Any time news surrounding the prolific Denver Broncos offense surfaces, the fantasy football world stops and listens. One of those incidents happened on Tuesday evening when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported wide receiver Wes Welker would miss the first four games of the 2014 NFL season:
Filed to ESPN: Broncos WR Wes Welker has been suspended four games for use of amphetamines, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 2, 2014
Welker was quarterback Peyton Manning's go-to guy in the slot last season, accumulating 73 receptions for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns. Much of that production will be up for grabs for Denver's other wide receivers while the veteran serves his suspension.
While Demaryius Thomas remains the team's No. 1 option, Emmanuel Sanders and rookie Cody Latimer will see their fantasy stocks increase significantly before the season kicks off.
Sanders is slated to start on the outside opposite Thomas, but he is more than capable of playing in the slot. With Sanders moving inside, we can expect Latimer to take over on the outside. Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey tweeted the details:
those who drafted #Broncos Cody Latimer may not have to be as patient as originally planned. Sanders can easily play slot, Cody outside— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) September 2, 2014
When comparing the value of Sanders to Latimer over this four-game span, the veteran gets the nod. He already spoke about his experience in the slot during an interview with Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com:
I've played slot every year that I've played football except last year was my first year on the outside. It's a different game. On the outside, you just have to beat one man, really, and that's because they play man-to-man. Whereas in the slot, it's more zone. You have to avoid linebackers, you have to avoid safeties, you have to sit down in the zone and that's where the big hits can come from. Whereas on the outside, they'll come, but they're not going to come as much as in the slot.
Expect Sanders to get the lion's share of what Welker would normally produce given his past experience in the role.
Latimer's value will increase as well due to more time on the field and his solid preseason with the team—he recorded five receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown. Peter Schrager of Fox Sports tweeted his thoughts:
Step right up, Cody Latimer. Rookie WR had a strong preseason. Time to shine, now.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) September 2, 2014
We've only seen a small sample size from Latimer on Denver's offense, and while he looked good, fantasy expectations should be tempered early as he gets his feet wet in the regular season. However, he's a great waiver-wire pickup for owners looking for bench players with great upside. We'll see what he's made of in short order.