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The Case for Danny Amendola over Wes Welker in Fantasy Football

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola is no Wes Welker clone. He wasn’t brought to New England because he matches Welker’s skillset – one that led to mostly epic fantasy production over his six years as a Patriot.

The Patriots signed Amendola because he possesses skills Welker doesn’t. That’s why, I think, it’s more than reasonable to consider drafting Amendola before Welker in your various 2013 fake football drafts.

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola

Danny Amendola runs for yards after the catch against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with what we know about Amendola during his rare spates of health in St. Louis: In 11 games in 2012, Amendola caught 62 passes for 664 yards, as the Rams did a masterful job of moving him across the formation, finding mouth-watering matchups against linebackers and safeties who didn’t have a prayer in matching Amendola’s quickness and crisp route running.

Amendola’s truncated 2012 stats, extrapolated over 16 games, would’ve given him 90 receptions for 965 yards – numbers similar to Victor Cruz, excluding Cruz’s nutty touchdown rate. In fact, those extrapolated numbers would’ve given Amendola 10 more catches and 11 more yards than the Packers’ Randall Cobb, though it should be noted that Cobb missed Week 17.

Unless Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is bent on ruining our fantasy lives and places Amendola in a slot receiver timeshare with Julian Edelman (as he did with Welker for some of the first few weeks of 2012), I think Amendola’s fantasy baseline is somewhere around 90 grabs for 1,000 yards.

Welker, catching passes from Peyton Manning in Denver, could very well match those season-long stats. Again, I see those numbers as closer to Amendola’s 16-game floor than his ceiling. It’s an important distinction. Welker averaged 111 receptions a year with the Patriots, so if Amendola is inserted into Welker’s role, why can’t he do the same?

Beyond simply matching Welker’s gaudy New England numbers, Amendola could exceed them because he could (and should) be asked to do more than Welker could. Amendola can do damage on the outside of the formation, he can get behind the defense better than Welker could, and the Patriots know it. Chemistry with Brady and the major questions of health aside, Amendola will be asked to do things Welker did, and much more.

That should excite anyone with a fantasy football squad in 2013.

Pro Football Focus put together a helpful little chart detailing the routes run by both Welker and Amendola in 2012, demonstrating that they weren’t at all the same player. Welker was far more dependent on hitches, screens, and crossing routes. Welker, for instance, was targeted on screen passes 22 times in 2012. Amendola: Just seven. The receivers were targeted on the same number of post routes, despite Welker playing five more games than Amendola.

That, along with Welker’s unmatched chemistry with Brady, has made him a surefire PPR assassin over the years. It has also capped his potential in no small way, while allowing defenders to shut down the Patriots’ pass game by flooding the middle of the field, taking away the bread and butter of not just Welker, but of tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski too.

Brady’s proficiency in Welker’s on-field sweet spots, compared to Manning, is another reason I think Amendola could outperform Welker in 2013.

Another handy-dandy chart released this week by Pro Football Focus shows that Brady has a far higher rating in the 0-9 yard range, and over the middle of the field in the 10-19 yard range. These are the areas of the field in which Welker has made his real and fake football living since 2007. Perhaps that’s because the Patriots’ offense dictates those brand of throws more than Manning’s scheme.

It’s noteworthy in any case.

A quick note on Amendola’s injury history: He played one game in 2011 thanks to a dislocated elbow and missed five games in 2012 after a broken clavicle almost killed him on the field. These, thankfully, aren’t soft tissue ailments – a hamstring, a calf, a triceps – that threaten to rear their hideous head at any moment. These injuries were breaks, not re-aggravations, and the 2012 injury was of the freakish variety. Broken bones aren’t predictable, while tweaked hamstrings are (somewhat) predictable, especially among players with histories of the same ailment.

I don’t think it’s fair to consider Amendola more of an injury risk than any other player who has snapped a bone on the gridiron. Don’t pass on Amendola because of his spotty injury history – you’re only multiplying a guess by another guess.

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