Fantasy Football Focus: Wes Welker Out For Week 16

 

With Wes Welker still being sideline with his concussion, columnist Shane Taylor reviews who benefits the most from Welker’s absence on the Broncos receiving core.

t’s Title Week. Eternal glory in on the line (maybe not), bragging rights, maybe even a nice stack of cash from your buddies? You go to set your team’s lineup and you get punched in your gut, as the breaking player news reads “Wes Welker Likely To Miss Final Two Regular Season Games”. Wes Welker, who scored double digit fantasy points in 7 of the 11 games when he fully played this year, and the current 15th highest scoring receiver in ESPN standard scoring leagues, is out, due to concussion problems.
This is bad news not only for your fantasy team, but for the Broncos offense as well. Welker didn’t rack up the receiving yardage like he was expected to and what he was known for in New England, gaining only 778 yards to Eric Decker’s 1130 and Demaryius Thomas’ 1194, but the touchdowns were what made Welker fantasy gold. Before his teams bye wekk, he had caught 9 touchdowns in 8 games. People were expecting him to go past 20 touchdowns on the season with Peyton Manning in God mode and the Broncos looking like one of the legend teams from Madden. They were as close to invincible as you can get. Then, their schedule toughened up with games against the Chiefs, Patriots, then Chiefs again all in three weeks, and Welker got “banged up” as most people put it. He suffered a concussion in Week 11 against the Chiefs, as well as in Week 14 against the Titans. Ever since that first concussion, Welker’s performance has dropped, as he scored only 18 points in the three games following the hit.
So know that Welker has finally had enough, and is thankfully being held out of the Broncos’ next two games to recover, (unfortunately for your fantasy team), who is going to step up in his stead?
Demaryius Thomas, the team’s leader in receptions, targets, receiving yards, and  receiving touchdowns is probably the person you would expect to benefit the most from Welker’s absence. Last week with Welker out, and the Broncos facing one of the league’s worst pass defenses in the San Diego Chargers, people were expecting Thomas to score astronomical numbers, probably about ten times more than the four points he scored. Why? With one of his greatest competitors for targets out, and a horrendous defense wouldn’t the team’s established number one receiver get even better? Well, some might say that with Welker out, defenses can key in on other potential offensive threats, such as Thomas. Perhaps that was the case last Thursday, as the Bronco’s three big receivers on offense, Decker, Thomas, and tight end Julius Thomas, were all held out of the end zone, and all held to under 50 yards receiving. With Welker out, it took more pressure off the defense to cover the slot where Welker typically plays. The Chargers took away the deep ball, as Manning’s longest completion of the night was for 22 yards, his only completion of over 20 yards, and didn’t give up big plays that typically seemed inevitable while the Broncos are on offense. The Welker injury did open up some chances for somebody though, his name is Andre Caldwell. Caldwell got the start as the #3 option at wide receiver against the Chargers on Thursday and he made the most of his start, catching six balls off of 11 targets for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Maybe another product of the defense keying in on the offensive studs? That seems more and more likely.
As for Sunday, should we expect more of the same thing to happen? Demaryius Thomas posting stat lines identical to the ones where Tim Tebow was his quarterback? Is Andre Caldwell the Broncos saving grace? I seriously doubt that. All to often, you see players come on and get significant playing time on the field  and they explode. Matt Asiata, and Jordan Todman in recent weeks, Eddie Royal in Week 2, Kenny Stills and Marvin Jones  in Week 6, and the Riley Cooper explosion, it happens almost every week but very rarely do these performances sustain themselves. These players get hot when they were relatively unknown to defensive coordinators, but they then get figured out, and fizzle out, unless they turn out to be a true superstar. I suspect the same thing to happen with Andre Caldwell, maybe he’ll have another big game in him, but I expect the offense to go back to their old ways and resort to the likes of the Thomas brothers and Eric Decker to carry the load in the receiving game.
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