January 5, 2012

Wes Welker- NOT elite

A couple weeks ago my friends and I had an intense debate on whether or not Wes Welker is an elite NFL wide receiver. The discussion started when I read something online about Jermichael Finley saying that his agent was planning to argue that Finley should be paid as a Wide Receiver rather than a Tight End when he becomes a free agent this off season. I assume his argument is because he is a pass-catching tight end & doesn’t really fit the mold of the traditional Tight End. (My take- Finley is a TE. So what if the position is changing and becoming more offensive? You’re still a TE. Deal with it.)

Because the Packers & Finley probably won’t agree to a long term contract, there is a strong possibility of the team placing it’s one and only “franchise tag” on him, which basically means he is under contract for the next year & his salary would be the average of the top 5 highest paid players at his position.

Finley’s 2012 salary if he is franchised as a TE: $5.4 million
Finley’s 2012 salary if he is franchised as a WR: $9.4 million

During this debate, at one point I said if I ran a team I would invest heavily in lineman, defensive players, and QB, as opposed to skill players such as running backs and wide receivers. I mentioned that, similar to Finley, Welker is going to be a free agent this off season and I fully expect the Patriots to place their franchise tag on him, meaning he will make that $9.4 million next year- a hefty raise from his current $2.45 million annual salary. He had signed a 5 year deal previous to the 2007 season (His first with the Pats.)

 I think the Patriots will franchise Welker because they have proven throughout the past decade or so that they do not, for the most part, like to allocate their resources in those skill positions. Why? My guess is it has to do something with having #12. It’s been proven that Tom Brady makes every wide receiver he plays with significantly better (which isn’t a surprise, he’s one of the best QB’s ever to play the game). Let’s take a look at yearly averages:

Deion Branch w/ Pats: 55 receptions, 739 yards, 4 TDs (4 seasons)
Deion Branch w/ everyone else: 44 receptions, 559 yards, 3.5 TDs (4 seasons)

David Patten w/ Pats: 52 receptions, 791 yards, 5 TDs (3 seasons)
David Patten w/ everyone else: 25 receptions, 348 yards, 1 TD (5 seasons)

Randy Moss w/ Pats: 86 receptions, 1,301 yards, 17 TDs  (3 seasons)
Randy Moss w/ everyone else: 75 receptions, 1,208 yards, 15 TDs (7 seasons)

Reche Caldwell w/ Pats: 61 receptions, 760 yards, 4 TDs (1 season)
Reche Caldwell w/ everyone else: 19 receptions, 237 yards, 1.5 TDs (4 seasons)

This list/these stats do NOT include:

-Players like Jabar Gaffney, who rarely played WR for the Pats and was mostly used as a KR
-Randy Moss’ last season (3 teams, & he basically quit)
-The countless # of WR who played well with NE & did absolutely nothing anywhere else. David Givens comes to mind
-Deion Branch’s rookie season or the season he played for both the Pats and Seahawks

Lastly, If your wondering why I included Reche Caldwell, it’s because he led the Patriots in receiving in 2006.

Here is my point with these stats: Tom Brady makes his wide receivers better. I know there are a million variables that affect those stats above, but I think the point is clearly made that WR are significantly better in New England than anywhere else, because of Tom Terrific.

This bring us to Wes Welker. Here is a brief summary of his pre-patriot career (Got a lot of this from Wikipedia.org): 

-In 2004, Welker signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers. Welker made the Chargers out of training camp, but was released after the first game of the season. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer later acknowledged that in terms of roster cuts, releasing Wes Welker was the biggest mistake he ever made.

-Welker then played parts of 3 seasons with the Dolphins. In 2005, Welker was promoted to the third wide receiver spot behind Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. He finished the season with 29 receptions for 434 yards, but did not score a touchdown. He also served as a kick returner and punt returner, and was above average in both categories,.

Side note- Against the Pats in his rookie season, Welker had touchdowns on both a kick and punt return, he kicked an XP and FG, AND recorded a tackle all in 1 game.  That's Awesome.

-During the 2006 season after rumors that he would be cut during the preseason, Welker ended up being the lone bright spot of the struggling Dolphins offense. For the season, Welker had a team-best 67 receptions for 687 yards and one touchdown.

So then Welker joins the Pats in 2007. What happened next? He bettered his CAREER totals in the first 10 games of the season in every category. Over the next 4 years Welker dominated, and became one of the best WR in the game statistically. Even in 2008, when Brady went down in week 1 for the season, Welker still managed to creep over 100 catches.

Anyway enough facts. Here’s where I make my case:

Despite the elite stats, I do not believe he is an elite WR in the NFL today.

What does “elite” mean?  Dictionary.com says “A group of people considered to be the best in a particular category, especially because of their power, talent, or wealth.”

Now, this is where the confusion lies. I believe Welker is a top 10 WR in the NFL. By some people’s standards, that means elite. The way I see it, there is a small group of NFL WR who are clearly better than Welker. Those are the elite players in my eyes. Here are their names:

Calvin Johnson
Andre Johnson
Larry Fitzgerald

Then there is the next tier of guys. Still some of the best receivers in the game, but I would not put any of these guys in the same class as the 3 guys above. (In no particular order):

Roddy White
Greg Jennings
Brandon Marshall (when he tries)
Mike Wallace
Wes Welker
Hakeem Nicks
Dwayne Bowe
Marques Colston
Vincent Jackson (when he tries)
Reggie Wayne

And these are the guys I could imagine becoming elite in the near future:

Jordy Nelson
AJ Green
Kenny Britt (please be healthy)
Julio Jones
Dez Bryant
Percy Harvin
Victor Cruz (go Umass!)
Denarius Moore (Kind of a reach, but he is NASTY so you never know)

Yes, I understand Welker has a different skill set than most of these players. His M.O. is quickness, great hands, reading the defense, and making guys miss for a high YAC (yards after catch) total. He is elite at all these things. However, that still doesn’t make him an elite WR in the NFL. Sorry. And I know some people reading this think I am holding Welker’s size against him. Let me make this clear: I do NOT think height = elite or you have to be tall to be elite. Steve Smith was elite for a period of time on the Panthers & he is the same height as Welker. Smith was a downfield threat, he put up numbers with a mediocre QB (Delhomme), and he was always double teamed. And guess what- the Johnsons and Fitzgerald line up in the slot from time to time as well. And they are just as dangerous as Welker. But they have the higher skill set to play the outside that Welker just doesn’t have.

Also- Sorry to say, but life’s not fair for us short guys. So yea, maybe if Welker was 6’3” he would be able to make plays downfield and in the endzone, but he’s not, so he doesn’t, and he cannot be considered elite.

Here are some other possible definitions of “Elite” that support my case:

1. An elite WR makes his QB better, not the other way around

I think it is clear that Tom Brady was just as good pre-Welker as he is now with Welker. Being an already great quarterback, it would obviously take someone very special to actually make Tom Brady better. Someone like... Randy Moss, an elite WR at the time.  

On the flip side, Welker was an average player at best before he was inserted into the Patriots offense in 2007. Think about this: What if Wes Welker was on the 49ers? Or Rams? Or Seahawks? Does anyone really think he puts up 100 receptions without a top 15 QB throwing the ball to him? In 2006 with Joey Harrington throwing the ball in Miami, Welker had 67 receptions. In 2007 with Brady he had 112.

2. Elite WR are consistently double or triple teamed & they beat it

Welker is rarely double teamed. In fact, a lot of times a linebacker lines up against Welker, not even a corner or safety. The few times I can remember Welker being double teamed, he was a non-factor. I searched long and hard for proof of this (either supporting or opposing my view) but I couldn’t find anything. However, I do know the Johnsons & Larry Fitz are never, EVER left on single coverage and they obviously put up competitive numbers every year. 

3. Elite WR are irreplaceable

Can you imagine what the Cardinals offense would look like without Larry Fitzgerald? Shambles. Look at the Texans offense this year without Andre- significantly less explosive. If Welker went down with injury, the Pats would be fine. Remember when Welker went down with an injury that kept him out of 3 games in early 2010? In those three games Welker missed, Julien Edelman averaged seven receptions per game. That would put Edelman on pace for 112 catches over a 16-game season & he's not even a real wide receiver. 

It is doubtful that Wes Welker will be signed to a long term by the Patriots after his franchise tagged is applied. I really hope he IS here long term, but I just don’t see it happening.

My last point is this: Welker is clearly an elite WR in fantasy football. In today’s sports world, number games dominate, so I can see why some people automatically assume Welker is an elite NFL WR. Just think: would anyone consider Welker elite if stats weren’t recorded or kept? I think no. 

It’s not elite to catch 8 yard passes & make a guy miss. It’s elite when you have 2 guys all over you and make a downfield catch at full speed. Have you ever seen Welker do that?


  1. Oh and it looks like the Bengals GM agrees with me completely!! (God, it felt great when I read this short article AFTER I wrote this post)


  2. I entirely agree with your points made about Wes Welker. He is not an elite reciever, in fact, the patriots have not won a superbowl since acquiring him. In previous years however they had won 3 of the last 4.. that's gotta say something about his "impact" on the team. yes he puts up good numbers but when you account for the mismatches in coverage he sees and the fact that he's often the safe route for Brady who puts the ball in the perfect spot most of the time, it's not hard to believe that any slot reciever with decent agility, quickness and good hands couldn't put up similar numbers

  3. The TAYLOR with athletic talentJanuary 5, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Though you mention some great points here I want to point out a few that I fell were missed. Let me first off start out by stating that I am by no means a Wes Welker fan. I thought it was a bad pick up by the Pats when they signed him. I have since that time been proven wrong. He is indeed an ELITE NFL receiver.
    The only fact needed to prove this point is simple. Would you consider the following wide receivers elite for their time? Jerry Rice, Herman Moore, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Marshall? Well if you answered yes to any of these names then Wes would fit the bill as well. See these names as well as Wes are the only 5 wide receivers that have at least 100 receptions in 3 consecutive seasons.
    I agree that Wes doesn’t make this many catches in most other offensives however we would in many others. Those being, Green Bay, Indy with a healthy Peyton, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and possibly San Diego. These are passing orientated offensives. The game has involved into a pass first concept.
    You made a point that while with Miami in his last year Wes caught 67 passes. Which lead his team, but the they were from Joey Harrington and Daunte Culpepper. Now with no disrespect to either or those men, but neither one of them could be the perspiration from Brady’s jock strap never mind be TB12 himself.
    You say that Calvin and Andre are very rarely not double teamed? Watch the video you posted again. In that entire highlight real there is not one time that there is double coverage in there! Just stating fact.
    Welker has the intangibles to be one of the elites. His speed, quickness, hands, route running and HEART are unmatched by few in the NFL today. James you are a huge hockey fan correct? The easiest way for mo to expaln this is in hockey for as well. All the points and arguments that your making against Welker people have been saying it all along about Tim Thomas.

  4. Oh yeah I forgot to say that he also lead the NFL in 2009 in receptions with 123.

  5. I cant believe i just read this on a blog that you wrote. I agree 100%, which is weird, we never agree on sports. Just one question though, did this taylor character above really try and put welker and rice in the same league? In the words of my old roommate from college: REALLY TAYLOR?! REALLY?

  6. And those 3 guys listed as elite, they are down field making receptions, lots of time in double coverage, that video may not have shown it, but if you have watched calvin at all this year, you know he is usually getting doubled. Welker very rarely catches a ball that has to travel down field more than 10 yards in the air. If all the fitz calvin and andre had to do was catch bubble screens and 3 yard out patterns, they could have over 100 receptions as well. But as the "elite" wide recievers, they are down field making plays. Dont get me wrong, Welker is a great player, Elite? i dont think so.

  7. I agree with Taylor dont think he was comparing rice and welker. Just stating a fact. Also if those other receivers mentioned ran routes like walker and took the punishment he takes I dont think they would get through week 7 in the league. They are big play receivers,, not possession guys. Wes Welker is an ELITE as you guys keep saying. He is a guy that does way more then was expected and makes playes.

  8. James already knows that I agree with this opinion; we discussed and agreed on half of these points already. One of the biggest things that I really agree with is that an elite wide receiver makes his quarterback better, not the other way around. Other commenters have already agreed, if Welker is not on a wildly pass happy team he is not the same player.

    But to take that to another level - the system of pass happy offense would determine his ability too. As a Packers fan, I'd say I'm pretty qualified to say that I don't believe Welker would be nearly as effective in the Green Bay offense. Based on what the Packers do, give me Jennings and Jordy any day. That's not to say that I would hate having Welker on the Packers, but the thing that makes the Packers so dangerous is that their receivers are all downfield threats. Welker lacks that dimension. Don't give me the "he scored a 99 yard touchdown" argument either. If you've watched the Packers at all, you know they run a play-action off-tackle/stretch type play and then roll out and throw a bomb. If Welker is the receiver on the other end of this two man pattern, I wouldn't expect him to get open.

    I also don't know if being on San Diego guarantees success. After all, he WAS on San Diego. Yes, I know the offense is different, the coaches are different, and even the QB was different...but the QB was Drew Brees. Now I know Drew Brees wasn't what he was today either, but nobody looked at Welker and said "man, if we just run this guy on little slants and outs, we could be unstoppable"? That's because he didn't have an elite skill set. Like James noted, height is a factor just like speed is a factor. Is it fair? No, but it's what makes these guys elite. Instead, the Patriots found a way to run a system just like what Welker did in college at Texas Tech...and that made him useful. There's plenty of wide receivers that come out of Texas Tech and never see the light of day. The only one that was seen to have star potential was Michael Crabtree...but the hype around Crabtree came with his skill set, not because his stats were amazing. If stats were the only thing that mattered, Freddie Barnes (he of 155 catches in a season in college) would at LEAST be a slot receiver somewhere. With that in mind, he'd probably be a decent slot receiver for the Pats too.

    As for the names that were listed before: Herman Moore, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, and Brandon Marshall. We're comparing stats, not how they changed the game. Statistically, yes, they were similar, but that doesn't mean they played the same. Did you watch Herman Moore play? He was one of the original ELITE receivers. He was so good he made a very average Brett Perriman into a viable second option for the Scott Mitchell lead Lions. Mitchell put up beast stats because of a combination of Herman Moore and Barry Sanders. Scott Mitchell would go on to lose his job to Charlie Batch. CHARLIE BATCH! Then he fizzled out while losing QB battles to Tony Banks, Stoney Case, and Akili Smith in Baltimore and Cincinnati. Perfect case of an elite receiver making his QB better.

    And Brandon Marshall? For those who know me, they know I would tell you he's elite. Yeah, he's lazy, but I think he's good enough to be in that top group of 3 when he wants to play - think a slightly more motivated Randy Moss in the Raiders era. But when it comes down to it - if all things were equal, no matter who my QB is, I want Marshall over Welker 10 out of 10 times.

    That's a lot of disconnected thoughts, but it's not my blog so I'm allowed to have disconnected thoughts and just chime in where I want. But moral of the story - I agree with James. And Dennis? Yikes.

  9. Oh, and one more thing for anonymous. Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald are more possession types than Welker. Just because you don't watch all the slants that Fitz and Marshall run every week, doesn't mean they're not doing it. Calvin? He's another story. What a monster.

  10. And as a bonus comment...if the Packers franchise Jermichael Finley as a WR, they're ridiculous. As a part-owner of the team (yes, I own stock), I would be upset with that decision. His drops have been pissing me off.

  11. 1. "Even in 2008, when Brady went down in week 1 for the season, Welker still managed to creep over 100 catches." --> Matt "noodle arm" Cassel slinging it around.

    "Does anyone really think he puts up 100 receptions without a top 15 QB throwing the ball to him?" --> Yes.

    2. "Welker is rarely double teamed." --> What? Without some numbers to back this up I am not sold. Couple that I'd like to know: Total # of plays from scrimmage with Wes in the game. Total # passing plays called. Total # of plays double covered... and the same stats for Andre, Calvin, etc. I am sure there are some numbers like this out there.



    429,000 results. *insert Wes and I banging your mom joke here*

    3. "If Welker went down with injury, the Pats would be fine. Remember when Welker went down with an injury that kept him out of 3 games in early 2010?" --> Not as well as I remember the playoff game against the ravens after he tore his ACL/MCL in which we got embarrassed. 14 total points. Shambles.

  12. You make it sound like Welker is easily replaceable though. Like a Randall Cobb or Harry Douglas or any other 3rd string receiver could come in and do what Welker does cuz Bradys just that good..

    I think there are a lot of intangibles that you left out about Welker, like his leadership and fighting spirit. Guys a real ham and egger and lives to play football. You know the nurses and all the people in the hospital that Welker stayed in when he tore his ACL two years ago HATED him, cuz he'd be up at like 5AM doing pushups and situps yelling "I'm a contender!" and other pump up phraises. He also called Bill and Brady and other members on the team, sometimes in tears, telling them not to forget him, cuz he would be back and stronger than ever.

    I feel like his spirit is unmatched and the only thing that is keeping him out of the "Calvin Johnson" category is his size..

    Imagine Welker iff he had the stride and vertical and wingspan of a 6'4" receiver... just imagine that for a sec.. Doesn't that have BEAST written all over it? Combined with his work ethic and toughness now? Kind of a scary thought..

  13. Wes Welker is absolutely an elite receiver. You're choosing to use the term elite to define only huge downfield threats that can go up and get jump balls. They're different, not better. You also can't give all of this credit to Brady. Numerous receivers have come to New England and suddenly put up big numbers, but none have put up numbers bigger than Welker. If you put Welker's stats with the Patriots compared to his stats on other teams, he would have shattered the numbers of every other player you mentioned. Wes Welker is an elite slot receiver, and there is no way you can argue that. There is no chance Andre, Calvin, or Fitzgerald could put up the numbers that Wes Welker does if they played only the slot, same as he couldn't put up their numbers if he played the outside. It is absolutely elite to catch 8 yard passes and make a guy miss when you are better at it than everybody else. You can't just choose one specific skill set to represent the entire wide receiver position.

  14. Suck it homers: