Wes Welker Versus Danny Amendola

A comparison of the 2013 redraft values of Wes Welker and Danny Amendola.

Wes Welker and Danny Amendola have been compared to each other for a long time and those comparisons won't stop anytime soon after their newest relocations during this past offseason. To say Welker experienced success during his six seasons with the New England Patriots would be an understatement. Over that time, he racked up five Pro-Bowl selections and four All-Pro designations. As a free agent, Welker chose to sign with the Denver Broncos, leaving one future Hall of Fame quarterback for another. The Patriots then brought in Amendola to fill the vacancy left by Welker's departure.

Interestingly enough, this won't be the first time Amendola follows in the wake of Welker. Both wide receivers are diminutive products hailing from Texas Tech, where they played in Mike Leach's Air-raid offense, a system known for a heavy dosage of spread formations. Welker was a member of the Red Raiders football team from 2000 until 2003, while Amendola suited up from 2004 through 2007. Each of them also went undrafted upon graduation, signed as free agents, and then were both eventually released by their first organization.

Welker and Amendola have also exhibited comparable usage. According to Pro Football Focus, each ranked among the top ten wide receivers in percentage of total routes run from the slot in 2012. The table below further details their performance from the slot last season. All of the similarities create an interesting story, but when it comes to fantasy football, which receiver is the better option for the 2013 NFL season?

Wes Welker - Den Player Danny Amendola - NE
2012 Per Game Time Frame 2012 Per Game
16 -- Games Played 11 --
508 31.75 Routes 261 23.73
82.2 -- Slot % 80.3 --
125 7.81 Targets 75 6.82
24.6 -- Target % 28.7 --
88 5.50 Receptions 51 4.64
13 0.81 Drops 1 0.09
1040 65.00 Yards 498 45.27
3 0.19 Touchdowns 3 0.27
12.87 -- Drop Rate 1.92 --
70.4 -- Catch Rate 68.0 --

Welker was a stud with the Patriots, but don't expect him to carry over his epic production to the Mile High City will. Over the past six seasons, he has averaged 159.5 targets per a full, sixteen-game season. That number rises to 174 targets over the past two seasons. In 2012, the top two wide receivers for the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, totaled 141 and 123 targets respectively. Thomas, who has developed into one of the NFL's most promising receivers, should remain the first option for Peyton Manning, while Welker could very well eclipse Decker. Ultimately, with a third option added into the mix, it will be a tough task for either Welker or Decker to eclipse the 123 targets that Decker merited last season. Even Welker, himself, acknowledged that his reception totals might dwindle by saying, "if I have to catch 112 balls, that probably means we're in trouble." Mike Klis of The Denver Post took things one-step further by writing:

"For the Broncos' offense to become the NFL's most lethal this season, the new balance needs Thomas to get 85 catches with Decker and Welker coming in at around 75 each. All pass catchers will have to surrender some numbers this year…"

In terms of the Broncos on-field success, having three receivers as talented as this trio is a terrific problem to have. However, for fantasy football purposes, it's a different story. No longer can you mark Welker down for 100+ receptions for the season and he seems perfectly content with sacrificing personal statistics for the well being of his team. The table below examines Welker's potential production based on a range of targets that he'll likely fall between:

Potential Stats Based on Targets

115 81.9 917.3 4.0 115.7
120 85.4 956.5 4.2 120.9
125 89.0 996.8 4.4 126.1
130 92.6 1037.1 4.5 130.7
135 96.1 1076.3 4.7 135.8

* Welker's career catch-rate of 71.2% was used to calculate receptions
** Welker's career YPR of 11.2 was used to calculate yardage totals
*** Welker's career touchdown rate of 0.049 per reception was used to calculate TDs

As long as all three receivers remain healthy, a reasonable projection for Welker's upside this season is that of a low-to-mid-end WR2 in standard scoring leagues. Please keep in mind that each of those above target projections still places Welker above the 75 receptions that Mike Klis believes would be in the best interest of the Broncos. If the season isn't very fruitful for Welker and he finishes closer to Klis' target, then Welker could very well struggle to finish as a WR3.

On the other hand, Amendola's value is on the upswing. He should reap the benefits associated with upgrading from Sam Bradford to Tom Brady. For comparison, Bradford has averaged 223.3 passing yards per game and completed just 58.3% of his passes over the past three seasons, while Brady has averaged 290.9 passing yards per game and completed just 64.7% of his passes during that same timeframe. By accounting for each quarterback's completion percentage, Amendola's career catch rate should reach career high levels and considering the difference between his and Welker's drop rates from 2012, I expect Amendola to surpass Welker in that category.

Welker, who averaged 9.97 targets per game with the Patriots, already left behind a great opportunity for Amendola by himself. The release of Aaron Hernandez, who averaged another 6.84 targets per game, further ensures a large role for Amendola. On top of all that, the injury concerns with Rob Gronkowski raise the chances of a Welker-like number of targets even higher. The potential role that Amendola may inherit in the Patriots' offense is quite substantial and the following table details how that high usage would translate into fantasy football production:

Potential Stats Based on Targets

120 85.4 956.9 4.2 120.9
130 92.6 1037.1 4.5 130.7
140 99.7 1116.4 4.9 141.0
150 106.8 1196.2 5.2 150.8
160 113.9 1275.9 5.6 161.1

* Welker's career catch-rate of 71.2% was used to calculate receptions
** Welker's career YPR of 11.2 was used to calculate yardage totals
*** Welker's career touchdown rate of 0.049 per reception was used to calculate TDs

Firstly, I erred on the side of caution and used Welker's career catch-rate even though I believe Amendola will record a higher rate. Additionally, I felt that Welker's career YPR and touchdown rate would be more indicative of Amendola's future than his own rates from a much more anemic offense, which is why those numbers were used as well. Also, you'll notice that the range for Amendola is much wider; it stretches from 120 targets to 160 targets, which still doesn't reach the insane 174 targets that Welker averaged over the last two seasons.

Quite simply, Amendola should find himself in a familiar role, which limits the amount of adjustments he'll have to make, on a more potent offense. His health, rather than the process of adapting to his new surroundings, will be the biggest factor in determining his target totals. His ceiling this season is that of a low-end WR1 / high-end WR2, while his floor should be viewed as no worse than a WR3.

According to Footballguys.com, the current ADP places Welker at 43rd overall as the 14th wide receiver and Amendola at 54th overall as the 20th receiver. The Experts Consensus Ranking from FantasyPros exhibits a slightly lesser disparity, ranking Welker as the 19th receiver and Amendola as the 24th receiver.

With all that being said, it's not surprising that Welker's renown has kept his ADP ahead of Amendola's. However, when comparing the projection ranges for the two receivers, the highest ranges for Welker barely overlap the lower ranges for Amendola. When it comes down to fantasy football in 2013, I unquestionably prefer Amendola to Welker.