In this week's episode of The Docs Andy Behrens and Brad Evans discuss the spoiled riches of Tom Brady — handsome looks, limitless wealth, three championship rings, smoking hot wife, endless supply of on-field weapons — specifically Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. What Pats pass catcher should you own? Read. Reflect. React.
Behrens sides with Welker: Somehow the fact that one of my colleagues ranked Welker as his No. 22 wide receiver had escaped my attention, until we divvied up assignments for Spin Doctors.
I haven't actually discussed Welker at length with Brad, so I can only guess at his reasons for slotting him 19 places below last year's finish. I think we're all eager to find out what the [profane] Evans is thinking, so I'll keep my defense of No. 83 brief. Here goes...
In three of the four seasons in which Welker been tied to Tom Brady — I'm tossing out the Matt Cassel year, though it wasn't terrible (111-1165-3) — he finished as a top-12 fantasy wideout. Wes' only off-year was 2010, when he came back from the ACL/MCL injuries on a tight timeline, yet still caught 86 passes for 848 yards and seven scores. In 2011, Welker established new career highs in receiving yards (1569) and TDs (9) while catching 122 passes. He was a bit more productive in the first half of the season than the second, but he still delivered four 100-yard performances between Weeks 9 and 17 (and he reached double-digit receptions twice). This is one of the steadiest receivers in the player pool, an extreme high-volume pass-catcher in an elite passing attack.
Is Brad worried that the Patriots offense will take a step back? No, probably not. The team has averaged better than 32 points per game in each of the past two seasons, and they've scored more than 25 every year since 2007. Welker managed to finish as the No. 3 scorer at his position last year while Rob Gronkowski was re-writing the NFL record book.
Is Brad thinking Lloyd will steal a huge share of Welker's targets? Well, maybe. But I'm assuming Lloyd will actually pick up most of the Deion Branch-Ochocinco workload, which amounted to 122 targets last year. There are plenty of stats to go around in New England. Brady attempted 611 passes in 2011.
I doubt Brad is fretting about Welker's unsettled contract situation, and he can't be overly concerned about his age. The Pats' depth chart is loaded with 31-year-old receivers (Welker, Lloyd, Stallworth, Gaffney).
Basically, I have no idea why Mr. Evans thinks Wes is about to deliver the worst statistical performance of his New England career. Based on Welker's history with his quarterback, you'd be crazy to forecast a finish outside the top-20.
Evans crazily backs Lloyd: To eliminate any confusion, it's imperative to note this is a standard league discussion. In PPR settings, Welker is the appropriate pick. It's no contest. But in traditional formats the gap between the Pats is smaller than it might seem.
Welker is an exceptional target. His impeccable route-running abilities, sure hands (Outside the infamous "drop" during Super Bowl XLVI) and chemistry with Brady arrow toward continued success. However, with so many mouths to feed in the NE offense it seems highly unlikely he will match last year's end-zone output (9).
Though Welker has been an object of dependability in receptions and yards, he's delivered rather inconsistent TD results. Recall in 2008 and 2009 he only accounted for seven total touchdowns, ranking 23rd among wideouts in per game average in '08. With Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski red-zone fixtures and Stevan Ridley expected to become a featured back in short-yardage/goal-line situations, I'm not buying into the Mighty Mouse netting another 22 targets inside the 20. It's also important to note his "philosophical" differences with management over a new contract could become a distraction.
Lloyd's presence will also influence Welker's on-field performance.
The 31-year-old is arguably one of the game's most underrated weapons. The playmaker is more than just a deep threat. His combination of size, speed and Gumby-like dexterity causes fits for DBs. He could inflict a tremendous amount of damage in one-on-one situations, which, given the endless amount of weapons Brady has at his disposal, he will surely attract.
Remember just two years ago Lloyd, then employed by a Denver team coached by current New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, was the most coveted receiver in fantasy. His 77-1448-11 line set the pace among WRs. Attached at the hip to McDaniels, he is very familiar with the system and its terminology. The OC has supreme confidence in him and knows how to maximize his production. Chad Ochocinco revisited he is not. Upwards of 140 total targets are possible.
Coming off a porous two-team stint, he's poised to regain a foothold among the game's elites. Propaganda from the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian:
Lloyd had an electric run during the Patriots' offseason workouts, and he came as advertised. Naturally, he's got to make that transition to training camp, the preseason and then the regular season when things get real and Brady relies on the receivers he trusts. Lloyd showed some superior athleticism, and his performance during the non-padded practices made him look like the outside threat the Patriots have been seeking. But again, organized team activities and minicamp are conducive to passing success, so Brady and Lloyd have to take the next step in their growth together. They've worked closely together, so they're off to a good start.
On the surface, recommending Lloyd over Welker may seem preposterous. But if he and Brady get on the same page quickly, he's very capable of totaling a 75-1200-9 line — Randy Moss-lite. Again, in a standard format, that production could very easily outperform Welker's.
At a bargain basement price by comparison (Welker Y! ADP: 28.8, Lloyd: 54.6), the ex-Illini is the better bang for the Noise's buck.
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