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Opportunity Knocks: Who Will Fill the Void Left by Wes Welker and Other Free Agent Movers?
Image via JDN/Flickr
Image via JDN/Flickr

Would you like to know where breakout fantasy performers might come from?  Here’s a suggestion: look at the holes from 2012.  What I mean is that many players changed teams since January and, in some situations, voids have been created where there is A LOT of opportunity.  How do we define opportunity?  In this article, we’ll look at “lost snaps” from the 2012 season.  These are the situations where players can have a bigger role in their offense, catch more passes, and become fantasy relevant.  In some cases, it’s obvious who will fill the void and in others you might need to do some additional digging.  To help you interpret these numbers, consider that the average number of snaps for the top 32 receivers in the NFL was 950 snaps.  So, a void of 950= 1 new starter.  In any instance where more than 950 snaps are available, we’ll assume one starter fills that void and then discuss how the leftover snaps might be allocated.  Here we go.

More than one starter’s workload available

Team WR Snaps Lost Notable Players Lost
Patriots 2612 Welker, Lloyd, Branch
Vikings 1462 Jenkins, Harvin, Aromashodu
Rams 1432 Gibson, Amendola, Smith
Dolphins 1213 Bess, M Moore, Naanee, Gafney, Armstrong
Colts 1133 Avery, Collie
Jaguars 1055 Blackmon Susp, Laurent Rob., M Thomas
Raiders 1052 DHB, Hagan

So, who wants to catch passes from Tom Brady this year?  The New England Patriots have nearly 3 full starting roles to fill, not to mention the additional pass-catcher snaps that may arise as a result of the Gronk injury saga.  If Danny Amendola can stay healthy, he could occupy 950 of them.  As for the other two gigs, pick your horse: Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman.  Honestly, I have no idea how this is going to shake out.  Ok, maybe I do have one idea.  I think that a former Buffalo Bill, Donald Jones, emerges as a starter—Quick! Go Google Donald Jones—and then Jenkins keeps the seat warm for rookies Dobson and Boyce.

Despite my distaste for Cordarrelle Patterson, he looks to be in prime position to see a portion of the Vikings’ 1462 lost snaps.  Figure that Greg Jennings starts on one side, which should mean the Vikings find 500 or so receiver snaps for Patterson, with Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright occupying a similar workload as last year, even if the balance shifts toward Wright.

For the Rams, Tavon Austin should occupy a full time role of 950 snaps.  I’d also expect Brian Quick to see his workload triple from 182 snaps in 2012 to about 600 in 2013, while Givens and Pettis maintain their roles.  As much as I’d like to see red zone beast Stedman Bailey find his way onto the field, I’m not sure how that’s going to happen at this point.

Devone Bess’ snaps should just transfer to Mike Wallace, who will start across from Brian Hartline.  That leaves about 400 snaps for Brandon Gibson and Armon Binns to fight over.  #FreeRishardMatthews

(Wide Receivers not your thing? Check out the TE edition of Opportunity Knocks.)

The departure of Donnie Avery should clear the way for TY Hilton to get full-time snaps, as he only had about 65% of a starter’s workload last year.  The remainder should be filled by the ascending Darrius Heyward-Bey as he assumes a full time role.  To revisit Davis Mattek’s question, I agree that DHB won’t cut into Hilton’s value.  It also wouldn’t surprise me to see 34 year old Reggie Wayne play less than 1,079 snaps, which was 2nd in the NFL last year.

Cecil Shorts was about 300 snaps shy of a full workload last year.  He should occupy a decent chunk of available snaps. Jordan Shipley and Mohamed Massaquoi will fight over the scraps left by the Blackmon suspension and the other departures.  Not really interested in Ace Sanders.

The Raiders didn’t sign or draft anyone to fill their void, which should mean that Rod Streater (580 snaps in `12) and Juron Criner (248) should come close to seeing a starter’s workload.  I would be more excited if the Oakland QB situation wasn’t a grease fire.  As Shawn Siegele pointed out in his Raiders draft review “The three-headed monster of Wilson, Pryor, and Flynn almost guarantees the Raiders will have a shot at one of the elite quarterbacks in next year’s draft.”

50% to 100% of one starter’s workload available

Team WR Snaps Lost Players Lost
Texans 899 Kevin Walter, Posey injury
Ravens 878 Boldin
Steelers 833 Wallace
Bills 810 D Jones, R Martin, D Nelson
Broncos 797 Stokley, Willis,
Jets 746 Schilens, Edwards
Saints 745 Henderson
Panthers 666 Louis Murphy
Lions 609 Titus Young
49ers 606 Moss, Manningham injury, Ginn
Giants 594 Hixon, Barden
Packers 566 Jennings, Driver
Cowboys 469 Ogletree

Can you help me out here?  It looks like the Texans have a starter’s worth of snaps available.  Can you think of anyone who might fill that void?  Oh, right, SEC slayer DeAndre Hopkins!  Good call!

The Ravens are the first REALLY INTERESTING situation in this article.  Despite their loss, they didn’t draft anyone or sign anyone to replace Boldin.  Who steps forward?  Is it Tandon Doss?  Is it Tommy Streeter?  Is it Aaron Mellette?  Make your guess in the comments.

The Steelers drafted Markus Wheaton to add to their sub-6’, sub-200lb collection of receivers.  It looks like the philosophy of munchkin receivers has shifted from one Pennsylvania team to another.

Speed round:

Oh, the Bills… silly, Bills.  Is it bad that I think undrafted Da’Rick Rogers might be more interesting than the two receivers they drafted?

Welker is the answer to the Broncos’ void.  Duh.

The Jets made no significant changes to the top of their WR depth chart, which leads me to believe that Stephen Hill can double his 412 snaps from last year and possibly live up to the Georgia Tech WR legacy.

Colston, Lance Moore, and Courtney Roby all turn 30 this year.  Because of that, I’m guessing that at some point there is a mad rush to acquire Kenny Stills, the other Chris Givens (Miami University shoutout), or Joseph Morgan…or Nick Toon.  Stay tooned in to this situation.  (see what I did there?)

The Panthers WR situation is a disaster.  Go fish.

Similar to the Saints, expect a run on whichever Lions receiver decides to show up.

The 49ers redshirted Colin Kaepernick before unleashing him on the NFL.  I have a hunch they did the same thing with A.J. Jenkins.  Yes, Boldin is there, but keep an eye on A.J. Jenkins.  You don’t really think the 49ers completely whiffed on a first round pick, did you?  Gimme a break.

The Giants love their young wide receivers.  Whether or not Hakeem Nicks can stay healthy for a year, expect young Rueben Randle to take a step forward.

50% or less of one starter’s workload available

Team WR Snaps Lost Players Lost
Cardinals 387 Doucet
Browns 314 Massaquoi, Cribbs
Bengals 300 Binns
Seahawks 300 Edwards, Obomanu
Chiefs 256 Breaston,
Chargers 178 Spurlock, Ajirotutu
Bucs 140 Benn
Bears 65
Redskins 57
Titans 51
Eagles 6
Falcons 0

Paging Ryan Swope, there’s a part time gig for you to fill with room to grow.

The Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin, so you’d have to imagine he will occupy a starter’s workload.  If so, that means that last year’s targets will be losing ~600 snaps.  I doubt it’s Sidney Rice who gets downsized, so maybe we should pump the brakes on any Doug Baldwin or Golden Tate enthusiasm.

The Titans’ drafting of Justin Hunter is interesting, considering they don’t really have any snaps up for grabs.  I’ll interpret this to mean that the Kenny Britt situation is especially dicey, that they’re not crazy about Nate Washington, or both.

For as much transition as there seems to be occurring with the Eagles, there wasn’t really any roster turnover.  That said, it will be interesting to see who the depth chart shakes out and who gets the privilege of catching passes from Nick Foles.   😉

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