Fantasy Free Agent: Which Team Catches Wes Welker?
With the offseason just around the corner, one big question remains for New England: What will happen with Wes Welker? It’s hard not to immediately assume just because his production has been stellar that he’ll remain with the team, but Welker does, in fact, have a real option of hitting the open market this year. Even if Tom Brady doesn’t like it.
Fantasy Football can be a difficult game to predict season-to-season, but if there has been any player that’s been a lock to finish in the Top 15 at his position over the years, it’s Wes Welker. Welker has had over 100 catches and 1100 yards in five of his last six seasons, making him a PPR monster and a trustworthy option in standard leagues.
With his future in New England murky however, things could be wildly different. We take a look at just some of the options that could be in store for this Fantasy Free Agent, and find out if there really is a better landing spot out there than the Patriots (Hint: Not likely).
Wes Welker Joins San Diego Chargers
Vincent Jackson is gone, Antonio Gates continues to get older and Ryan Matthews didn’t turn in the kind of season some were expecting out of him as a receiving option out of the backfield. To keep Philip Rivers happy, the Chargers have to go and get him a receiver. Denario Alexander proved that when he’s healthy he can be the big-play guy that Rivers needs, but an option out of the slot would be a big benefit to the Chargers offense.
The Eddie Royal experiment clearly didn’t work out in the slot, and if they can find a way to fit him under the cap, Welker would certainly be a relevant fantasy option once again in 2013 on the Chargers. While it’s true that Rivers is much more of a chuck-it-downfield type of quarterback (Editor’s note: Expert analysis!), it’s also true that he’s never really had an elite option that Welker provides on those intermediate routes. As an added fantasy bonus, Welker won’t be competing with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the redzone for touchdowns.
Wes Welker Joins Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have a budding star at quarterback in Andrew Luck, and while you might think a young quarterback like Luck will be given time to grow with other young players around him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Colts go after the multi-time pro bowl receiver. The Colts clearly proved this past season that with Luck at the helm, they can win now, and with the addition of Welker to the offense the Colts would be in a great position offensively.
In terms of fantasy, Welker would certainly drop from his output in NE while splitting time with Reggie Wayne, but there’s worse spots he could end up than this. Luck showed a tendency to lock on to Wayne throughout the 2012 season, and a lot of the times it was to his detriment. With Welker on the team, Luck will broaden his horizons much faster in the NFL, and fantasy points will be sure to follow for Welker as he could easily become Luck’s new favorite weapon. Just don’t expect NE numbers for as long as Wayne is still involved.
Wes Welker Joins Cincinnati Bengals
The Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green connection is pretty good, but when that option is taken away even to a moderate degree, the Bengals have struggled to move the ball on offense. Current slot guy Andrew Hawkins had a decent year, but they clearly need a better second option in the passing game to combat this problem, and that’s where Welker could come in.
Dalton is obviously a few notches below Tom Brady, so Welker’s numbers would probably have no choice but to fall off a bit, but not too much as the Bengals offer some other compensating factors. Welker would see fewer defensive attention with Green on the field, and overall there are less mouths to feed in Cincinnati than in New England. Welker would probably end up more of a 15-20 range receiver in this scenario.
Wes Welker Re-signs With New England Patriots
Technically, this isn’t a new destination or anything, but the fact is it’s hard to write about Wes Welker’s fantasy future without mentioning the situation where his value would be the highest: sticking around with the Patriots. While it seemingly makes sense for both sides to stay together, there was animosity in contract talks last year that has left Welker’s status with the team in doubt. Welker could return if positive negotiations are had, or if the Pats can skirt the salary cap enough to use the franchise tag on him again.
If Welker does stay in New England, expect more of the same from him in fantasy. Both Welker and QB Tom Brady have shown no signs of slowing down despite their increasing ages. Teams have had many years to figure out how to stop that combo, but it’s just not happening. On the Patriots, Welker would be a lock for 100 catches, and should have enough touchdowns to easily be a top 15 option again. There is some slight concern about how a fully-healthy Hernandez might eat into his looks, but until that happens, it’s just speculation.