by Will Overton
For the last six years Wes Welker has been the kind of the New England Patriots receiving corp and the favored target for Tom Brady year in and year out. In the last six seasons Welker has topped 110 catches in five of six seasons as well as going over 1,100 yards in five of six seasons. The times they are changing though.
Wes Welker has left New England and signed with Denver. In response to Welker’s departure comes a receiver who has been compared to Welker many times in the last few years. Leaving the Rams and coming to the Patriots is the undersized and sure handed Danny Amendola who is expected to step right into the shoes left by Welker.
Now the important question is; which one is going to have the better fantasy season? This is what really matters isn’t it? Let’s start by looking at what each guy did last season:
Wes Welker: 16 GM, 118 REC, 1,354 YDS, 6 TD
Danny Amendola: 11 GM, 63 REC, 666 YDS, 3 TD
When you look at these numbers just on the surface it looks like they don’t even belong in the same discussion, but there are a lot of factors that you can’t see by just looking at the numbers. As was pointed out at the beginning, both guys are in new spots this season.
For Welker he is going from being the go to guy to one of the guys in Denver working with a new Quarterback. In New England last season the guy with the second most receptions was Brandon Lloyd who caught 74 passes. No one else on the team had even 60 catches. It’s not taking anything away from Welker, but there hasn’t really been another high quality receiver in New England since Randy Moss. The tight ends took TD’s from Welker, but they weren’t serious threats to his targets.
Now Welker is going to be in Denver with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, easily the best receiving trio in football, but also a detriment to Welker’s fantasy value. Last season Thomas caught 94 passes and Decker caught 85. Both of the guys were in double digits for TD’s. The Broncos are a pass happy offense with Peyton Manning at the helm, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the ball gets distributed among these three.
Meanwhile, Amendola leaves St. Louis and Sam Bradford for New England and Tom Brady. No offense to Bradford, a guy I actually like as a sleeper this season, but this is a huge opportunity for Amendola to take over as Brady’s number one guy.
Not to mention, the Patriots play in a much more pass happy offense than Amendola had in St. Louis. Just because Welker is gone doesn’t mean Bellicheck and Brady are going to change the way they play the game, they’re just playing the same with different players.
Not only is Welker gone now, Lloyd is also gone and we all know what’s happening with Aaron Hernandez. That means the only returning pass catcher who did anything last year is Rob Gronkowski and we don’t know when he’ll be ready to play after the offseason he’s had. The Pats went out and got Michael Jenkins, but if that’s your second best receiver your number one guy is going to get a whole lot of looks.
The biggest problem with Amendola is the guy can’t stay on the football field. He missed all but one game in 2011 and he sat out five games last season. The potential might be huge for Amendola in New England, but not if he can’t stay on the field.
It feels like a stretch to say that Amendola can fill Welker’s shoes, and it is a stretch. I’m certainly not going to go out there on a limb and say that Amendola is going to come in and catch 110+ passes this season just because he’s on the Patriots and Tom Brady is the quarterback. He isn’t going to have to do that to be as good as Welker this season though.
I love Welker and he’s been one of the most underrated fantasy weapons for years, but you have to assume his production is going to go down this season with all these weapons in Denver. People don’t realize just how great Decker was last season as a number two and Welker isn’t going to just come in and take away all those targets from him.
If Amendola can stay healthy this season I would actually project him to have a better season than Welker. Can he stay healthy? I have no idea, but history isn’t on his side. Welker is safer and because of that I would take him first. Right now though Amendola is going two rounds later. If these two could finish with very similar numbers it’s worth the risk of Amendola to wait two rounds and take him.
Make sure to check out all of our 2013 preseason rankings: