With his 122-reception season last year, Welker tied Rice and Harrison for the most 100-reception seasons (four) in NFL history. If you raise the bar (minimum) to 110 receptions or more, then Welker still has four but no other receiver has more than two.
Since joining the Patriots five seasons ago, Welker has had all four of his 110-reception seasons. The one exception was in 2010 when he returned from a torn ACL injury and had only 86 receptions, which was tied for sixth in the league that year.
During that five-year span, no receiver has more receptions than Welker (554).
Not only did The Slot Machine rack up the receptions last year, but he set career highs in yards (1,569) and touchdowns (nine). He missed his career high in receptions by only one.
The only player targeted more than Welker (158) last year was Atlanta's Roddy White (181).
It's likely that White will be targeted less in 2012 considering his teammate Julio Jones had only 96 targets last year and that number is expected to increase. That said, the number of targets for Welker could decrease as well with the offseason addition of free-agent receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Seeking a long-term deal, Welker was designated with the franchise tag in February and will earn $9.5 million guaranteed in 2012.
Considering the Patriots have given both of their tight ends long-term deals, it seems less likely that Welker will get a long-term deal. It is more likely, however, that the Patriots use their franchise tag again on Welker in 2013 if necessary, since they won't have to use it on Aaron Hernandez, who agreed to a long-term deal last month.
Welker and quarterback Tom Brady clearly have great chemistry and Welker is the premiere slot receiver in the league capable of another huge season.
If something gets in the way of another huge season, it's the number of talented pass-catchers in the Patriots' offense taking targets away from Welker. At the same time, the existence of a better outside threat in Lloyd makes it even more difficult for opposing secondaries to defend the Patriots' high-powered passing attack.
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year by all of the Patriots' opponents this year, Welker and Patriots receivers have the third-least favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective and 10th-least favorable in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
An absolute stud in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues, Welker is a virtual lock for 100-plus receptions and 1,000-plus yards even if he gets fewer targets. Welker is my seventh-ranked receiver in standard-scoring leagues and third-ranked receiver in PPR formats.
Like in redraft leagues, Welker's value is much greater in PPR formats. The biggest concern about Welker from a long-term standpoint is his future within the Patriots' offense. Designated with the franchise tag this season, it's possible that he finds himself franchised again next season or possibly with a new team. Playing in this offense with Brady obviously helps Welker's fantasy value.
Projection: (Receiving) 105 Receptions, 1,215 Yards, 6 TDs; (Rushing) 35 Yards
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