NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 Fantasy Football Draft Advice: Do You Draft Wes Welker or Danny Amendola? 

The 2013 fantasy football season is here, and while we’ve been watching the dust settle on our 2013 Fantasy Football Draft Guide and the litany of mocks and advice pieces we’re put out for our loyal readers, we’re simply not done helping you prepare for the new season just yet.

Wes Welker left the New England Patriots and Danny Amendola joined them this off-season, creating quite a stir in Massachusetts, while also doing so in Denver. Many a fantasy owner wants to know if they can trust the supposedly injury-prone Amendola, and if he’ll inherit a huge role we were accustomed to seeing Welker get with the Pats.

On the flip-side, just as many people want to know if Welker can maintain elite WR2 or borderline WR1 value as a member of an elite receiver trio in Denver. Sure, his receptions are bound to drop off a bit, but is he the key cog, or just a piece to the puzzle?

Taylor Smith joins me to breakdown this fantasy draft battle, as we both take a side and tell you who we think you should draft in 2013:

Note: Keep in mind that our personal verdict doesn’t necessarily mean we would draft one over the other, but that we’d prefer to draft one and not the other.

The Case For Wes Welker (by Taylor Smith)

Wes Welker = consistency. The former Texas Tech product has been in the NFL since 2005, and has missed just a grand total of three games in that span. In all but one year since 2007 (2010), he’s caught at least 100 passes, making him a near must-have if you’re in a PPR fantasy league. Of course, he’s also been playing with the great Tom Brady in every year since 2007, as well. While he’s no longer teamed-up with Brady, he’s potentially entering an even better situation with Peyton Manning at the helm in Denver.

Excluding the 2011 season when he was lost for the year with the neck issues, Manning has played in every single game since he was a rookie in 1998. He’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards in every season since ’05, and he’s only thrown for fewer than 30 TDs once in that same stretch. Welker will be a phenomenal addition to a passing attack that was already one of the NFL’s most potent last season, as he’ll essentially be replacing the aging Brandon Stokley. Stokley, who was 36 last season, had his career completely resurrected after being reunited with Manning last season, as he finished the year with 45 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns. Although it feels as though Welker has been around forever, he’s still only 32, and he’s shown no signs whatsoever of slowing down.

His 174 targets from Brady last season were a career-high, as were his 1,354 yards. Welker ranked fourth and eighth in the league, respectively, in those categories. Worried about there being too many mouths to feed with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker also in the mix? Don’t be. Thomas and Decker will do most of their damage over-the-top, while Welker will handle things underneath and over-the-middle, as usual. Welker was also able to set these career-highs while sharing the field with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England, so it’s not as though he was the only guy at Brady’s disposal.

Welker’s 672 catches during his time with the Patriots is the most in the history of the NFL over any six-year period. Manning has a long history of success when throwing to guys lining up in the slot, as Welker will be doing, primarily. The Broncos have the potential to be just the second team in history with three receivers recording at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns each. The first? The 2004 Colts, featuring, yes, Peyton Manning and Brandon Stokley.

While I don’t imagine Welker will come particularly close to those 174 targets or over 1,300 yards again in 2013, he’s still in store for a hugely productive season, as always. Manning has never had a player as talented or as durable as Welker is as his slot receiver, and I think it’s a partnership that will pay massive dividends for both parties. Welker not having to shoulder the kind of load he did while with the Patriots should also help to keep him fresh throughout the season.

Welker’s value, as mentioned above, is obviously higher in PPR leagues, but he’s still a big-time weapon to have in standard scoring formats, too. He has the potential to be a solid WR2, especially if he can score more than six TDs, as he did in 2012.

The Case For Danny Amendola (Kevin Roberts)

Danny Amendola scares people. I get it. He’s missed 20 games in the past two years and has gotten the dreaded “injury label” wrapped around his waist. He’s that guy that slips on a banana, drops an anvil on his foot, shoots himself in the thigh and tumbles down three flights of stairs.

That’s what people are acting like, at least. The reality is, while Amendola certainly isn’t going to be confused as an iron man anytime soon, his injuries have been pretty freakish and he’s actually proven to be a relatively tough player.

In 2011 he missed 15 games due to a dislocated elbow. It was as freakish as injuries get, and he understandably didn’t come back from that in the same year that it happened. Last year he broke his collarbone and had an issue with his lung because of it, but still came back relatively quickly and posted solid numbers with 63 receptions, 666 yards (the devil!) and three touchdowns.

He did that in 11 games and at less than 100%. Extrapolated out, Amendola could have possibly racked up just over 91 receptions, 968 yards and maybe 4-5 touchdowns.

That’s a pretty good year, and dare I say it – almost Wes Welker-ish.

If you leave injuries out of the discussion and/or simply agree that Amendola has been more unlucky the past two years than fragile, then you have to like Amendola’s upside. After all, if he could be on such a torrid pace in St. Louis with Sam Bradford, what will this guy be capable of in Welker’s old role with Tom Brady slinging him darts?

Another nice thing is that Amendola is arguably a more complete wide receiver. He’s a little faster and has better size, which makes him a bigger threat down the field. Otherwise, they play eerily similar.

Finally, Amendola’s role, one that already should border on elite, is only enhanced by a lack of proven weapons around him. Add in that his chemistry with Brady is spot on and that there have been reports Amendola has been in “tip top” shape, and there’s a lot to like about him in his first season with the Pats.

That, and he’s not sharing the ball with two other top-level receivers like Welker is in Denver. Just saying…


Also check out this other fantasy versus battle, Tom Brady vs. Matt Ryan, right here.

About the author: Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts owns and operates NFL Soup and heads the fantasy football division of the site. In 2012, Roberts finished 16th overall in Fantasy Pros expert fantasy football rankings. In addition to running the fantasy football section of the site, Roberts contributes to NFL Soup’s NFL Draft coverage and breaking news reporting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @NFLSoupKevin

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