No one seems quite sure what to make of the New England Patriots' Wes Welker heading into the 2010 fantasy season. Knee and shoulder surgeries have left owners with lingering doubts about his ability to step in from Week One and put up yet another 110+ reception season.
Then there's the media back and forth over him going on the PUP list to start the season. How can owners develop a comfort level when the media hype machine is so wishy-washy?
Welker has been way ahead of schdule in recovery process, and now he's officially and fully cleared to participate in all training camp activities. This means mean Welker is ineligable to begin the season on the reserve/PUP list. Good news. It also means he's very likely to start the season ready to roll, and perhaps even in Week one. Even better news.
Update: July27, 2010-- Not a day after Welker was "cleared to play" he has now been placed on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. Since camp has not yet opened they are still able to do this. Welker can come off the PUP at anytime, and is still likely to start the season between Week 1-3.
He's currently being drafted as the 22nd WR off the board, 60th overall. That's probably right about where he should be going, even if he's the miracle healer--or healee, he seems to be. Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting ready to press the Draft button on Welker in 2010.
- Wes healing so quickly is amazing, but it's likely that Bill Bellichick will take it easy with Welker early on and play him less this season to keep him fresh and healthy. At the very least, Bellichick will take it easy on him in camp to make sure he's ready week one, which means he will still be a bit less than 100% ready when he hits the field.
- He had 123 receptions last season. It's not likely he will duplicate that again. In fact my guess is he won't reach the 110 or so he had the previous couple of seasons. Realistically I think owners can expect 80-90 receptions from Welker in 2010 with 4-6 TDs and about 1000 yards. If that seems like a big drop off it's not. Anquan Boldin put up just those type of numbers last season and ended up at 21st overall.
- There is also a better supporting cast for Welker this season. Julian Edelman and Benjamin Tate are ready to do more, and rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski looks to be a legitimate threat right out the gate. Even TE Aaron Hernandez gives Tom Brady another decent target. Welker will have to do less to help the team win.
Summary: I believe Welker will finish somewhere between the 15th and 25th fantasy WR in 2010. While I don't doubt his skills, I don't see him breaking into the top 12 as he often has--not this year. So buy him only if the price is right. Anything before round 6 is going to be a stretch in 10-12 team leagues.