as his replacement has already emerged. With Welker’s free agency looming, the future is now for receiver Julian Edelman and fantasy football owners.
Though he has never hauled in more than 37 balls in a season, Edelman has shown the Patriots enough to let the much more expensive Welker go. Edelman has everything that Welker does, minus the playing time, and that is about to be rectified. Edelman has proven over the past few years that he has reliable hands, great open field running ability, and is a special teams dynamo. The only thing that could save Welker’s tenure in New England is his relationship with Tom Brady. Without that special bond, he would be as good as gone.
Let’s, for a moment, assume that Welker does leave via free agency. What can we then make of Julian Edelman’s fantasy situation? While clearly, he would not absorb all of Welker’s targets, Brady has shown the ability to adapt to new receivers in new roles in a big way in the past.
A prime example of this is Welker himself. Welker hauled in 67 passes on 99 targets in his last year with the Miami Dolphins, yet he almost doubled those numbers in his first year in New England, as he caught 112 passes on 145 targets.
Welker and Brady took no time at all to forge their connection. It makes sense that it would take even less time for Brady to adapt to Edelman as his primary slot receiver, seeing as he has been with the team for the past four seasons.
In 2012, Wes Welker received 174 targets and caught 118 passes for 1,354 yards. While I doubt that Edelman eclipses those numbers in his first year of heavy use, I see no reason why he wouldn’t catch 90 passes and come close to 1,000 yards. Despite being completely off the national radar, Edelman could easily sneak inside the top 10 or 15 wide receivers next year, especially in PPR formats.
The linchpin to all of this remains Welker’s exit in free agency. That is a subject for debate right now, so we will all just have to wait and see how it unfolds. However, if Welker does leave, Edelman is the fantasy football player you want in Foxboro.