The start of NFL free agency meant one thing for the New England Patriots, that WR Wes Welker was going to test the open market. However, no one expected him to get signed by the receiver-heavy Denver Broncos.
The Broncos stole Welker away from the Patriots on Wednesday, and more importantly they stole the receiver away from QB Tom Brady. Welker signed a two-year contract worth $12 million to head to Mile High. The Patriots thought that Welker was expendable and that not many teams would try to land the five-time Pro Bowler, but Denver wasted no time trumping New England’s $10 million offer.
Since 2007, Welker has been one of the most productive receivers in all of fantasy football. He caught 672 passes for 7,459 yards during those six years in New England, which is second only to Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson.
Welker finished last year with 1,354 receiving yards on 118 grabs and six touchdowns. It was another typical season from the shifty, slot receiver.
At times throughout the 2011 season, however, the Pats seemed like they were too busy to look Welker’s way. It was obvious Welker was not seeing eye to eye with New England’s coaching staff. He made several comments against the team, and even if they were subtle, they still affected the relationship with Brady down the stretch.
Manning will not make the same mistake of ignoring the amazing slot receiver, so expect Welker to be heavily involved in the game plan week after week. After all, Denver didn’t bring him in to be a decoy, but to try to rival his career numbers in Denver.
Welker will now become the third receiver in Manning’s offense, which is better than it sounds. The wideouts on this team are very reminiscent of the group he had with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004 that included Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley.
The 2004 season was by far Manning’s most productive fantasy season. He threw for 4,557 yards and 49 touchdowns, which was the most by a quarterback back then. He also managed to throw over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns to all three of his standout wideouts, so Manning has had past success spreading the ball between three superstar receivers. The quarterback will easily throw over 40 touchdowns with this latest addition, and it will certainly help Welker’s fantasy value as well.
Welker should still be a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in 2013. He is almost guaranteed to catch 100 balls for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, so don’t hesitate to grab him in the middle to late second round.