NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted this gem on Tuesday:
Immediately speculation and conjecture tornadoed through the fantasy football community. People are scrambling to identify which Denver receiving option holds the greatest equity over the Welkerless 4-game stretch: Cody Latimer, Emmanuel Sanders or Andre Caldwell.
I say none of the above.
“Next man up” is a phrase or philosophy commonly used in sports. But in some instances, the man who went down is not common and can hardly be replaced.
Welker is one of those men.
Welker has proved to be one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the NFL. He has caught more passes than any other receiver over the past seven years.
And with the Broncos in 2013, he was responsible for 20.6% of their receiving first downs in the first 13 games of the regular season (the games he played in).
In the first 13 games, the Broncos racked up 284 first downs, or 21.8 first downs per game. Without Welker in the final three regular season games, that number dipped to 18.3 first downs per game.
And I saw someone tweet out how the Broncos averaged 30.3 points without Welker in the final three games. Yes, that’s true. But they averaged 39.6 points per game with him.
The 30.3 average would've still put the Broncos at the top of the league for points scored, but barely. They scored 161 more points than the second-highest-scoring team (Bears) in 2013. With the 30.3 average, they would've outscored the Bears by 40 points.
Now look at the Bears' fourth receiving option (because that's what you're getting with Latimer and/or Caldwell) and tell me how excited you are about Earl Bennett.
Opposing defenses have admitted that when Welker is on the field at least three defenders have to have eyes on him. Welker is a genius when it comes to field awareness, vision and getting to open space. He exposes holes in defenses like Jennifer Lawrence got exposed on Twitter.
When you shift focus to Andre Caldwell, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer, not one of them offers Denver what Welker does. And all three of them can be effectively matched up man-to-man by defensive backs. They don’t present any significant challenge to defenses, especially not the way Welker does.
So when you rush to add one of those guys (or trade for Sanders), make sure to lower your expectations. You’re getting an average (Sanders, possibly Latimer) to below-average (Caldwell) option.
The “Next Man Up” isn’t all that great. It’s not like I can just use Tiger or Rory’s clubs and automatically compete in the Masters at Augusta.
And when you factor in that defenses now don’t have to double team or double cover Welker, that frees up defenders in the secondary to provide tighter coverage on average guys. Not to mention, without having to game plan for Welker, defensive coordinators will draw up more exotic looks and take more chances on defense.
Sure, you still have Peyton Manning commanding the offense. And yes, I agree, he, like Magic Johnson on the hardwood, can make average players better. But without Welker, Manning’s magic will be severely limited.
[You made it all the way down here? Good stuff, huh? Now Follow Me on Twitter for more.]