Wes Welker (04/17/13)

By John Ewing

Leading up to the NFL Draft we will take a look back at some of the big moves during the NFL Free Agency. We will grade each signing, analyze fantasy impact, and look at prop bets for each player acquired where appropriate. This is all done through 50,000 simulations of last season with the signed players joining their new teams. Previously covered: Mike Wallace.

The Contract:

Denver signed Wes Welker to a two-year contract worth $12 million. Incentives include $150,000 each year if Welker catches 90 passes (eclipsed 90 catches in five of last six seasons). The twist, many expected Welker to stay in Boston after Tom Brady had restructured his deal saving the Patriots $15 million over the next two seasons.

Denver’s Motivation:

“Any time you can take a player from a team you have to compete against, it helps, especially the caliber of Wes Welker.” – John Elway

Twitter Reactions:

The Numbers:

Below is a look at Welker’s numbers over his eight-year career. Last year Welker led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and first-down catches out of the slot. 

Season Receptions Yards Touchdowns
2005 29 434 0
2006 67 687 1
2007 112 1,175 8
2008 111 1,165 3
2009 123 1,348 4
2010 86 848 7
2011 122 1,569 9
2012 118 1,354 6

Our Projections:

Here are our projections through 50,000 simulations of last season. Point of clarification, we are simulating Wes Welker on the field for the Broncos instead of Brandon Stokley. It is important to remember that these projections are rough estimates since we are using last year's schedule and not accounting for all the changes throughout the NFL.

Receptions Yards Touchdowns
115.8 1,208.70 10.43

Free Agent Signing Grade: A-

As a baseline, we simulated the entire season without the addition of Welker and on average we projected the Broncos to win 12.4 games while losing 3.6. Denver wins the AFC West by five games and finishes with the best record in the NFL.

After accounting for the addition of Welker and assuming that the Broncos will pass more should Welker play all 16 games, Denver wins on average 12.7 games and lose 3.3 games. Denver still wins the AFC West and finishes with the best record in the league.

Denver won 13 games last year, they outscored their opponents by 192 points, and they were a Hail Mary away from making it to the AFC Championship game. There was not much room for improvement but the Broncos found away via the Wes Welker acquisition. Any time you strengthen your position while weakening a top competitor it is a win and on top of all of that Denver accomplished this feat for a modest price.

Fantasy Impact

Wes Welker: Last season Brandon Stokley caught 45 passes for 544 yards and 5 touchdowns. Welker will take that production but how much more can he get in an already crowded receiving corps? We expect big things from Peyton Manning this season and this has a positive correlation for Welker. We project Welker to have 115.8 receptions, 1,208.7 yards, and 10.43 touchdowns. Welker is currently projected as the 18th overall receiver. There is value in taking Welker earlier than his ADP as he could easily finish as a top 10 wideout.

Peyton Manning: We hinted at Manning’s production but how much can he really improve on 4,659 yards (6th), 37 touchdowns (3rd), and 68.6% completion (2nd)? We are projecting Manning to have a monster year, which includes 4,872.1 yards, and 44.06 touchdowns. Peyton is currently projected to be taken in drafts as the 5th best quarterback but we only have Aaron Rodgers producing more fantasy value.

Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker: Does Welker threaten the roles of Thomas and Decker? Last season Thomas had 94 receptions, 1,434 yards, and 10 touchdowns while Decker accumulated 85 receptions, 1,064 yards, and 13 touchdowns. This made Thomas the 5th best receiver in fantasy and Decker the 8th best. Thomas is currently projected as the 6th receiver taken while Decker slips to 19th. The fear of production erosion with the addition of Welker is unfounded. We project Thomas (93.3/1,387.0/11.68) and Decker (84.8/1,148.9/13.22) to match if not exceed their 2012 figures. Thomas’s average draft position is appropriate but the real value lies in Decker. Look to take Decker a round or two early and lock in a potential top 10 receiver.

Las Vegas Prop Bets:

  • Wes Welker - Total Receiving Yards, over/under 1,000.5
  • Wes Welker – Total Receptions, over/under 90.5
  • Wes Welker – Total Touchdowns, 7.5

Over, over, over. We like the over on all of these prop bets. Every analyst agrees that Welker will be productive in Denver but can he match the highs seen in Boston? Our projected stats for Welker do not pull from other players, instead we anticipate Manning to outperform his 2012 season. A big year by Manning equates to a big year for Welker.