Fantasy owners watched in awe during the NFL's kickoff contest between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning became only the sixth in history and the first since 1969 to throw seven touchdowns in a game.
Eric Decker was nowhere to be found.
For fantasy owners entrusting Decker to produce as a starter, it was a disappointing night. Here's how Manning's top three targets performed:
Conversely, here's the line Decker posted:
It's not time to jump off a fantasy cliff with Decker just yet, but things are not looking so hot. For a player commonly drafted just outside of the top 50 and a borderline top-20 receiver according to Fantasy Pros' ADP rankings, the performance is a major red flag.
As easy as it would be to chalk this up to an offense with plenty of weapons that loves to share the load, Manning is simply not going to throw in the vicinity of 450 yards and seven scores each game.
Even worse for Decker? He was targeted seven times. Two drops, one in the end zone, a fumble, offensive pass interference and only two receptions by the end of the night may tell the story of Decker's future fantasy potential.
It's not about how much Decker gets open, so much as it is that ability combined with his earning Manning's trust. Who earned Manning's trust the most against Baltimore?
Wes Welker. Welker tallied more receptions than Decker tallied targets. While known for his ability to get open, Welker is even better known from his time in New England with Tom Brady as a reliable player.
Welker possess a play-style that demands targets. At this pace by the end of the year, he will rival Demaryius Thomas in targets and receptions, with the only difference being Thomas' ability to make plays after the catch.
The evolving presence of Julius Thomas doesn't help things for Decker, either. Thomas posted a four reception, 97-yard and two touchdown stat line before halftime. Baltimore adjusted to accommodate and held him to one more reception, but in that time frame Decker did little with the opportunity.
Another issue for Decker? He may be fighting an injury bug as reported by Chris Towers of CBS Sports:
After the game, head coach John Fox may have offered a possible explanation for Decker's poor performance, as he mentioned that Decker suffered a shoulder injury of unknown severity in the postgame press conference.
There was some semblance of hope within the fantasy community that the addition of Welker would see Manning re-create his 2004 magic in which Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley all tallied double digit touchdown totals and over 1,000 yards receiving.
After one game with Manning dropping back and solely focusing on Welker, it appears Decker could be the weak link in that hope and instead headed for something similar to his 2011 campaign in which he reeled in 44 receptions for 612 yards and eight scores.
Those are not horrific numbers, but those who predicted that Welker's presence would siphon Decker's numbers from a year ago were correct.
Decker is a major boom-or-bust player and nothing more than a third-fantasy receiver. It's not time to give up hope, but buying or selling extremely low is a good option at this point depending on the situation.
Until further notice, Decker is a must-avoid. 37 yards of a 452-yard output isn't good enough. There will be better nights—likely much, much better nights—but Decker is too risky to do anything but ride the bench in standard leagues.
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