When you hunkered down in late-August to put together that masterpiece you call your fantasy football team, you thought grabbing New England wide receiver Wes Welker in the third-round was a nice value pick. After all, he's the "Slot Machine," right?
After just two weeks of play in the NFL, Welker is looking more and more like one of those gas station slot machines instead of a loose one found in Circus Circus on the Las Vegas Strip. He's not paying out.
Over the past two weeks, Welker has caught only 8 passes for a total of 109 yards and no touchdowns. By this time last season, Welker had a 8-160-2 stat line.
Not only is Welker not paying fantasy dividends, from the looks of things, he's lost his starting spot to fellow wideout Julian Edelman. When the Pats were in two-wide sets, Edelman lined up as Brady's No. 2 wide receiver on 15-of-18 plays.
Some analysts are of the opinion that Welker will resume his dominant offensive presence now that tight end Aaron Hernandez is out with an ankle injury. Hernandez is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks.
Last season when Hernandez was inactive in Weeks 3 and 4, Welker exploded for 25 receptions, 475 yards and three touchdowns over that two-week span. That's obviously a very small sample size, but can't be ignored.
Another circumstance that can't be ignored either, however, is the fact that the Patriots have signed Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow today. That's something they didn't do last season when Hernandez went out for Weeks 3 and 4. Winslow figures to cut into Welker's targets just as Hernandez has.
Speaking of targets though, Welker is still getting his. Even with Edelman getting more offensive snaps (75) than Welker (63), Welker saw more targets (11) from Brady than Edelman (6). And in fantasy football, targets are key. Targets translate into opportunities. As it stands now, Welker has more opportunities than Edelman. But that may not continue.
The Pats refused to give Welker a contract extension this past season and instead, are giving Edelman a serious look at replacing Welker. And Welker's replacement is costing the Pats a measly $615K compared to Welker's $9.515 million price tag.
So initially, we felt that Welker's role would expand with Hernandez' injury news. And seeing the Pats go to more three-wide sets in the second-half of the Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals reinforced that theory. But after hearing the news of Winslow's quick signing, it appears New England is committed to their two-tight end base offense, which will have Welker looking on from the sidelines more often than not.
For us, Welker is a player you should trade away while he still has some relatively solid market value. Welker has lost his role as Brady's crutch and his value will continue to decline as the season progresses. The best-case scenario would be to grab Edelman from the waiver wire and then trade Welker.