Old Bronco vs New: Wes Welker Or Eric Decker
By Zach Law
A good, and boring, fantasy axiom is to select players on good offenses, especially ones that can support multiple fantasy starters. The Denver Broncos are one of those teams. Last year the Broncos were 10th in pass attempts, fifth in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns and first in net yards per attempt. Commonly, fantasy owners tend to focus on last year’s numbers. The key offseason question is if this offense can get even better in 2013, and what does it mean for the ability to sustain a rarity in fantasy football: three fantasy-relevant wide receivers on one team.
Wes Welker has been the gold standard for PPR receivers in the past six seasons. In those years with the Patriots, the former undrafted free agent averaged 112 receptions a season. When the Patriots dragged their feet on re-signing Welker, the Broncos stepped in and signed Welker to a two-year deal.
The Broncos' offense had 402 pass completions in 2012. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had 179 of them. Other receivers caught 58 balls, led by Brandon Stokley’s 45. Note that Stokley was part of the last offense to have three 1,000-yard wideouts when he and Peyton Manning were with the Colts in 2004. His line that year was 68/1,077/10.
Welker’s just a little better than Stokely to put it mildly. Outside of that one season, Stokley’s career high in receptions was 49 and last year’s 544 receiving yards was his second-best season total.
While Peyton Manning obviously brought the best out of Stokley, it‘s not like Wes Welker has been receiving passes from a stiff the past six years. Going from Brady to Manning is like going from a Ferrari to a Lamborghini, although Peyton probably would prefer if I said a Buick.
Welker had 166 targets last year. Demaryius Thomas had 138 targets and Eric Decker had 120. The rest of the Denver WR corps had 82. Will there be enough targets to go around?
One theme that new Broncos’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase keeps repeating is “fast”. Teams are going to try to emulate the New England Patriots, running plays so quickly that defenses do not have time to substitute. In short, that means that there should be more targets to go around.
Where does Eric Decker fit in? He led the team in touchdown receptions last year with 13 and as we know, TD rate is hard to predict. At first glance, his 2012 line of 85/1,064/13 looks unsustainable. He has a few things going for him. In the past two years he has 21 total touchdowns, which means he was getting those red-zone targets with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. He also finished 2012 strong, with a 29/362/5 line in the last four games of the regular season.
What was amazing about Manning’s 2004 season, in which he threw for a then-NFL-record 49 touchdowns, was that he only had 497 pass attempts. In 2013, he’s going to exceed 600. With that many attempts, Thomas, Welker, and Decker could see between 400 and 450 combined targets. That would make a repeat, if not an increase, of their 2012 numbers a possibility.
According to the ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator, Welker's going at pick 4.11, 14th WR, in PPR leagues and 4.10 (16th WR) in standard leagues. Decker's going at pick 6.12 (26th WR off the board) in PPR, and 6.03 (25th WR) in standard leagues. Numbers are somewhat premature, but it says that drafters are going with the brand name of Welker over Decker.
Getting a piece of what could be the top offense in the NFL could put your fantasy team over the top. Eric Decker’s looking like a nice target for your 2013 fantasy teams. Welker probably will end up with more catches, but Decker's going to get you more overall yards and touchdowns.