Wes Welker was one of the best receivers to ever step foot in Foxboro, and it’s time to start treating him like one.
Throughout his six seasons in New England, Welker was the most consistent offensive force for the New England Patriots, if not in the entire league. From 2007 through 2012, Welker posted these regular season receptions, yards, and touchdown totals: 112-1175-8, 111-1165-3, 123-1348-4, 86-848-7, 122-1569-9, 118-1354-6.
Throughout his New England career, that totals up to a whooping 672 receptions for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns. On a per game average: 7.2 catches for 80 yards while recording a 72.6 catch percentage. The one season he failed to eclipse the 100-reception mark (2010) was the year he came back after suffering a torn ACL the previous January.
Welker also returned 114 punts for an average of 10.4 yards. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro, while missing just three regular season games in his six seasons.
Welker’s stats speak for themselves, but when talked about by Patriot fans, his name is often followed by an eye-roll and a bevy of hate.
So why? Is it because he was never afraid to push back against the ‘Patriot Way’? Jumped ship to Denver to catch passes from Peyton Manning? Or because he failed to cash in on one of his two Super Bowl appearances; where his prodigy Julian Edelman has been a key contributor in winning three Lombardi trophies? Patriot fans just can’t seem to drop the lasting image of Welker’s drop in Super Bowl 46. A pass that if caught, could have sealed the 2011 Super Bowl for the Patriots.
Yet, one play should not overshadow how great Welker was. Standing at just 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, he helped redefine the game by recording a majority of his production out of the slot. When comparing him to Edelman, he had better hands, was more durable, and was a far superior route runner. At times, Welker was even considered by many to be the best receiver the league had to offer.
In Foxboro however, it’s all Julian Edelman, and to his credit he deserves it. Edelman filled Welker’s shoes better than anyone expected. He was a catalyst in three Super Bowl victories while recording a handful of memorable plays. Edelman’s Super Bowl 53 MVP put him next to Jerry Rice as the best postseason wide receiver of all-time.
However, Edelman’s success shouldn’t take away from Welker’s accomplishments. And while Edelman’s postseason production cannot be matched, the narrative that Welker failed to produce in the playoffs is false. New England’s record setting 2007 offense was stifled all night in Super Bowl 42, except for Welker; who recorded a team high 11 receptions and 103 yards. New England’s top three receivers not named Welker combined for just 9 catches and 99 yards.
While his playoff averages don’t compare to Edelman, even though anyone not named Jerry Rice does, Welker was consistent as always. He hauled in 69 passes for 686 yards and four scores in the playoffs, catching 76.7 percent of his targets; an average of 7.7 receptions for 76.2 yards per game.
Welker’s name itself is pasted in record books, becoming the quickest player to reach 500 receptions (70 games). He also drew his own comparisons to Jerry Rice in 2012, as he jumped Rice by becoming the first receiver to have five 100-reception seasons. Welker also passed Rice’s record that season with his 18th career game with at least 10 receptions.
Throughout his New England tenure, nobody caught more passes than Welker, who also ranked top five in yardage during that time. Welker holds the Patriots franchise record for consecutive games with a reception, having caught a pass in every game (regular season and postseason) he played as a Patriot. In Week 2 of 2012, Welker broke Troy Brown’s franchise record for receptions in just 79 games, even though Brown played more than twice as many games as a Patriot (192).
Welker donned the Patriot uniform a total 102 times, pilling up 741 receptions, 8,145 yards and 41 touchdowns. He may not have the Super Bowl titles or storied career like Edelman, but he was a better receiver over the same span of time, and it’s time to start giving him the respect he deserves.