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Dynasty Spotlight: Eric Decker

Decker

Any time a key fantasy asset hits free agency in the NFL we have to hold our breath. Not since the draft prior to their rookie year have we had this much uncertainty. After all, their current team and situation contributed to what made them the coveted fantasy asset we are proud to own. What happens when a wide receiver goes from a pass heavy team to a conservative run heavy team, or vice versa? What if they go from a situation with an elite quarterback to a rookie signal caller? If you’re Eric Decker, could you possibly go to a better situation than a team with Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas?

There seems to be a lot of debate whether Decker was a product of Peyton Manning’s record setting seasons in Denver or if he has the ability to be a WR1. People also wonder if he can thrive without a strong presence like Demaryius Thomas across from him. He’s been considered more of a “WR1b” than a game changer who can succeed versus team’s top corners.

Let’s take a look at Decker’s career. His rookie season was basically a redshirt season due to the team’s depth at the receiver position at the time.  Brandon Lloyd, who led the league in receiving, was a having a career resurgence while Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal rounded out the top three in the receiver rotation. Even Demaryius Thomas failed to see significant action. Decker finished his rookie year with six receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown. Coach Josh McDaniels did not make it to the end of the season.

deckerchart1

The following season brought a new head coach, John Fox, and the infamous “Tebow Experiment” in Denver. Fox wanted nothing to do with Tim Tebow and seemed to only play him to show the fans how awful he was. Somehow the team not only made the playoffs, but won a playoff game.  It is very difficult to take much away from this season because Tim Tebow was such an awful example of an NFL quarterback. Decker was the team’s leading receiver on the season because of his ability to use his 6’3” frame to box out corners and fight for extra yards. He led the team in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, 20+ yard receptions and first downs. Even though the numbers weren’t eye popping from a fantasy perspective, they were right on target with his Peyton Manning numbers from a percentage aspect.

Regardless of the improbable playoff victory, John Elway and John Fox had absolutely no intentions of entering the 2012 season with Tim Tebow on the roster. The Broncos landed perhaps the biggest free agent in NFL history when they signed Manning to lead the team. It was a night and day difference going from a 1956 style offense to a fast paced aerial assault. Decker and Thomas both easily set career highs across the board. Decker’s reception total went from 44 catches on 95 targets to 85 catches on 123 targets. This is obviously due to the erratic Tebow to the mechanical Manning accuracy. In PPR leagues he finished the season as the WR13 while teammate Demaryius Thomas finished as the WR8.

Last off-season, dynasty owners were panicking because Wes Welker was signed as a free agent and was viewed as a threat to the PPR stud. Obviously that didn’t happen because Manning went on to have the greatest season ever put together by a quarterback and everyone was successful. Thomas finished as the WR1, Decker finished as the WR11, Welker finished as the WR21, and Julius Thomas broke out to finish as the TE3.

deckerchart2

When you look at those stats, the most telling stat was Decker tying Thomas for the team lead in 20+ yard receptions with 19 and finishing just behind him in receptions, targets, yards and first downs. Even though Wes Welker was added, Decker maintained his percentage of the team’s offensive production. You could definitely argue there were too many mouths to feed and he will benefit by not having to compete with quite so many pass catchers if and when he moves on.  In short, it’s his turn to enter free agency as the premier player at his position and he’s already stated he has no intention to offer the Broncos a “home team discount.” It’s expected he will receive up to $10 million per season on the open market.

So where would he fit?

The teams with the most salary cap space are Oakland, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Miami. It’s difficult to see any key free agents choosing to go to Oakland or Miami unless they ridiculously overpay, which they’ve never been afraid to do. Early rumors are Cleveland and Indianapolis will be in pursuit – both would be great destinations from a fantasy perspective. In Cleveland he would undoubtedly be the “1b” to the ascending superstar Josh Gordon. The Browns also have a legitimate receiving threat at the tight end position with Jordan Cameron to draw defensive attention. In Indianapolis he would join an incredibly talented young group of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen. His situation would be very similar to what he dealt with in Denver. He would be fighting for targets with the aforementioned group, plus Reggie Wayne and Trent Richardson.

A dark horse candidate in my opinion is the Baltimore Ravens. They desperately need to give Joe Flacco a security blanket type of receiver he sorely misses last year when Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers and Dennis Pitta went down with a hip injury. He would form an imposing duo with downfield threat Torrey Smith.

Even though I don’t think they can afford him, the Carolina Panthers have to eventually surround Cam Newton with legitimate pass catchers. Steve Smith is nearing the end and running on fumes, Ted Ginn Jr. performed over his head as a free agent last year and Greg Olsen should not be a contender’s top receiving threat. Unfortunately, the Panthers are going to have to rebuild their offensive line this off-season so free agent wide receivers are going to have to wait as they continue living with the “ghosts of GM’s past.”

In my opinion, Eric Decker is dynasty “buy” right now. I believe he will succeed regardless of destination. In fact, playing on a team without so many mouths to feed will benefit him greatly. He has the size, skill and proven production to continue being a high end fantasy WR2 or low end WR1. His price is probably the lowest it will be all off-season right now. Don’t wait for him to land in a great situation before kicking the tires on a potential trade.

Eric Olinger

Eric Olinger

Senior Writer at Dynasty League Football
A 12 year old trapped in a man's body, Eric has been playing IDP dynasty leagues for almost 20 years. He enjoys Star Wars, Batman, red meat and an ice cold Diet Coke, sometimes all at once. He hopes to one day own his own Batmobile but his wife is a relentless dream crusher so the odds are slim.

Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.
Eric Olinger

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. kcDemonSlayer

    March 5, 2014 at 6:01 am

    From an Andrew Luck owners perspective…….go to the Colts!!!!!

    • Jacob Feldman

      March 5, 2014 at 6:13 am

      I’ve been on the Decker to Indy bandwagon for several months now. It fills a new for the Colts and Jim Irsay likes to make a bit of a splash. What better way than by signing one of the bigger free agents out there.

      If it happens, I would expect a slight drop in TDs (Luck isn’t going to throw 55 like Manning did last year), but the rest of his stats could be very sustainable.

      • SJ

        March 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

        How would that impact Hilton? I feel like he finally has a chance for some steady targets this year, and less inconsistancy (per usual) in that offense, which is just maddening week – to – week.

        • Jacob Feldman

          March 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm

          I think Hilton’s style of game is by nature going to be a little inconsistent. Just like Mike Wallace. Big weeks and terrible weeks. I do think that adding someone like Decker would help though. It would keep defenses more honest and help keep the chains moving.

          • SJ

            March 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm

            Me too – think Decker would be the perfect successor to Wayne’s WR1 role. I think they matchup well in their play-styles, and cant ask for a better long-term QB in Luck.

            If only true right?

          • patrickmcgee13

            March 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm

            Would be a great landing spot! He would help the production of everyone on the O, TY included! Blue Collar worker!

        • Eric Olinger

          March 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          I believe Hilton will only be held back if they continue to run the mundane run first attack from last year. We all saw what he was capable of during the epic comeback versus the Chiefs. He was also one of the only players to whoop Richard Sherman’s loud mouth on the field. If the Colts truly open the playbook up like I think they will, Hilton will be a beast regardless.

          • vince

            March 6, 2014 at 5:35 pm

            The Colts are NOT going to open up the playbook. The coaches are buffoons…at best, and were a running joke all year nationally.

            They will continue to waste away game after game with their idiotic game plans and depth chart then lean on Luck and their “bench players” (Hilton) to bail them out in the 2nd half.

  2. Scott

    March 5, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Excellent article Eric. I hope he lands here with my hometown Colts. I’m also interested to see where he lands in this DFWC Mock Draft: http://alturl.com/jwmiy

  3. BradMartens

    March 5, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Big Colts fan and I don’t know if I really like the idea of Decker in Indy. Sure he would be a great pickup for the offence but I really think our WR’ers have promise. We have Wayne and Rogers (I’m a believer) outside, TY playing slot and Allen and Fleener at TE. If they were to sign Decker it would really stunt Rogers development. Toss in Brazil and maybe a rookie and we’re in good shape. Sure the Colts will need a replacement for Wayne (could be Rogers) but I would rather see their money spent on beefing up the o-line and the defence. With all the holes on the o-line and in the secondary I can’t see them paying big bucks on Decker.

    • Zach

      March 5, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Another big Colts fan here who couldn’t agree more. I understand the fantasy community clamoring for another weapon for Luck, but I think anyone who watches the team regularly can see that the O-line and defense are much greater need areas.

      Here’s hoping Grigson agrees as well.

    • SJ

      March 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Brad,

      For a competing team like the Colts, I dont think they would even want the thought of relying heavily on Rogers if anything were to happen with Wayne’s recovery, this early in Rodgers career.

      Any progression out of Rodgers this season would be a bonus for the Colts given his flags, and I think the Colts Brass feels that way. Im a believer in Rodgers, but in a football sense, if they can land a Decker that will push them over the top, they likely should and will.

      • bigefat

        March 5, 2014 at 7:44 pm

        I’d like to add that it could also help Rogers be a pro! There will be a hole when Wayne leaves and then you could have Decker, A well behaved and groomed Rogers, TY, Allen and Fleener as your weapons. But, I’d fix the line first and foremost as Luck won’t be much if he keeps getting the David Carr treatment!

  4. Fred

    March 5, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Well said.

  5. MikeMar

    March 5, 2014 at 7:21 am

    How low is buy low? What would you peg as comps that you would trade or around what rookie pick?

  6. snellman

    March 5, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I have him in a dynasty salary cap league where he is currently a holdout (based on production the last 2 years and his salary). He is looking for $122, the total team cap is $1214. Would you keep him at that number or let him walk? I have been high on him his entire career, but having a hard time keeping him at that number.

  7. SJ

    March 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Does anyone else feel like this situation matches up similarly to when P.Garcon left INDY to go to the Redskins?

    I feel like this mirrors it – as a highly thought-of WR2, going to (likely) an even better situation, where eventhough he may not be thought of as a WR1 talent, will be able to put up those kind of numbers just like Garcon did with more volume, more focus, and as the WR1 for the new team.

    Its not a total match, however, as Decker has put up WR1 numbers already, but just that no one in dynasty considers him a WR1, and this change of teams will do exactly that, moving him into that tier. It just feels oddly similar.

    Id really like to acquire Decker, but feel I cant meet the price tag, given the comments above.

  8. SJ

    March 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I gotta tell you, I do NOT like the feeling of Decker going to CLE.

    Not counting their perennial dearth in the win column, I would absolutely not want Decker competing with another legit-WR1 in Gordon and TE1 in Cameron. Lets leave them to their own fun over there, and have them fight for targets with that weak offense and Quarterbacking group.

    I’d much rather see Decker go to a team that will force him the ball on every other play, even if the QB is less that optimal at first – well maybe not to Oakland.

    Carolina would be great, or Indy, but who knows there. I would say Balt and KC would be nice spots, but I am holding off on that thought, given those teams run-orientations and QBs unwilling to consistently target wide receivers.

    • Eric Olinger

      March 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      Kansas City would be awful. Alex Smith does NOT throw outside of the 20s. Dwayne Bowe is not a bad receiver. In fact, he would be a top 7 WR in the right situation.

      • SJ

        March 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm

        Yep, I agree, although, the part about Bowe, cmon Eric what you drinkin on over there? lol :)

        I think Bowe may have lost many a step at this point man

  9. Reeno85

    March 5, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I felt he was more of a sell high than a buy low when I traded him at the end of the season. I feel his value drops no matter where he ends up, and drops dramatically unless he ends up in a great situation like Indy. I traded for Zac Stacy do you guys agree I got pretty good value for him?

    • Eric Olinger

      March 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      I’d rather have Decker than Stacy but I think that’s in the ballpark.

    • BigD

      March 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      if fisher uses stacy as a lead rb nExt year and uses him like rbs he has had in the past, the trade for decker was a damn good one reeno

    • Bennie Blades

      March 6, 2014 at 6:08 am

      Stacy in return for Decker sounds like a good victory for you. The chance of having a top tier running back is hard to pass up.

  10. Rustyram78

    March 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I got off the Decker hype train a few weeks ago… I gave Decker/2.03 for Jordy/2.08…..

  11. Howat

    March 6, 2014 at 3:10 am

    Is he worth a first from next year?

  12. Ray

    March 6, 2014 at 4:45 am

    good article! Decker to Indy!

  13. The Fantasy Football Sow

    March 7, 2014 at 4:20 am

    I just traded Wallace, 2.06, 2.07 for him and a 4th in a ppr league that runs as many as 5 WRs.

    That’s probably a whole second rounder too much, but having the 20% Tebow / Manning split insight helped put my mind at ease.

    In the DEN games I watched last season, I felt like some of Decker’s targets were junk type throws. My expectations are inline with his 2012 campaign: 85 / 1100 on 120 targets.

    What I really paid for was redzone looks in his new offense, hopefully IND or BAL.

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