Fantasy
How will Welker impact Thomas, Decker?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In signing with the Denver Broncos, receiver Wes Welker swapped one future Hall of Fame quarterback for another, but he also joined a team with two 1,000-yard receivers on its roster.

Fantasy owners will have to decide if Peyton Manning can make it three in 2013.

Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combined for 179 receptions, 2,498 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns last season. They saw 264 targets between them.

Denver's next three receptions leader -- Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley and Joel Dreessen -- saw 201 targets combined, just 26 more than Welker drew in New England while catching passes from Tom Brady last season.

Something's going to have to change in 2013. Thomas, Decker and Welker won't all match their 2012 stats, even with Manning throwing them the ball.

No team had three players take up 439 targets; not even the Atlanta Falcons, who had Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. That trio combined for 395.

There are several possible scenarios for Denver's receivers in 2013.

Scenario 1 - All three experience a decline: In this scenario, Thomas, Decker and Welker would split about 350 targets, with Thomas and Welker seeing about 125 apiece and Decker getting 100. If each player posts the same catch rate, yards per catch and catches per touchdown average, his stats would look like this:

Thomas - 83 receptions, 1,270 yards, 9 touchdowns

Decker - 69 receptions, 863 yards, 11 touchdowns

Welker - 84 receptions, 966 yards, 4 touchdowns

Scenario 2 - Thomas and Decker remain Manning's favorite targets while Welker serves as a tertiary option: In the best-case scenario for fantasy owners who are keeping Thomas or Decker, both of those players will still see the same number of targets as 2012 while Welker will have to take a portion of the 201 that went to Stokley, Tamme and Dreessen last season.

Scenario 3 - Welker catches 100 balls again while Thomas or Decker drops off: In this scenario, Welker becomes a safety net for Manning, is the most heavily targeted Broncos receiver and makes a dent in the numbers of one of Denver's other receivers.

I think what will likely happen is a combination of Scenarios 1 and 3. The presence of Welker as a high-percentage option in the middle of the field will be too tempting for Manning to ignore. He'll see about 150 targets and catch around 100 passes, which will still be 18 fewer than last season but enough to keep fantasy owners satisfied.

Thomas, who is more explosive than Decker and was the more heavily targeted player last season, will still be a reliable No. 1 fantasy option due to his big-play ability. He won't see much of a drop-off from his 2012 numbers even if he sees a decline of about 15 targets.

Decker is the guy fantasy owners should be worried about since he was Manning's No. 2 target last season and only averaged 12.5 yards per catch. If he only catches 70 passes instead of 85 and sees a bump up to 13.5 ypc, he'll finish with 945 yards.

And his rate of 6.54 catches per touchdown seems extremely fluky. That's Rob Gronkowski territory. It reminds me of what Jordy Nelson did in 2011-12, when he caught a touchdown every 4.5 receptions and then regressed to one every 7.0 receptions this past season.

Regardless of what happens, one thing is for sure: it's going to be fun to be Manning in 2013.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.