So if Decker actually maintained the same level of usage (I think Broncos would be dumb to decrease it) then you got a screaming bargain.
— Fantasy Douche (@FantasyDouche) July 23, 2013
Well… Yeah. They would. Decker was incredibly efficient in the redzone (in fact, as I discovered the other day, the most efficient RZ receiver in the NFL with a 69% RZ catch rate and turning 23 targets into 11 touchdowns), and doesn’t need the same crazy amount of volume that Wes Welker does to be successful (legit WR1 with only 130 targets). Whereas there is no way Welker will make it onto any of my teams, Decker almost assuredly will.
The big caveat has to be the sustainability of Decker’s performance, so look at what Decker did while he was a Minnesota Gopher in the Redzone:
Not only are those crazy good rates each and every year (even as a freshmen) but as Decker’s overall targets increased on a poor Minnesota team, his efficiency got better. In his junior season where he received 144 targets, he posted a career-best 44% Red Zone TD rate. So, there is a history of Decker producing better than expected returns when it comes to the redzone and scoring touchdowns. This table is what he has done as a Bronco:
Even in Decker’s one season of somewhat down efficiency (out of 7 years of data), he still performed basically the same as Aaron Hernandez (4 touchdowns/12 targets) who was widely regarded by fantasy footballers as a stud, even though his fantasy numbers were largely a result of volume; or everyone’s favorite white wide receiver, Danny Amendola (3 touchdowns/12 targets).
Honestly, the fact that Decker is white probably affects people’s perceptions of his athleticism, but the guy is 6’3, 217 pounds, and runs a 4.54 40. I would bet most people don’t realize that Decker and Demaryius Thomas are the same height, and that Thomas’ reported pre-draft 40 time was only .02 faster than Decker’s. While Thomas is probably the better athlete, the gap isn’t as large as the general population would believe.
The Broncos: Projected
Using the great QB and WR Similarity Scores, Eric Decker comes out looking even better. The apps are extremely conservative with Manning’s N+1 comparables having a 4,262 yards, 29 touchdown season on average. Even with that incredibly conservative number, and projected 561 attempts, there is plenty of room for both Demaryius and Decker to provide value at their current draft position.
Wes Welker has always need 150+ targets, which is crazy volume, to post his standard WR2 seasons. The sim score app hates Welker even more than I do. Take a look.
In standard leagues, Decker’s median projection is better than the best case for Welker. The averages for Welker’s season N+1 comps is 992 yards and 5 scores; Decker’s is 1001 yards with 7 touchdowns, which immediately strikes me as conservative, because the app projects 138 targets over 16 games in that scenario. If Decker gets 138 targets in 2013, there is probably an 80% chance that he is a WR1.
While I understand Welker being taken ahead of Decker based on name value by the casual masses, that isn’t how it should go in any sort of competitive league. Whereas Welker has always need volume and has never scored double digit touchdowns, Decker has already posted a WR7 season with 120 targets. In Welker’s best fantasy season (214 standard points in 2011) he posted 1.13 fantasy points per target; Decker posted 1.39 fantasy points per target last year. Will Decker keep up that touchdown percentage? Probably not; but we have a 7 year track record of Decker performing well above average in the redzone and a scenario unfolding where he is being drafted after players like Mike Wallace and 8 (!!!!!!!) WR spots after Wes Welker. Welker has already said “”If I have to catch 112 balls, that probably means we’re in trouble“, which signifies a serious shift in usage for the diminutive wide out, which in turn will damage his fantasy value. The smart bet is wait in the weeds and nab a potential WR1 in the 6th round, rather than grabbing a surefire WR2 in the 4th.