When Wes Welker signed with the Broncos, there was both elation, and fear. So basically, it was the same reaction to every trade or signing in NFL history.
But this time, it was personal. This time, Welker may have dealt a sizable body shot to our fantasy wallets.
Welker was Tom Brady’s primary target in New England, which became especially true when one member of their tight end duo was almost always broken. With both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing a chunk of time this past season, Welker’s targets ballooned to a career high 175, which he then turned into 118 receptions, 1,354 yards, and six touchdowns. Both his reception and target totals were significantly ahead of Brandon Lloyd, the Patriots’ No. 2 receiver who finished with 74 catches on 130 targets.
Welker’s high target volume resulted in elite fantasy production over his six seasons in new England, as he averaged 112 receptions per year with 1,243 yards. He was the man, man, and now he isn’t. And he knows it.
Earlier this week, Welker acknowledged what us fantasy folk have long feared: he won’t have nearly as many footballs in his hands this year.
From the Denver Post:
“If I have to catch 112 balls, that probably means we’re in trouble,” Welker said Monday after his first practice with the Broncos.
There you go. Problem solved. Welker not only doesn’t expect to catch 112 passes now that he’s with the Broncos, he believes it’s better if he doesn’t.
“(The catches) are not the goal,” Welker said. “The goal is to go out there and help your team win games. However many catches that is, however many blocks that takes, however many routes I’ve got to run, whatever. I think we all feel the same way about that.”
Welker is now in an offense which features two other highly talented receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, in addition to tight ends Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen. The sheer number of hands to feed at Welker’s position is already troubling before we consider the breakdown of Peyton Manning’s targets last year. He attempted 583 passes, and here’s who they were primarily directed at:
- Thomas: 141 targets
- Decker: 123
- Tamme: 85
- Dreessen: 58
- Stokley: 58
Stokley’s still reasonably high targets despite his age and decline blesses us with hope that Welker’s statistical fall won’t be too drastic. Manning has always utilized the slot receiver, which is especially evident when we look back on Stokley’s time in Indianapolis, and his single-season high of 102 targets in 2004. That turned into 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns, and most importantly, it came in a season when Reggie Wayne was targeted 115 times (finishing with 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns), and Marvin Harrison was the runaway leader with 139 targets (1,113 yards and 15 touchdowns).
So in a Manning-led offense with multiple options who are worthy of a high target volume, there’s still the opportunity to cut one chunky slice of pie, and then have two more slices that are still large and delicious, but moderately smaller. The difference is that Welker is now the smaller slice.