Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All-Panic Team: Wide Receiver

There are quite a few Fantasy owners out there with their fingers on the panic button.  I've even heard of Wes Welker and Jamaal Charles being dropped.  I don't care the format; it's way too early to make a sound decision on these elite players.  We're not talking about "I'll take a shot on him" 6th rounders like Steve Johnson or Mark Ingram.  These are 1st and 2nd round draft picks.  These are guys who, when operating at maximum potential, are Top 5 positional players.  You dropped them?  You make me sick.

Still, even the most savvy, experienced, soul-dead fantasy player is a little worried about some of the big guns out there. Tough not to be.

So, leading up to Sunday, I'll give you two "Panic Button" players at each position, and decide which one deserves the starter spot.

First up:

Wide Receiver

Wes Welker VS Greg Jennings

Wes Welker
"I farted on your team hehehehe."
I've mentioned him significantly since this blog's inception (can you even use this word anymore without being distracting?), and for the first time I find myself swayed into dropping him from elite status.  Past seasons, if Wes wasn't on my fantasy team, I wanted him.  I'd try and fail to trade for him.  And when I did have him, he'd have his Once-A-Year bad game.  Still, I drafted him as my #1 receiver this year.  How could I not? I'm in a PPR league.  In 5 seasons with New England, Welker has averaged over 100 catches a season.  His last three seasons have been demonstrations in PPR dominance.  In 2009 he caught 123 passes in only 14 games.  In 2010, recovering from a torn MCL and ACL, he managed an impressive 86 catches.  And last season, Welker grabbed 122 passes for over 1500 yards.  These are not benchable numbers - at least not in fantasy football.  In reality, they must be, as Julian Edelman (the guy who would sub for Welker during injuries) has taken over Wes' spot on the depth chart.  On top of this, Brandon Lloyd has been the most targeted receiver (21) for Tom Brady so far.  More than Welker (16) and Gronkowski (15). 

Still, I can't recommend benching/dropping him.  In Standard Scoring leagues you have more of an argument, especially given the WR depth out there this year.  But in PPR, it's simply a foolish, irrational, panicked move.  Welker barely played in Week 1.  He was supposedly benched in Week 2, and has still managed double Edelman's targets.  His 50% success rate on targets is not sustainable given his history with Brady and the type of routes he'll run (especially with Hernandez out a few games).  I say "not sustainable", in that it will steadily rise to around 65-70%.  This means Welker will average around 9 targets a game, catch 6, and likely finish the year somewhere between 88-105 receptions.  That should land him in the Top 10, as far as WR reception leaders.  And all of this is assuming he has a bad year. 

Hernandez is out a few weeks.  Brandon Lloyd is questionable week 3, and he's also had a bit of a knack so far for killing drives.  Edelman is at worst Brandon Stokley, and at best Lance Moore when Meachem was still around.  To Boras, this is a recipe for a 20 reception game, or at least a couple 10+ers.  And that puts Welker right back on track to lead the league in receptions.  

Do I think he will?  I do not.
Do I think he could?  Yeah...did you not just read that?
Do I think he will finish Top 10 in receptions?  Almost automatic.  Like a Gostkowski field goal....ohhhhh.
Greg Jennings

"Don't worry, Mom.  I still get paid."

Here's a player I'm much more likely to bench/shop than Welker.  The last two seasons, Jennings has carried a shade less risk than Andre Johnson.  And that ain't good.  Lots of injuries.  Lots of reasons not to rush him back - perhaps the worst problem for Jennings' owners is that the Packers tend to be really good.  A lazy interpretation of his career stats tells us Jennings follows two good seasons with a bad one.  That isn't what owners in 2012 want to hear.  2007-2008's combined 21 touchdowns was followed by 2009's monumentally disappointing 4.  In 2010/2011 he combined for 21 touchdowns again.  Uh oh.

Need I remind you Greg only played in 13 games last year?  If he can manage 13 games this year, I still see him scoring more than 4 TDs.  Even so, with Jordy Nelson's emergence as an elite receiver, and Randall Cobb's versatility on constant display, there are plenty of reasons for Green Bay to ease Jennings back in, and limit his touches going forward.

So, between Welker and Jennings, I'm going to give the edge to Welker in all formats.  At this point it's far more likely Wes has 100 catches (5 times in career) than Jennings catches 10+ TDs (2 times in career).

For the love of Tebow, this article doesn't mean you should drop Greg Jennings for Andrew Hawkins.  But if we're being real, I'd try and trade Jennings.  And maybe Welker too.  More reliable doesn't mean very reliable.  But that's just Boras being Boras.  The real point here is it's too early to panic on elite players.  As sick as ESPN wants you to feel about Welker, he's coming off a 5 catch 95 yard day.  And Greg Jennings is likely to play in Week 3.  Throw them out there with confidence.  

Next article we'll see how Jamaal Charles stacks up against Chris Johnson.
Until then, see who passed through waivers, and get geared up for Thursday Night Football.  

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