Welker vs. Amendola: Which Player Has The Most 2013 Fantasy Value?
By JJ Zachariason
"Welkah is a traitah," says a Bostonian over radio airwaves. "Amendolah is gahbahge," declares another.
With national pundits questioning Bill Belichick's sanity, there are obviously wide-ranging opinions on which team got the better end of the Wes Welker and Danny Amendola signings. While we'll leave the X's and O's analysis to our non-fantasy football brethren, we have a bit of a divide amongst our own fantasy team here at Football.com in terms of who will be the more valuable fantasy football receiver in 2013. Working in the context of a PPR league, our own Nick Raducanu and JJ Zachariason enter the ring for a Welker vs. Amendola death-match.
Two men enter. You decide which man walks away with his dignity.
Raducanu: Alright, Mr. Zachariason. As a Patriots fan, I hope I'm wrong here, but I just can't envision a scenario where Welker won't end up being the more valuable fantasy wide receiver in 2013. To start, we're talking about the most prolific slot receiver in the NFL over the past six seasons (maybe ever?) who has literally been the cog that has made the Patriots’ Ferrari-like offense hum for the past few years.
Welker's NFL-leading 672 receptions over the past six years (an average of 112 per season) are PPR league gold, and I don't see the Peyton Manning-led Broncos attack changing that one bit. His new cast of characters may lead to a slight decrease in targets, but let's not forget he is also coming from a team that featured names like Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd.
Welker averaged 11.9 yards per reception out of the slot this past season, which went along with 87 slot receptions. That was good for 1,033 slot yards, and 57 first downs from the slot (all league-highs). Those real football totals helped him become the seventh-best PPR wide receiver in fake football, and Peyton has always made great use of his slot receivers (hello Brandon Stokley, Austin Collie and to some extent, Dallas Clark), so I don't think we should expect Bill Belichick’s former “foot soldier” to post less than another stellar 100-reception season. I realize he's about to turn 32, but as someone who is also about to turn 32, I’ll head you off at the pass. That’s not old! Without even mentioning Wes 2.0's name, I just don't see any way that Welker puts up less than another Top 10 PPR season with Peyton and the Broncos in 2013. Can you, JJ?
Zachariason: Do you like winning fantasy football? I do. And I’m going to when I take Amendola over Welker in 2013.
Just last season, Amendola hauled in 63 catches for 666 yards and three scores in 11 games. And, really, those 11 games should be 10 when you consider he barely played against Arizona before breaking his collarbone. It’s not a great stat line, but you have to remember that he was hampered by injury throughout the season, and Sam Bradford was throwing him the rock. Over six receptions a game within a moderate offense can easily turn into eight with Tom Brady under center.
And that brings me to my next point. Is it really fair to look at Wes Welker – a player who’s been able to play with one of the best quarterbacks of all time – and compare his numbers to a four-year, injury-ridden wideout who’s been catching passes from Sam Bradford? What did Wes Welker do before he found Tom Brady? Oh, that’s right – one touchdown in three seasons. Once Brady came into the picture, Welker broke out with 112 catches, 1,165 yards and eight touchdowns.
Why can’t Amendola hit that stat line?
Fantasy player value is all about talent and opportunity. Does Wes Welker have the same kind of opportunity as Danny Amendola? I’d say it’s not even close when you consider the Denver receiving competition. You mentioned Welker’s success in the slot in New England. That’s fantastic…for Amendola. He’s taking Welker’s role, which screams opportunity.
Let’s face it: Amendola’s fantasy merit is based on what Wes Welker has accomplished in New England. Since his numbers have been phenomenal, and because Amendola arguably brings a younger, more versatile skillset, shouldn’t we be inclined to think that Amendola can put up Wes Welker-like numbers? I mean, the competition Amendola faces in terms of offensive targets should be no different than what Welker faced.
We know what Welker is capable of, but we also know that it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to repeat his past when Manning’s probable 600 pass attempts are dispersed between multiple top receiving options. Though Gronkowski and Hernandez are both utilized in the Pats’ offense, their targets aren’t as high as a typical receiver. In fact, Gronk only had double-digit targets in one game last season. Brady averaged 40 passes a game, and even if half of those go to his tight ends each week (which won’t happen), there’s a good chance Amendola sees close to double-digit targets nearly every week.
You can’t say the same about Welker in a competitive Denver offense.
Raducanu: I’ll get to my point on Amendola in a moment, but I do think we can expect Welker to get a good amount of receptions nearly every week. Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen and Brandon Stokley combined to average almost 14 targets per week last year. Stokley is likely gone, and you’d have to figure Welker will eat up a lot of those tight end targets, so it’s not exactly a huge stretch to say he’ll get at least seven to nine receptions each week. Oh, and Welker’s first season in New England that you mentioned. That was also the season that Randy Moss was putting up video game numbers on the other side of the field, and Welker obviously had no problem finding targets then.
To answer your question from above: yes, it’s very fair to compare the two players because A) that’s what we’re doing, and B) Welker is going to the Peyton Manning Broncos and not to Sam Bradford and the Rams.
We’re talking about Peyton Manning here. One of the best quarterbacks of all-time, Peyton Manning. Cut-that-meat, Peyton Manning. Helped Austin Collie post 50 receptions for 509 yards and seven touchdowns out of the slot in only nine games in 2010, Peyton Manning.
I know nine times two is 18, and we don’t have an 18 game season (yet), but I think one thing we can agree on is that Welker is a better player than Collie, so let’s double those totals (and I’ll be fair and subtract a few touchdowns). That’d put Welker’s 2013 totals somewhere around 100 receptions, 1,018 yards and 10 or 11 touchdowns. The fan in me hopes it happens, but those would all easily be career-highs for Danny Amendola.
And speaking of Amendola, I’m not sure why we’re automatically assuming he’ll succeed in Welker’s New England role.
Welker hasn’t missed a game over the past two seasons. Amendola, on the other hand, has suited up in a grand total of 12 games over the past two years. I wasn’t a math major, but I’m pretty sure that’s less than half. While I like Amendola’s potential if you extrapolate his numbers from last year, I think it’s a little presumptuous to think he’ll stay on the field to be able to give us anything more than a small sample size.
While I think we need to keep that injury information in the back of our minds, I’m not in the business of predicting injuries, so I’ll come at this from another angle. Let me give you a few names: Joey Galloway, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Bethel Johnson, Chad Jackson, Taylor Price and to some extent, Brandon Lloyd. Those are all receivers who have failed to grasp New England’s extremely complicated offense.
Yes, Amendola spent a season with Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator, but that was also the season that Amendola spent all but one half of a game on IR with elbow and tricep injuries. Unless he has an eidetic memory, I don’t think we can automatically assume that Amendola will be able to step into this New England offense and be Wes Welker right out of the gate. As we New Englanders know all too well, for every Moss and Welker, there are two or three Joey Galloways and Chad Johnsons.
Like I said above, I hope I’m wrong, but I do like winning fantasy football…and it will be with Wes Welker over Danny Amendola in 2013.
And don’t ask me why Bostonians take away the “er” when it’s there, and then add it back when a word ends in an “a”. I don’t understand it either.
Zachariason: As I mentioned, it’s clear that Danny Amendola’s fantasy value is based on upside and potential. It would be idiotic for me to try to win this argument by looking at the past, considering Welker is one of the – if not the – best Patriot receivers of all time. Danny Amendola has played just a handful of games, and the injuries he’s endured have diminished his overall play.
That being said, projecting 10 or 11 touchdowns for Welker based on Austin Collie's prodocution seems a little unfair, no? After all, Welker's posted a nine-touchdown season just once in his career, and has averaged six while in New England. Asking him to score double-digit touchdowns would be unreasonable, especially when you consider his size. Both Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have six inches on Welker, making them the obvious red zone threats in that offense.
And why assume Dreesen and Tamme will become irrelevant? Will their numbers dip? Sure, but it’s not out of this world to think the two of them can garner up to 10 targets in a game. The days of Welker seeing 160-plus season targets are no more. Demaryius Thomas (138 2012 targets) and Eric Decker (120 2012 targets) were both under the 140 mark, and with another talented body like Welker’s, there’s not a chance Welker sees double-digit targets per game. It's important to remember that he needs that type of quantity to be impactful in fantasy. He’s not a deep ball player, and, as I mentioned, doesn't get into the end zone like other No. 1 wideouts do.
Even if Amendola sees 75 percent of Welker’s production, he’ll still be a solid WR2 in PPR formats. The alluring part of Amendola’s potential, however, is that his ceiling is high. That’s something Welker doesn’t have.
I also wouldn’t put Amendola in a class with the New England wide receiver busts you mentioned above. They signed Galloway when he was 38, Ochocinco when he was 33 and Lloyd when he was 31. The other players were either unproven or draft busts. Amendola is in the prime of his career, and has shown that, when healthy, he can be effective on the football field.
Welker had his time on a sub-par offense with mediocre quarterback play. Amendola’s just following the same path to potential New England greatness. Should we really question Bill Belichick?