Over the course of the 2012 season, the Denver Broncos were a very fantasy relevant team when it comes to the wide receiver position. Between Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, fantasy owners saw a whopping 23 combined touchdowns and over 2,400 yards. Needless to say, both finished inside the top-20 in fantasy points among wide receivers last season. However, the human football vacuum that is, Wes Welker has arrived in Mile High. So, how would I rank these three receivers from a fantasy perspective?
1) Demaryius Thomas
I am super high on this 25-year old burgeoning star. He is my number one Broncos receiver and among all fantasy wideouts, I have him sixth. He really is special. At 6’3″, 230 lbs and a 4.38 40 times, Thomas has arguably the greatest combination of speed and size in football. He has the ability to muscle passed defensive backs at the line and then burn safeties with his blazing speed. In his first full season in 2012, Thomas absolutely broke out, catching 94 balls (8th in NFL) for 1,434 yards (4th in NFL) and 10 scores (7th in NFL). Clearly, his stats indicate that he is at least a top-10 receiver in this league, so why do I have him as high as sixth? Well, considering he still has a Hall of Fame quarterback tossing him the ball, the targets will continue to be there, despite the addition of Welker. Speaking of Manning, reports out of Denver camp indicate that he and Thomas are experiencing “sky-high” chemistry. Also, at 25-years old, Thomas is only going to get better, which is pretty scary. The addition of Welker will actually benefit Thomas because teams can’t just dial in on him. Welker will be a threat underneath, which will allow Thomas to do what he does best and go over the top. I strongly believe that Welker’s presence is a good thing for Thomas, and won’t impact his targets.
Take a look at his target log from last season. His week to week safety in that department was pleasing for fantasy owners and resulted in his fantasy production.
Manning knows who the top dog is in this offense, and won’t shy away from heavily targeting him. Consider him a lock as a top-10 fantasy option.
2) Wes Welker
Make no mistake. 2013 will not be the same Welker fantasy owners have been accustomed to seeing. Over the last six seasons, try to name the player that has caught more balls than Welker. Well, this is a trick question, because you can’t. No one has caught more passes during that span than Welker, making for one of the most productive pass catchers over the past decade. He has posted five 100-catch seasons in his career, but with all of those weapons in Denver, can he do it again? Sure, Welker has done it in New England with two dominant tight ends and even a guy named Randy Moss on the outside. But that was with Tom Brady, a guy that was absolutely locked in with Welker. The two got to the point where they didn’t have to even talk to each other, they just knew where to be at all times. While Manning is no slouch either, I’m not sold that they will have an immediate impact like Brady did. However, that doesn’t mean Welker isn’t a viable fantasy option. As long as he’s healthy, I expect him to haul in around 80 balls, but the touchdown potential won’t really be there, though that isn’t very new. He has never posted a season where he scored double-digit touchdowns and I don’t expect that to change this season. Still, in a PPR format, Welker is an awesome number two fantasy wideout and should be more than serviceable.
3) Eric Decker
While Welker takes a fantasy hit this year, Decker takes the bigger one. Welker’s presence won’t force Decker to the bench by any means, but there is reason to believe that some serious regression is on the horizon. I think his targets will drop (123 last year) because when it comes to Decker and Thomas, there is no doubt that Thomas is the more talented wideout, making him the one that should see the ball more. Still, Decker could very well lead this team in touchdowns once again. He had 13 last year and could have had a 14th if it weren’t for those nasty turf monsters. Decker’s ADP has dropped all the way to the 25th fantasy wide receiver, via Fantasy Football Calculator, but I think at that value, you can get some strong production as a low end number two receiver. Denver is expected to throw the ball a ton in 2013 and they should use a plethora of three wide receiver sets. Regression is certainly expected, but with his value dropping, fantasy owners could use that to their advantage and make a solid investment in a skilled receiver such as Decker.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.