Three years ago, we lost three-year veteran Wes Welker. Three years later, we got him back.
Wesley Carter Welker was an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech university. There, he caught 259 passes for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also won the Mosi Tatupu award as the top special teams football player in the nation. Wes still holds the all-time NCAA records for most punt returns in a season with eight.
Welker was not invited to the NFL Combine. His pre-draft measurables from the Texas Tech Pro Day are as follows: 5'8¾", 195 lbs., 4.65-40. He also had a 4.01 20-ss, 7.09 3-cone, 30" vertical, and a 9'05" broad jump. He went on to sign with the San Diego Chargers after having all 32 teams skip on him seven(-plus) times, and made the team out of training camp. The Miami Dolphins signed him after he was cut following Week 1 of the 2004 regular season.
Wait, after having just scanned the Miami Dolphins roster, I just realized Wes has changed his name and number. I repeat, Wes Welker's new legal name is Davone Atrayo Bess, and his number is 15.
Wes Welker v.2.0 was a three-year starter at the University of Hawai'i following a lost scholarship from Oregon State University due to a six-month sentence. As a freshman, sophomore, and junior in a pass-happy offense, he posted a total of 293 catches for 3,610 yards and 41 scores. He improved in receptions and yards in each of his subsequent seasons, and nearly doubled his former self in touchdowns.
Although this time, he signed with Miami right out of college as an undrafted free agent. No middle-man. He was a 'Phin from the get-go.
He also decided to wait until he reached the NFL before putting his name in the record books. As a rookie, he caught 54 balls; this is the second-most all-time for an undrafted rookie behind Wayne Chrebet's 66 in '95.
Unlike Welker, Bess was invited to the NFL Combine. Still, he impressed at the Hawaii Pro Day. He was taller at 5'10", lighter at 189 lbs., jumped 10'07" at the broad, and posted a 36.5" vertical. What I believe was the 20-ss, Bess posted a time of 4.27. Note: he also pushed 12 reps of 225 lbs. on the bench at the combine.
By all accounts, v.2.0 possesses more all-around athleticism. The original was slightly more agile, but this is the only place where the "new and improved" defers.
Onto the only place it truly matters: production at the highest level.
In Welker's first year as a Dolphin, he excelled at special teams. He did not catch a ball, but we should expect Welker to be the ST monster that Bess isn't. What Bess gives up in return ability, though, he makes up for in receiving. That's where we need him to contribute the most.
Welker's second season here saw him post 29 receptions for 434 yards and no scores. A respectable 15.0 yard average. He was an even better return man, save for a lower "long" return and one less touchdown than the previous year (zero compared to one). His third season was underwhelming, but this is not an issue; this was only his second year as an actual receiver. He caught 67 balls for 687 yards, a 10.3 average. He also caught his first touchdown as a receiver in the NFL.
Then, he was traded away. Within the division, no less. What did he net us? Well, our second and seventh rounders from New England turned into Samson Satele and Abraham Wright. So, in essence, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Squat. Love. Zero. Nein.
Then, something happened: Wes Welker was reborn. This time, with dreadlocks. While the short-haired version was busy breaking out in his third year as a receiver with an actual quarterback throwing to him, we were developing our very own younger version, and watching the chemistry with another Michigan-based QB-of-the-future blossom.
This time, he was even better. He caught 54 balls for 554 yards, a 10.3 yard average. He reproduced Welker's junior season average as a rookie. He even outscored Welker, one-nothing. Then, he was a sophomore. He posted 76 catches for 758 yards, and once again, outscored Welker, this time two-to-one. Determined to one-up the former, he was one of the best in the league at third-down receptions.
Now what? He's in his third year in this league, and he just watched this front office acquire top-three receiver Brandon Marshall. The double-teaming will no longer EVER be on Bess. He can now work underneath and across the middle all day, and twice on Sundays.
Looking at Bess' third-year status, there is a lot to be excited about. He has been working with Karl Dorrell on establishing route depth. He is one of the top third-down threats in the league. He is arguably one of the top slot receivers in the NFL, and this came as a sophomore in this league. What could he possibly accomplish in his third year, typically the magical "break-out season" for veteran wide receivers?
"Foresight's only as far as you can peer into the past." - Historypeats, Mad at Gravity.
Wes Welker's break-out season, albeit as a New England Patriot, came in his third year as a receiver. How did he perform? Admirably. 112 catches. 1,175 yards. Eight touchdowns. And this occurred across a real #1 wide receiver, with a real quarterback throwing to him.
And, for all the flak Bess receives as a return man, he actually averaged about as many yards per return as Welker did. He just doesn't receive nearly as many opportunities to do so, because, well: we don't need him to do that to contribute to this team, and we'd rather he focused on his routes and receiving abilities.
So thanks, New England. We don't need Wes Welker. We have his rebirth. He's turning our own little Poison Pill, thanks.
Oh, and by the way: see you in six months.