Will a Denver Broncos Wide Receiver Emerge During Wes Welker's Suspension?

Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the NFL season. What does this mean for the rest of the Denver wide receivers?

It's been reported that Wes Welker tested positive for a banned amphetamine, and is now suspended for the Broncos first four games.

Rather than speculate the off-the-field issue at hand, it's important to see how this changes the Broncos and Welker on the field.

Wes Welker’s fantasy football value has already taken a massive hit over the last 10 days after yet another concussion, this one coming in the Broncos third preseason game against the Texans on August 23rd. Over the last week, Welker’s Average Draft Position according to fell from the late-fourth to the late-sixth round. Yikes.

Welker is 33, already has massive concussion and other injury concerns, and is now suspended for the first four games of the regular season. Not a good start to his 2014 campaign. But what does this mean for the other Broncos receiving options not named Demaryius Thomas or Julius Thomas?

Emmanuel Sanders and Andre Caldwell

First up, Emmanuel Sanders. Before Wes Welker was suspended, Sanders was being a bit overdrafted, being taken in the fourth round. He was going ahead of notable wide receivers like Andre Johnson, Percy Harvin, and Victor Cruz. But after Welker’s suspension, his ADP is a little more justifiable.

Because of Welker’s four-game suspension, Sanders will obviously see an increase in targets in a Peyton Manning offense. Perfect. If you rostered Sanders in fantasy drafts over the last couple of weeks, Welker’s suspension was music to your already-happy ears.

The issue is that the cost you spent for Sanders may have been his upside. Among wide receivers that had 100 or more targets last year, Emmanuel Sanders finished 35th out of 36 in terms of Reception Net Expected Points (54.15). And while that's just one season, it just so happened to occur during the year where he saw his most significant volume. Fortunately, however, his average talent is now completely offset by opportunity. Sanders can play outside or in the slot, meaning the loss of Welker makes him an even more important piece to the offense.

I’ll be even more brief with Andre Caldwell: we know what he is, and his upside is still very limited. I don’t necessarily mind picking up Caldwell in some leagues, but he just does not possess the upside that Sanders or that rookie Cody Latimer does. In fact, when Welker missed time last year, Caldwell averaged just 37.67 receiving yards per game, and saw a little over six targets per contest as well. Let's not pretend he's a legitimate answer.

But one guy may be.

Cody Latimer: Big Wide Receiver With a Big Opportunity

Cody Latimer has been on super-deep sleeper lists this whole offseason and has gotten to showcase his talent, albeit in a small sample size, this preseason. Take a look at his physical metrics.

PlayerAgeHeightWeightSpeedVertical Jump
Cody Latimer216' 2"2154.3939 inches

Cody Latimer fits the bill of a freak NFL wide receiver. He has great size, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day along with a 39 inch vertical jump, all on a broken foot. Latimer actually fell in the 2014 draft because of his broken foot, which allowed Denver to trade up to number 56 overall and snag him.

Latimer is a freak, but what about opportunity? As it stands right now, Andre Caldwell is ahead of Latimer on Denver’s depth chart. But I don’t think that lasts long. Not only did Caldwell do little with his opportunity a season ago, but his historical Reception Net Expected Points per target numbers are well below average. The biggest thing in the way for Latimer right now is experience, but if he can clear that hurdle, he's the player with the most potential given this suspension.

Add Latimer as a legitimate flier. If he performs well, we may be here to stay.