The second day of free agency in the NFL was just as action-packed as the first. After Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe took their talents to South Beach on day one, it was Wes Welker who stole the spotlight on day two as he headed for the Rockies leaving Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and joining Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
There’s still a lot of offseason to go, but lets take a look at how Welker’s addition to the current Broncos team affects the fantasy value of Welker and his newfound teammates.
There isn’t a bigger winner in this deal or this offseason so far than Peyton Manning. Manning was great last year, but only had an aging Brandon Stokley as he slog receiver. The upgrade from Stokley to Welker is immense and will open a whole new set of options for Manning.
One thing that Welker does best is run checkdown and audible routes, so he and Manning should be able to connect and build a rapport that will make Peyton that much more secure in a system he flourished in last season.
So is he the best?
He’s definitely in the elite tier of fantasy QB’s now with Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. His brother Eli, the newly-rich Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Big Ben, RG3, and Luck are definitely in the group behind him for the rankings heading into next year. He may have been in that top group already, but this addition cements his place amont the elit fantasy options. While I’m not usually the first to draft a QB in my drafts, I’d have no objections to someone taking him as the first QB off the board.
From Tom Brady to Peyton Manning isn’t much of a difference. Coach John Fox does tend to favor a run-heavy offense, but with no clear #1 RB and the weapons John Elway has gotten for Manning expect plenty of passes coming his way. He’ll be a WR1 in point-per-reception leagues and a WR2 with upside in standard scoring. He is a little bit of a higher-risk in a new situation on a new team and another year older, but I don’t see this trade substantially affecting his value.
Thomas was an emerging superstar last year with 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the team in targets with 141 and had a true breakout year. The only knock on Thomas was his inconsistency at times. In his 16 games last year, he was over 100 yards in seven but under 45 in four. That may continue since Peyton’s passes will be based on what the defense gives Denver.
Thomas’s upside is capped a bit since Welker is sure to get plenty of looks but his yardage and touchdowns could end up around the same totals making him a solid low-end WR1 in standard leagues and more of a high-end WR2 in PPR leagues.
Decker may be the player whose stock drops the most due to the Welker addition. Decker just broke 1,000 yards last year but scored almost equal with Thomas in many leagues since he had three extra touchdowns finishing the season with 13. Decker will still be viable in most leagues and have good games from time-to-time, but barring injury he’ll be a third option in the passing game. I’d probably rank him a little lower than most, but I’d try to have two solid receivers before I started considering Decker.
Jacob Tamme/Joel Dreessen
The Denver tight end duo will also see their looks decline. Peyton has always kept his TE involved, though, so from time-to-time either or both may be worth a look in one-TE leagues based on matchups. Neither should be your top tight end going into the season, but they could make decent injury stopgaps or bye week fill-ins if they’re available on the waiver wire.
So Broncos fans, where are you on all this? Is this the best offense ever assembled? Who do you disagree with me on? Does it need to be balanced, and if so who do you want to see as the primary running back?
Let me know in the comments section below your thoughts and how far you think this team can go and if Welker is the missing piece to getting the Lombardi Trophy back to the Mile High City.