Peyton Manning now has three top receivers from which to choose every time he drops back for a pass, which should be early and often this season. That’s why I say it may not be a “bad thing” for Wes Welker to have over 100 receptions for the Denver Broncos this season like he said recently.
Yes, I understand the point that he has two other great receivers around him and that he won’t have to be the focal point of the offense, but he’s the kind of guy that a quarterback leans on when he gets a quick pass rush or needs to check down when other options are covered. When you need a short-yardage, third-down conversion Manning will also look to a guy like Welker a lot. He’s going to get a ton of targets, especially when the team he plays for doesn’t have a top notch tight end as a security blanket.
Why can’t the Broncos of 2013 be real similar to those Indianapolis Colts of 2004? Do you remember Manning’s magical season with receivers Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley?
Let me remind you real quick.
Manning tossed 49 touchdowns and Wayne, Harrison and Stokley each recorded over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
An interesting fact about that 2004 season is that Manning threw only 497 times compared to 583 times last season with the Broncos. The 497 pass attempts in 2004 were the second-lowest of his career and with the addition of Welker and we should see 600-plus attempts this year (Manning threw 679 passes in his last season with the Colts).
Stokley was Manning’s slot receiver in 2004 and he ended up recording 68 receptions, 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns. Welker will be handling the slot this season and there is no reason why Welker shouldn’t be leaned on quiet a bit more than Stokley was.
Let’s just say that the three stud receivers — Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Welker — end up with similar reception totals as the 2004 Colts receivers: Harrison-86, Wayne-77 and Stokley-68.
First you have to assume that Welker would get a few more targets than Stokley simply based off his reputation, precise route running and sure hands that will be leaned on in a variety of situations. Then the fact that the Broncos could easily throw 120 more times than the 2004 Colts would mean that Welker would receive most likely around a third of those passes, which would be around 40 and I’d bet he catches at least 75% of his targets. That would add 30 receptions alone to Stokley’s 68, which would be 98.
Again I will predict that Welker will get more targets than Stokley did of the first 497 passes. Then I am making an educated guess that he will receive around 33% of the next 120 passes that the Broncos throw after the 497th pass and that he will do more than Stokley with the targets that he receives.
I’m going to predict Thomas ends with 88 receptions, Decker 82 and Welker 98. No, 98 is not 112, but if Welker has a great season in terms of making the most of his targets then it could turn into a 112-catch season without taking anything away from Thomas and Decker, who will benefit in the yardage and touchdown categories more so than Welker.
It will be an interesting season and maybe Manning will put up magical numbers again as he did in 2004. It’s hard to say at this point, but it seems that his 2013 Broncos receiving corps may be a tad bit better than that of 2004. I guess the only way to know for sure is to compare the numbers at the end of the season.