Originally Posted by descendency
Wes Welker runs the most mundane routes better than anyone else in the NFL. I wouldn't call him more explosive, but he certainly has under-rated athleticism.
He was a dynamic punt returner in college.
If you're saying Wes Welker runs the best mundane routes in the NFL, what you're really saying is that he's perfectly suited for an offense that doesn't require much beyond consistent execution. He's expected to be in a certain place at a certain time, and he is, and the Pats offense works. Other players can do that, the Pats front office knows it, and it's why they haven't wanted to pay him superstar money despite the huge numbers; the numbers are unique to the role on the Patriots offense. When you see Julian Edelman replace him from time to time and he catches 10 passes himself, it looks a lot more to like playing slot receiver in the Pats offense is kind of a unique position in comparison to other NFL teams, not that Wes Welker is making that offense go.
Welker joined the Pats in 2007, and they went 16-0 in the regular season, Welker had 112 catches, and you'd be able to make a lot stronger correlation between the two if it wasn't for the fact that they also had signed Randy Moss, who had 98 catches himself for nearly 1500 yards and 23 TDs. That season was about Moss, not Welker. Moss made that offense go, and Welker picked up a lot of underneath yardage running those mundane routes you mentioned, while Moss was the one defenses worried about and concentrated on - how much do you want to bet it was a lot easier for Welker to pick up underneath yards with Moss stretching defenses towards the endzone week in and week out? There's a reason Welker has never caught many touchdowns. He's a checkdown in the Patriots offense. Call him the best checkdown in the league if you like.
It was the same thing the next year, but without quite the statistical success; Moss stretched the defense out and gave Welker room to work.
Same thing the year after that. He's playing with Randy Moss, with Moss working downfield and catching TDs, and Welker makes a lot of catches and moves the offense forward when the deep routes are covered. Nothing wrong with that, but the point is that his first three years with the Patriots could have been had by someone else; Randy Moss was what made that offense.
Then it's 2010. Randy Moss leaves. Wes Welker catches 86 passes for only 848 yards. You think losing Moss impacted his play? Hell yeah. But he gets voted to the Pro Bowl anyways, because the collective New England fanbase is still aroused from three consecutive years of 100+ receptions.
2011 rolls around, and Rob Gronkowski builds on a solid rookie year and turns into the deep ball/endzone threat the Pats lost when Moss left. Gronkowski doesn't have Moss's deep speed, but he has the ability to make deep plays and that opens things up for Welker again. Welker has statistically the best season of his career.
It'll be interesting to see how he looks in the Pats offense with Gronk now out, but throughout this year you see the same thing - Gronk is the guy who dictates defenses and coverages and is a much greater scoring threat, while Welker is still very integral to the offense; I feel like Gronkowski, like Moss, is the player they use to attack defenses, and Welker is who they throw it to when their opponents, hopefully, have invested so much in covering the bigger threat that there's open space in the middle of the field for Welker to exploit. But Welker doesn't give you that on his own; his role on the Patriots offense is predicated on them having some other
receiver. I think that's pretty easy to see when you look at his career before he got to the Patriots, and the season he had in there without a huge, downfield threat to take the pressure off of him and to let him be his team's no. 2.
I see no reason why Tavon Austin can't do the same thing. The fact that Welker puts up some crazy stats has much more to do with the Patriots than Wes Welker. He's great in that role, but it's a role that's conducive to big numbers. When Tom Brady's throwing it over 600 times in a season, there are big numbers to be had, and there's a spot in that offense for a player like Welker. I suppose more than anything I'm suggesting Welker role on the Patriots is a unique one in both the style of offense the Patriots run and the fact that their offense is run by one of the best QBs ever. I'm not ragging on Welker so much as just saying that there's really little doubt in my mind that if it's a question of system vs. player, Welker is benefitting from being on the Patriots more than the Patriots benefit from having Welker, and accordingly I see no reason why someone Tavon Austin couldn't have a lot of success in the same role. He's perfectly suited for it.