For the past couple weeks, Wes Welker has hemmed and hawed about his future with the Patriots. In a surprising revelation Wednesday, the multi-time Pro Bowler, arguably the game's most consistent PPR machine, appears to have severed ties with the organization that made him a megastar, set to join another future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, in Denver.
Once finalized, the move will send ripple effects through the fantasy community. Though he's been largely erratic in the touchdown department, it's hard to dispute the plucky wideout's contributions in leagues that value receptions. Over the past six seasons, he's hauled in an unreal 112.2 receptions and 1,243.8 receiving yards per year. Durable, dependable and gritty, he is one of the virtual game's true consistency kings.
However, the change of address may not be beneficial.
The Broncos already have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. Young, talented targets, Demariyus Thomas and Eric Decker, each finished inside the position's top-seven in per game average last season, combining for 179 receptions, 2,506 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. With Welker sliding into Brandon Stokley's slot role, an across-the-board reduction is not only possible, it's likely. The newcomer is sure to wrest away targets, balancing the scoring outputs of the trio. Unless John Fox completely abandons the run, which, though in flux, seems improbable Thomas and Decker should be viewed as high-end WR2s. Manning, as great of a comeback season he had, doesn't have another 49-TD explosion in him. However, adding Welker solidifies the passer's standing as a top-eight QB, ranking just behind Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
As for Welker, he's no longer the main attraction. Roughly 7-8, instead of his customary 9-10, targets per game should be expected. A season in range of 75-80 receptions with 850-900 yards and 4-6 touchdowns feels right. Naturally, he'll continue to hold substantial value in PPR formats, but the jersey change damages his worth in standard settings. Basically, looking at receiving contributions only, he's a poor man's version of Randall Cobb.
[Related: Pats QB Tom Brady can't be happy]
The most fascinating aspect of the deal is what New England's next move will be. Brandon Lloyd, who was rumored to be a cut casualty, is owed a roster bonus of $3 million on March 16. If the Pats choose to set him free, earth-tilters Matt Slater, Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Ebert and Andre Holmes would top a chuckle-worthy depth-chart. Ultimately it seems inevitable Danny Amendola and/or Greg Jennings will be approached in short order. Amendola, who graduated from the Welker School of Slot Receiving at Texas Tech, would fill the void without a hitch. He teams up with Tom, and he'll be a near lock for 100 receptions, 1,000-plus yards and 5-7 TDs, provided the oft-injured wideout stays healthy. Free Agent Julian Edelman could also rejoin the ranks. Conversely, if New England stands pat, Aaron Hernandez and, assuming he's 100-percent, Rob Gronkowski are in store for re-DONK seasons.
A flurry of transactions have occurred since free agency opened Tuesday, but none shook the fantasy sports world more than Welker's move West.
(UPDATE: According to Adam Schefter, the Patriots are on the verge of inking a 5-year deal with Amendola. Once Welker exited, nabbing the former Ram was a foregone conclusion. Eerily similar to the his predecessor in style and substance, Amendola will be one of the most sought after PPR products in fantasy drafts this August, a borderline WR1. If healthy, he should reach the numbers projected above with relative ease. Expect his ADP to hover in the high-30s/low-40s in standard drafts and in the high-20s in reception-heavy formats. If drafting today, I would select Amendola over Welker. Yep, HUEVOS!)
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