Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Feb 2013

Wide Receiver Top Fives: Patriots

It's that time of year: time for me to count down the top five players by position for all 32 NFL teams. This year, I am counting down wide receivers, and I am doing it at my little Tailgater blog over at Sports on Earth.

The Patriots are up first; I am starting with the AFC so I can put off worrying about 1930s "ends" for a few weeks or months. I will post an XP every time I complete a division, but feel free to stop by the Tailgater from time to time to see what I am up to. If it is too weird or wonky for the main site, it will be there.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 12 Feb 2013

69 comments, Last at 19 Feb 2013, 5:52am by Subrata Sircar


by Thok :: Tue, 02/12/2013 - 8:28pm

I'm looking forward to the discussion of Brandon Marshall: great Chicago wideout, or greatest Chicago wideout.

(Seriously, the Bears wideouts make their quarterbacks look like a collection of Hall of Famers.)

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 6:22am

If I recall the infamous Johnny Morris* is the Bears all-time receiver and apparently he played in the 60s, that is if Walter Payton didn't catch more passes out of the backfield or Marshall hasn't already overhauled him.

* Anyone of my 40-something generation from England will know why you can't forget that name :-)

by James-London :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 3:51pm

Because talking gorillas rocked...

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 3:05am

If we go by single-season, Marshall already holds the catches (formerly Marty Booker) and yards (formerly Marcus Robinson) all-time Bears records. Dick Gordon (1970) still holds the TD record with 13. Marshall is tied for 5th with 11.

If we go by career, Payton has the catches recod (Marshall is tied for 42nd with Thomas Jones, needs 2 more seasons of exactly 1 catch more than 2012 to tie Johnny Morris for second, and four 95-catch seasons to pass Sweetness), Morris has the yards record (Marshall is 43rd, needs 3 1,200 yard seasons to pass Morris), and Ken Kavanaugh holds the recieving TDs record. With 50. Which has him tied with, among others, Dallas Clark and Ben Coates for 105th all-time in the NFL. That means every team in the NFL could field a 3-WR starting line-up with guys who have caught more TD passes than the Bears leading recieving scorer. Even if we take out the 6 TEs (including Dave Casper and AFL TE Jerry Smith) who have 51 or more TD catches.

Yeah, the Bears recievers are even more pitiful than their QBs....

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 9:34am

Is he already better than Willie Gault?

But yeah, any list that might feature Marty Booker is depressing.

by Independent George :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 11:46am

I was going to say Bobby Engram, but then I looked up his PFR page.

And he still might crack the Top-5.

by ndweb (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 1:08pm

Um, Harlon Hill, Harlon Hill and Harlon Hill, maybe a little Ken Cavanaugh, remember the bears did exist before ESPN did.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 3:06am

Just remember that, prior to Marshall's 2012, Booker held the TOP TWO Bears single-season catch records.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 4:03pm

Two words: Tom Waddle.

Greatest receiver of all time.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 6:09pm

I think if he has a few seasons with them like this past season, he'll go down as the greatest. He's the only Bears receiver in my memory who's actually commanded respect from a defense...too bad they really didn't have anyone else last year who could take advantage of Marshall being double-covered all the time.

by young curmudgeon :: Tue, 02/12/2013 - 9:35pm

correctly used "unique" in last paragraph without resorting to the execrable 'most unique' or 'more unique.' Good job.

(no opinion on Pats receivers--just trying to provide a little balance to the posts that take the writer to task for a poor grammatical/syntactical choice.)

by MJK :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:10am

I don't know...I might take Fryar over Moss. As great as Moss was for one season (and pretty decent for two more), Fryar had more longevity, and was one of the sole bright spots for the late 80's Patriots. Maybe it's just the nostalgia talking, but I think he edges out Moss...

by RickD :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:22pm

No way.

Fryar was largely a bust until he left the Pats (considering that he was a #1 overall pick). Randy Moss played three full seasons (plus a bit) and had three 1000 yard seasons. Irving Fryar played nine seasons for the Pats and had one 1000 yard season. He had 129 games to Moss's 52, and only gained 5726 yards (44.4 yards per game) to Moss's 3904 yards (75.1 yards per game).

I might, however, put both of them above Troy Brown. I love the guy, but for most of his career he was at best the third option. He had a three year peak where he was at the top of the depth chart (80+ catches) but for the rest of his career he was at 41 catches or below.

(And yes, I think Moss's three year contribution was considerably more valuable than Brown's three year peak.)

As for Terry Glenn, he was more of a problem child than either Moss or Fryar. He managed to get suspended for the Pats' first Super Bowl win.

I have no idea what to make of Gino Cappelletti as a receiver. As a receiver + kicker, I tend to agree with his placement behind Morgan. And given his lifelong commitment to the team as radio broadcast, I would argue that he's done more for the franchise than any other person in team history.

So I would go



by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:45am

The welker hall of fame debate to me is a lot closer to a debate than Cris Cater's candidacy. I recognize there's a definite element of living through his career, but to me, the hall of fame is about the elite players that mold the system to them rather than letting the system elevate their play. Its a subtle but important distinction.

I recognize welker's talent and versatility, but its important to recognize how much context dictates welker's worth. You don't even have to go to extremes when it comes to welker's scheme dependence. Put him on a team that doesn't throw short most of the time or primarily attack the middle of the field and welker's value becomes greatly diminished. Hes great at what he does in the same way darren sproles and brian westbrook were great at what they did. That said, how would they perform on more conventional offenses? Not as well I don't think. And that's the ultimate point. Welker doesn't go up against top outside corners. He doesn't run a complete route tree the way top wide receivers do, and at no time did I ever feel he was the main threat on any of the Pats offenses(07-09 it was Moss, 2010-2012 it was Gronk). Again, I recognize his talent, but he's not a hall of famer to me

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 9:33am

I don't think Welker's a Hall of Famer either (and I wouldn't have voted for Carter either), but if an NFL team has Welker, and doesn't modify it's offense to accomodate what he can do to shred a defense, people need to be fired. It's not far from the argument, "Well, if Peyton Manning was running a read-option offense, he wouldn't be a Hall-of-Famer".

Moving on to the list, I find it hard to argue much. I've long said that Stanley Morgan as a Steeler or Raider or Cowboy is a Hall-of-Famer. He's probably got better credentials (besides team success) than Stallworth or Swann.

And it's Cappelletti, not Cappellitti. Although if we're considering his kicking exploits to help his standing on this list, Irving Fryar should definitely take the last spot for his punt return skills. I seem to remember him among the league leaders in return average and touchdowns annually.

by Mike Tanier :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 10:57am

I am certain that Morgan was a much better player than Stallworth. He is probably the equal of Swann, but may well have been better.

by Jerry :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 9:13pm

I don't remember Morgan being nearly as acrobatic as either Swann or Stallworth.

by dryheat :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 9:07am

Assuming good health for all of them, he would've fit between the two, but closer to Swann.

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 3:56pm

I get your point, but I want to clarify by making a slight distinction. I said Welker in any other offense or even in a traditional one would not be a hall of famer. That means, if he were put into a steeler like offense or ravens like offense- offenses that are predicated on long throws and improvisation in deep parts of the field- his role would be greatly diminished.

The read option is not a traditional offense.

by dryheat :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 4:09pm

Yes, I understand. My point is that if Welker went to the Steelers or Ravens, the Steelers or Ravens should modify the offense to take advantage of the things Welker does well -- get open over the short area, catch the ball, and make the first defender miss, and not put him in a position where he's forced to do things he's not able to do well -- beat press coverage, threaten a deep zones.

Or in other words, if Welker was on any other well-coached team, he'd be nearly as successful as he's been, because those teams would have him doing the same things. If he was on a poorly-coached team that made him run fly patterns all day from the split end position, then his production would be greatly diminished.

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:12pm

Not necessarily. Switching schemes to what the pats do would then be suboptimal for other types of receivers. I am fully convinced mike wallace would not be fully utilized in NE were he to go there. Again, I don't know that, but its a suspicion. Btw, this isn't just my opinion, go look at brian burke's site and it will show NE is consistently near the bottom in deep pass percentages. This was true EVEN in 2007 with moss and stallworth.

My point wasn't to suggest welker would be a nobody in another scheme. Of course he wouldn't. But much of his production is derived off a team throwing a high volume of short passes. Were he to go to a team that was vertically oriented- his production might be half of what it is now.

by Jerry :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:47pm

My point is that if Welker went to the Steelers or Ravens, the Steelers or Ravens should modify the offense to take advantage of the things Welker does well...

Obviously, Welker excels in the Patriots' scheme. If he were to become available, any team that runs a similar scheme (or wants to) would be well advised to pick him up. But teams like the Steelers and Ravens, who've been successful with a different scheme, would not be well served to bring in Welker and adopt a new scheme to fit him. There are a handful of players who would be worth changing systems if you could pick them up. I don't think Welker's one of them.

by dryheat :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 9:13am

But teams like the Steelers and Ravens, who've been successful with a different scheme, would not be well served to bring in Welker and adopt a new scheme to fit him.

Sure, but we're starting with the assumption that a team has acquired Welker. I think it's a natural deduction that a team would acquire Welker to utilize him as New England has. If Baltimore or Pittsburgh has a scheme where they refuse to throw short-to-middle (which I doubt), then Welker wouldn't be there to disappoint.

I'm of the opinion that every team in the league could use a guy like that, even the one's who have a big vertical component. I think every team uses a slot receiver.

The only teams that wouldn't have strong interest (contract issues aside) are ones who employ a quarterback who is terribly inaccurate throwing short routes and screens. Bad Eli, for example.

by Jerry :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 7:33pm

We agree. Just to clarify a little further - "every team could use a guy like that", and we agree that Welker is really good at it. If you're the Steelers, though, and Welker hits the market, is it worth giving him a sizable contract to do (better) what Jerricho Cotchery now does adequately for you at a cheap price?

by bernie (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 2:28pm

The main reason I don't consider Welker to be a hall of famer is that he has shown himself to be fairly replaceable. Whenever he is injured, other guys have stepped into his role, and not missed a beat. Julian Edelman has had some huge games playing welkers role, and even guys like Danny woodhead can play it. His role requires quickness and elusiveness to be effective - handy attributes for sure, but hardly unique to the NFL. I can think of probably a dozen guys in the league who could have as much success as Welker has if you put them in his place on the patriots from 2007 til now.
He is definitely very good at what he does, but in my mind A true Hall of Fame player should make his team a Superbowl contender by his mere presence...not just be a cog in the machine. The Patriots with Welker are very dangerous. Without him, they're just as dangerous. He's a great player, just not an all time great.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 3:23pm

He's missed four games in his career as a Patriot, but essentially five as he was hurt early in Week 17 in 2009.

The Patriots are 2-2 in those games. In those games, they scored 9 points (@NYJ in '09), 26 points (vs ATL in '09), 20 points (@HOU in '09), 14 points (vs BAL in '09) and 38 points (vs MIA in '10). Tom Brady in those five games went 98/173 for 1032 yards with 5 TDs and 5 INTs (a 71.7 rating).

There is no evidence that the Patriots have been able to play really well in their games without Welker. Of course, there is a sample size issue here as well.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:34pm

You guys are completely wrong about Welker.

No, he's not easily replaceable. If he were easily replaceable, the Pats wouldn't have paid him $9 million last season. Yes, the coaches try to use Edelman to do the same stuff. But Edelman just isn't as good. He's taller and possibly faster, and yes they're both white. But Welker gets open better than anybody else does.

I'm baffled that people think he's "benefited from the scheme". Do you think it's easy to catch 110-120 passes per year? Has anybody else in the league been able to do that over the past six seasons? With the same scheme and the same QB, the Pats had almost no passing game in 2006. (OK, I exaggerate - Brady still had 3500 yards, but he had 4800 yards passing after Welker and Moss arrived.)

Sorry, but the constant disrespect Welker gets (a lot of it from Pats' fans) is one of those things that really annoys me.

"A true Hall of Fame player should make his team a Superbowl contender by his mere presence...not just be a cog in the machine."

The only season in the past six when the Pats were not a Super Bowl contender was 2008, when Brady was out. And really, isn't this a bit of an absurd requirement to have for a wide receiver? Neither Calvin Johnson nor Larry Fitzgerald can make his team a Super Bowl contender by himself. Nor could Randy Moss or even Jerry Rice.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:50pm

None of your arguments are particularly convincing. He does have a very high number of catches but for an offense that throws a lot more than most and his yardage totals aren't that great apart from last year when he took off at a hellish pace for the first half of the season as he took advantage of defenses that repeatedly suffered lockout induced communication breakdowns, after which he reverted to his usual standard. He's been a 'last guy in the probowl' level player for about five years and while he's very, very good at what he does, that just isn't a HOF career. I think it's hard to make the case that 10% better than Troy Brown is Hall worthy and it doesn't help his case that he's turned into a bit of a droppapotimus in the playoffs in the last couple of years.

If there was a Hall of Slot Receivers...

by RickD :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 6:40pm

" He does have a very high number of catches but for an offense that throws a lot more than most "

You think you're negating a point, but all you're doing is stating the same observation two different ways. The Pats' offense throws a lot more than most because Welker has so damned many catches.

I'll concede the point about yardage. As for the "drops," I am still amazed at people who blame him for the loss to the Ravens when any clear-eyed view of the game recognizes that he was the most productive player on the Pats that day. And I have to say it never occurred to me to blame the loss to the Giants on Welker. The defense? Yes. Brady? Maybe. Welker? No way. And yet Pats' fans who have to find a single play to blame a loss on single that one play out. Even though the pass was poorly thrown and behind him.

As for Hall of Fame, I think he has to have at least 3 more years at his current level. At that point, I think he should be in.

You called him "last for the pro-bowl for about five years" but he was first-team All-Pro in 2011. A bit of a difference. Now if every year were as good as 2011, this would be an easy argument.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:01pm

"With the same scheme and the same QB, the Pats had almost no passing game in 2006."

If you think the Patriots had the same scheme in 2006 as they do now, then the rest of your comment is just completely invalid. There's nothing even similar about the schemes.

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:25pm

Pats had almost no passing game in 2006? This is a curious thing to say from a pats fan of all people. The last sub par passing season by the pats probably was in 2001 or 2002.

by RickD :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 6:29pm

Ask any Pats fan about the 2006 season. I'm sure Aaron remembers the Reche Caldwell days with fear and loathing, if he hasn't suppressed them altogether. He led the team with 61 receptions for 760 yards. Next was Ben Watson (TE) with 49 catches for 643 yards. Then Troy Brown with 43 catches for 384 yards.

They had no receivers that scared anybody. Brown was tailing off already, Watson was failing to break through, and Reche was, well, on his way out of the NFL. The third most productive WR was Doug Gabriel, who had approximately one productive game. Then there was draft bust Chad Jackson and lovable but unproductive Jabar Gaffney.

by RickD :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 6:34pm

"If you think the Patriots had the same scheme in 2006 as they do now..."

No, I was comparing 2006 and 2007. Do you think they changed everything in that offseason? It was a classic example of simply bringing in better personnel (Moss and Welker). It was Josh McDaniels' offense both years. Sure, they were running more long passes to Moss, but Welker was running routes similar to what Troy Brown had been running. He was just a lot more effective.

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:20pm

There are two issues you should remember:

The first concerns welker's replace ability. The Pats offense, by design, attacks the middle of the field of which welker is a big part of(he's also very good at it btw), but it wouldn't fall to pieces were he to leave. If he does leave ne, i imagine edelman, or amendola, or(gasp) harvin could replace him and the production ne gets might not tail off by all that much. We've already seen this in small samples. Take Calvin, Andre, Brandon marshall or a slew of other top receivers off their respective teams and the drop off would be much more severe than taking welker off ne.

The other issue which you didn't adress was how welker was getting his production. Just looking at stats would not take into account the fact that welker attacks slot corners and linebackers(sometimes he's just left in space because defenses are forced to play zone). Very rarely is he forced to go against top tier man cover corners on the outside. As Fo has shown, slot production produces far higher dvoa(across the league) compared to outside receiving production and I suspect a huge chunk of this is because the better defenders are on the outside. A receiver that gains the same production(or slightly less) than welker, but does it playing on the outside IS a better receiver than Welker. Otherwise, why bother with opponent adjustments in the first place.

by RickD :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 6:51pm

As with others, I'm not sure what your point is supposed to be. Welker makes a lot of yardage attacking weak defenders? But you would like it better if he went against their stronger defenders?

I'm pretty sure Sun Tzu would disagree. It's stupid to attack the strength of a defense.

And for all the talk about "this is just what the Pats do," this has only been what the Pats have done since Welker (and Moss) joined the team. They were not a pass-first team when they were winning Super Bowls. They were a grind-up yardage team behind Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon. The Pats tried to replace Welker with Edelman at the beginning of 2012. It didn't work. Amendola and Harvin are nice, when they are healthy, but neither is as good as Welker.

by theslothook :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 10:04pm

I'll try to summarize my arguments better: Firstly, no one is suggesting welker is a complete product of the scheme or just some guy off the scrap heap. That obviously is taking it too far. However, I meant to attack the argument based from his statistical production.

Lets start with what welker is doing, namely attacking the slot. Were he the only example of a slot receiver doing this, I might concede, but the fact is, FO's own data suggests that slot production in the passing game, leaguewide, provides higher returns than conventionally throwing to the outside. That means that what welker's doing isn't unique to welker, its a leaguewide phenomenon.

The analogy I like to make regarding welker is this. Imagine two Olympic runners racing against one another. The first runs on a pristine track with appropriate running shoes and clothing. The other is forced to run on a rugged terrain with ill fitting shoes and carrying a backpack. Do we blithely just assume the man who wins the race won because he was fast/ had better conditioning? Of course not.

That I think is ultimately my big point. Welker predominately does his damage on a route far easier than conventional receivers do. He's also part of an offense that throws a ton inside. They might do this because they have welker(as you are intimating), but I honestly doubt it. Herandez, Woodhead, Gronk, edleman- these players are all middle of the field type weapons. Its actually a big part of why I admire the pats so much. They aren't afraid to break tradition. Someone(ernie adams maybe) realized that slot production generates much higher returns and decided to create an offense that revolves around just this. Simplistic yet brilliant and still it feels like no one else has caught on.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:32pm

Do stats and numbers alone dictate a great receiver? I say NO. How often does Welker make catches with almost no contention at all? While I am not avidly watching the Pats games I would say that over 50% of his catches are completely uncontested because he is wide open as a result of an excellent scheme. There is clearly talent and speed involved here, but what about other receivers who have made catch after catch while a DB is grabbing, touching, hanging on them? Because of this, I disagree that Welker should be #2 on this list.

Also, both of the Honorable mentions should be on the list instead of Welker and Moss. They played longer for the pats (how many seasons did Moss play there?) and in a list of greatest PATRIOTS receivers should get more credit than Moss does. Moss established himself in Minnesota, then had 1.5 excellent seasons with the pats. This does not make him one of the greatest Patriot receivers and Patriot fans should be upset at even mentioning this...especially given the huge lack of effort he puts in on all the plays he refused to block or even run a full route because the play was going somewhere other than to him.

by Guest789 :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:48pm

I see your point, but you need to give Welker some credit. It's not just the scheme that allows him to be wide open all the time, it's partially his route-running skills as well.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

by RickD :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:35pm


Now I've seen everything. You're holding it against Welker that he manages to get wide open all the time.


by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:23pm

I think he's suggesting that his getting wide open is also a function of the scheme allowing him to run free against zone coverage concepts. The reason why this happens is because Brady, the o line, and probably most importantly, the individual matchups with gronk and hernandez are too difficult to execute playing man coverage. Either that, or there aren't enough good man cover players who play in the slot. Remember, context matters when you say wide open, in the same way context matters when a player gets a sack. Should we praise a defender for getting a sack if he were unblocked versus a player who gets a sack versus a double team? A sack is a sack, but the context is hardly the same. Try to be more polite btw.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 8:03pm

The Lions need a good slot receiver whose mutant ability is "always gets open for the 1st down". Since you guys think so little of him, we'll trade him for the loose change in my pocket.

What do you think?

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 10:06pm

Does he also come with Tom brady and his mutant ability to read defenses and check to the short route, gronk and the ne offensive line with dante scarnecchia and their mutant abilities?

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 10:37pm

I think Stafford to Welker would work very well in the Lions offense, as long as he can still get YAC.

by mehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 1:08pm

I don't know how much you should allow the relative records of the mediocre to poor 1970s AFL teams matter in deciding who gets on these top fives. The Jets didn't really tank until the mid 70s, and the Steelers, being an old NFL team, were terrible until they changed conferences. You also forgot the Dolphins when considering the relative strength of the old AFL teams in the early 1970s. I would still take Lance Alworth and Don Maynard over almost anyone playing receiver in the 1960s NFL, except Raymond Berry.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 2:18pm

Did bot read link. Will do latern ow jsuy list tolp 5 in own book

Vataha have brief fling of goodness.
Cappelletti goos. Moss, Welker, Morgan, fryar, some others.

Frim there you have a top five. In an order

by blackmallard (not verified) :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:13pm

Welker's going to be 32 next year and he still has a ways to go to catch, say, Chad Johnson in terms of his hall of fame case. Its too early to start stumping for him, he needs to keep going for another three years or so before you can say he's like Cris Carter.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:42pm

W. Welker alreysdy have storger Hall of Fame case than C. Johnson/Ochochinso/Jonshson. Giy good numbers 2007-2012. Play on 2 super Bowl tenas. C. J/O/J good for five years maybe sox if squint but not impact player for half dozen wears like W. Qelker.

by RickD :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 5:46pm

Yes, the Dolphins wasted Welker's talent for three years.

He's a different type of receiver than Chad Johnson. He's a short-yardage receiver. He's the best one this game has had over the past decade. Having said that, his yardage per game with the Pats is better than Johnson's yardage per game for the Bengals. His TD numbers aren't particularly noteworthy because he's not really a red zone receiver.

Welker's yards/game are also better than Carter's, FWIW.

Do people understand that Welker gained 1569 yards receiving in 2011? Carter's peak was 1371. Johnson's was 1440.

by Cro-Mags :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 6:26pm

Moss and Welker have put up some insane numbers, but I can't think of a player more beloved in NE history than Troy Brown.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 7:06pm

I don't get the Welker hate either. Jerry Rice is one of the few receivers I've seen who could get open the way Welker does. I wish the Packers had a guy who could do what Welker does as consistently as Welker does. As far as the Hall, he's had two All Pro and 5 Pro Bowls in 9 seasons. I don't weight Pro Bowls heavily (I do give weight to All Pro), but Hall voters look at it. I do think he needs several more seasons of being Wes Welker to get in, and if he doesn't it won't bother me much, but I don't get the hate. To put another Packer centric twist on some of this, the last Packer WR to be an All Pro? Antonio Freeman in 1998 (and many argue he was just a product of Brett Favre, but a 84 rec, 1424 yard, 17.0 Y/R, 14 TD season is still pretty solid and the yardage did lead the league). Before that you have to go back to Sterling Sharp. Again, Welker has been named twice.

As to the lists in general I'm glad you're doing them again and I can't wait till you get to the NFC and have to deal with the really old guys, and of course I want to see your take on my favorite franchise. I could see an argument for the guy who holds most of the records now (Donald Driver) not even making the top five with guys like Hutson, Lofton, Sharpe, McGee, Dowler, and even Jennings and Freeman to look at. I'm not saying Driver shouldn't make it, heck he was the closest thing the Packers had to a Welker, but his peak didn't match anyone else I listed (Brooks and Walker had better peaks for that matter and so has Jordy Nelson), but Driver was there and consistent for so long that he has the yardage and reception records (only 3rd in TD's though).

Just looking forward to it.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 10:42pm

Welker has tremendous talent, but he suffers from 'just a slot receiver' bias. The same way that OL get overlooked.

by theslothook :: Wed, 02/13/2013 - 11:54pm

To answer both of your posts- Welker would be valuable to Det, but how valuable? Would you expect another 1300 yard season with lots of catches? Maybe, given how ridiculously distorted the lions run to pass ratio is, but otherwise no. There is pretty much no other offense in the nfl that I would expect welker to put up similar stats in.

To the other pt. the slot receiver bias is diff from the OL bias because slot receivers do NOT go up against the same level of competition that outside receivers do, yet their production is treated as identical. This is wrong.

by dryheat :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 8:50am

The Jets routinely put Revis on Welker, and to be fair, Revis routinely shuts him down (no shame there). Other teams have devoted their #1 corner to Welker. Usually if there's not a corner/nickel on Welker, it's a double team of linebacker/safety.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 7:57pm

Why not?

Last year, Detroit completed 73 passes to Nate Burleson for 750 yards, and this year completed 60 to Burleson's corpse and Titus Young when he wasn't insane. Imagine if you replaced that with an All-Pro receiver.

Detroit's non-Megatron receivers this year were Brandon Fumblegrew, their 3rd down RB, their #2 TE, and their rookie RB -- this was 189 receptions. Imagine if that were replaced with Wes Welker.

And before you ask -- Herman Moore did well in the presence of a #2 WR who was good for 80-100 receptions per year, and that was with the throwing talent of the immortal Scott Mitchell.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 02/16/2013 - 5:34pm

Exactly. Detroit currently lacks a WR who runs good routes and gets open across the middle. A guy like Welker who demands attention will provide better opportunities for Calvin. He doesn't need to get 1300 yds, but if he can get 800-1000 yds and 7-10 TDs it's a plus. Greg Jennings would be another example. Ryan Broyles showed some promise last year but we don't know how effective he'll be after his injury. The TEs just aren't getting the job done any more.

by blackmallard (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 4:07am

I have to disagree that Welker already has a better hall of fame case than Chad Johnson. After Chad Johnson's breakout in 02 he had five years where he was regarded as one of the best in the NFL from 03 to 07, and he also had a very good season in 2009.

Welker has had five good years in his career, basically every year since he arrived in New England except 2010. Its worth noting that the Patriots offense didn't miss a beat when Welker was beat up and diminished in effectiveness in the '10 season, so its really hard to argue that he's somehow the engine that makes it work.

Welker beats nickel corners, linebackers, and holes in zones. Chad Johnson largely worked against the opposing team's best corner and currently has 3000 more yards, 30 more TD's, and two more good seasons than Welker in his career.

Welker has going for him that he was on the Patriots where Chad Johnson played for the Bengals, so Welker's team was more relevant in the playoffs.

In terms of how good they were at their peak, it is similar by the numbers but I have to give Johnson the big edge because he did it as a number one receiver where Welker does a large amount of his damage against linebackers or no one.

I don't think its at all clear that Welker has already leaprfrogged good receivers of his time like Chad Johnson, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Reggie White, Steve Smith, and Anquan Boldin, none of whom I'm sure will be in the hall of fame, and he's not in the same ballpark as guys like Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce belong in one of those two lists as well.

As it stands right now, he hasn't cracked the top 10 receivers not in the hall of fame. They've put 22 wide receivers in the hall total so far, for Welker to be some kind of lock we'd have to see a huge flood of 2000's receivers inducted.

by blackmallard (not verified) :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 4:13am

"Reggie" White should be Roddy White. Reggie White is probably also a better receiver than Wes Welker, but he never got a chance.

by dryheat :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 8:56am

Its worth noting that the Patriots offense didn't miss a beat when Welker was beat up and diminished in effectiveness in the '10 season, so its really hard to argue that he's somehow the engine that makes it work.

In that beat up season of 2010, starting less than 8 months after ACL surgery, Welker played every game and had 86 catches for 848 yards (9.9 avg) and 7 touchdowns.

The Patriots didn't miss a beat that year, because Welker was there every game. He may have been ~85%, but he was there, and he was productive.

I agree about the HoF though. Welker would need 3-5, and probably the high end, seasons averaging 110 catches or so to make the final ballot.

by RickD :: Thu, 02/14/2013 - 7:02pm

2010 was the season when Randy Moss left after four games. The offense "missed a beat" after Moss left because, well, you don't just replace Randy Moss with the next guy off the bench. (I would argue that they still haven't replaced Randy Moss, though Brandon Lloyd is better than Deion Branch was in 2010.)

After Moss left, suddenly Revis could be assigned to cover Welker instead of Moss. Other defenses made similar adjustments. And this hurt Welker's production (more than the ACL injury, I would argue.)

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 4:02am

That was such a weird stretch after Moss left. The first four games featured three wins where the offense was really average (23-20 over BAL and SD, and 28-18 over MIN), and then a bizarre, thorough loss in Cleveland. After that four game run, I remember distinctly Aaron writing a "The Pats Offense is struggling without Moss" column for ESPN. Of course, the Pats then follow that with one of the best, by DVOA, stretches of offense ever, ending up with close to the all-time DVOOA for offense. I still have no idea how they did it other than Tom Brady not throwing a single interception.

by theslothook :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 4:21am

THats why that 2010 offense will always be a mystery to me. It was so strange. Sure it had brady, but other than brady throwing an obscenely unsustainable amount of picks, he was the same tom brady. Who did they have at the time that made it SO amazing. No moss, gronk and hernandez were still rookies. Welker was struggling off an acl injury. And yet, miraculously, they just went on a ridiculous tear.

I have a few plausible theories: 1 - the offensive line just had a hay maker year. Sure, NE consistently fields pretty good o lines, but that might have been Ne's best year overall. Just remarkable offensive line play.

2 - Offensive evolution. We probably take it for granted now, but no offense had ever been designed around attacking the middle of the field and being able to swiftly and seamlessly operate in power and spread with the same personnel group. This two fold innovation took advantage of the fact that teams struggle defending the slot because the elite defenders play the outside.

To me - Ne doesn't get the credit for being as innovative as they have been. I suspect people assume they have the same collection of talent offensively as say GB or No, but I wonder if in part they just switched up the game in such a way that teams didn't know what hit em. And they added a new wrinkle to this innovation- the speed no huddle. In essence, they have now combined three very unusual aspects to their offense that almost no one else runs. 1) Attack the middle of the field where the defense is weak, 2)attack with personnel groupings that can operate flexibly between power and spread 3) attack with speed. I'd love to here some pats fans give me ideas about who was the genius responsible for this. Bb? Ernie Adams? Who?

by nat :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 12:03pm

There's no good reason to exclude Tom Brady having an especially good year at avoiding interceptions, while entertaining the idea of the OL having an especially good year at pass protection. While both might be true, we have statistical evidence for Brady's accomplishment.

Nor did it come out of the blue. Brady has been in the top half of the league in terms of interceptions/drive (probably other related interception rate stats as well) every single year of his career. 2010 was a great year in this respect. But it really did happen, as much as you'd want to wish it away.

Good point about the offensive evolution. The Patriots have remodeled their offense every single year from 2006 on, and possibly from earlier than that. Some of that has been driven by personnel. But it's all made possible by Brady and Welker, whose skills and "football IQ" let them be effective in a large variety of offense styles.

There may be a one-and-only "Manning way" for running an offense. But Brady and company are not limited to one style. As a result, they can beat you in ways that many fans (like you, as you say) have trouble understanding, and beat you again the next year in a new way you did not see coming.

by theslothook :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 2:54pm

A few things. While Brady's historical int rates are low, in that year they were freakishly low. It happened, he deserves credit, but its not as if it was something that he learned that one year and then forgot all other years.

As for the pats offense - I was referring specifically to the 2010 season as hard to understand. I can understand 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012- each of those years the pats had either a haymaker year from one of their skill players(moss, welker, gronk) or used the speed no huddle to ruthless effect(2012), but 2010 they were not yet the speed no huddle team and they did not have any of their skill players go off in any traditional sense. Whats more, their twin tight ends were rookies and welker was off an acl. The point i was trying to get at was, not only was 2010 a successful year, it was the most successful offensive team over the last decade save for 2007. How is it that the 2010 ne team was better offensively than the 2012 or 2011 versions is the part that mystifies me.

It can't all just be because brady threw less picks. And that's why i suspect a good portion of it was the 2 schematic things. Is that a product of brady and welker's iq? Maybe, though I think of it as more of an offensive design than just its the qb. Clearly something happened in 2010 that changed ne from a conventional style passing game(well, relatively conventional) to this transformation. It wasn't mcdaniels- although he continues to run it successfully. Was it bill O'brien? Idk. But i think its more than just tom brady.

by MJK :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 4:49pm

Interesting argument that that Welker would be less useful to other teams. I actually would argue that he would be MORE useful to some other teams than to the Pats.

When Welker's in the game, teams usually go at most 1-deep coverage and crowd all the interior lines. You simply can't stopp Welker from getting open on those 5 yard slants and crossing patterns, so all you can do is clog the throwing lanes with extra bodies and make sure someone's near him to tackle him so he doesn't get the YAC. Teams do this because, as great as Brady is, his deep ball lacks touch and accuracy and doesn't strike fear into anyone's heart, so teams would rather risk leaving Deion Branch or Matt Slater (or even Lloyd) single covered deep than die by a thousand Welker-cuts.

But if you put Welker on a team with a QB that still had reasonable short ball accuracy and decision making, but also had a good arm for the deep pass, and you've created a nightmare for defenses. Welker is so good that you can't cover him underneath without extra bodies, so you are either going to risk single covering a legitimate deep threat, or letting Welker gash you time and again underneath.

by theslothook :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 8:23pm

That's an interesting take. I guess it all depends on if you believe its welker thats making Ne's interior scheme work or its the scheme really elevating welker. Rick D and you think its the former while I(and I fully acknowledge its a hunch right now), think its the latter. I imagine we'll get the answer next year or soon enough.

by Purds :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 7:57pm

I now officially hate FO because it keeps spam filtering the most benign of comments.

by Purds :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 7:59pm

Since it won't let me say the whole thing, I'll say it short:
Welker very good.
Quick decisions after catch are comparable to a great RB who plows over the first few tacklers.
Fans appreciate the bruising RB.
They should appreciate Welker as well.
Akin to Marvin Harrison running out of bounds or falling down to save his body for another play.

Did I mention I hate typing a complete thought and having the spam filter deny it?

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 02/15/2013 - 10:58pm

You need to include more links and keywords to improve the page rank of your malware infested, vertically integrated Dubai based sports-book/counterfit purse emporium/sex trafficing/money laundering operation. Or failing that a site setup to provide contemporary hairstyles to ghosts.

by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 02/19/2013 - 5:52am

There are definitely some people who look at Wes Welker and just don't "feel" Hall of Famer. You can't convince those folks, because that's not really a position that's open to change without vastly more experience than they already have. (That's assuming we're charitable and assess "feel" here as "subconscious comparison with past receivers that are Hall of Famers".)

For example, you won't convince me that Wes Welker is better than John Stallworth, because I was a Steeler fan during his heyday and remember the two catches in XIV and the various catches against the Oilers, where he's standing in the end zone with his jersey yanked down to his waist by the hapless defender who couldn't get the ball or take him down. I've never seen Welker do anything like that, hence he can't compare.

I make no argument that this is a position reflecting an objective reality. I do think this type of opinion comes up for Welker more than for other Hall of Fame caliber receivers.

I think that when Welker is done, I will consider him a Hall of Fame receiver. He doesn't stand up to receivers that could catch everything and go deep, but it's not like those guys are the only Hall-worthy receivers. You don't have to be Warfield, Rice or Largent to get in.