Fantasy Football 2014: Wes Welker Carries More Downside Than Usual
Wes Welker had over 100 receptions in five of his six seasons with the New England Patriots, and despite a drop-off in catches (73) and yards (778) in his first year with the Denver Broncos last season his fantasy owners were happy with the fact he set a career-high with 10 touchdown catches.
Welker missed the final three regular season games last year with a concussion, so that was the primary reason he posted his lowest catch and yardage totals since 2006. Compared to his final two seasons in New England his red zone target total was not dramatically different in 2013 (24; second-most among wide receivers), but considering he played all 16 games in both 2011 (21 red zone targets) and 2012 (18 red zone targets) his per game target total in the red zone did see a bit of a spike.
Eric Decker signed with the New York Jets in free agency, and Emmanuel Sanders was signed to replace him in Denver’s wide receiver mix. Sanders is not likely to be the scoring weapon Decker was, which may actually boost Welker’s number of targets in the red zone even if he may lose some targets overall.
Welker was a borderline elite fantasy option in PPR leagues for a long time, and he averaged close to or more than 11 targets per game in three of his final four seasons with the Patriots. That average dropped to 8.5 targets per game last season, and Welker was also credited with 10 drops for good measure.
Name recognition and track record makes Welker feel like a very safe fantasy option, and the chances he rebounds this year are good with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. Even with increasing injury risk at age-33, I’m buying Welker as a WR2 in all scoring formats and he retains nice upside in PPR leagues for at least one more year. Just don’t bet on a full 16-game slate from him, or a repeat of 2013′s touchdown total.