Four weeks into the season, I noted that Wes Welker, who was coming off ACL reconstruction surgery, was in his usual fine form in catching the ball; after those four games, Welker had snagged 26 of the 34 passes that had been thrown his way for a catch rate of 76.5%. That catch rate was right in line with his 79.0% catch rate in 2007 and his 71.3% catch rate in 2009, his other two seasons catching passes from quarterback Tom Brady.
Yet, Welker was still experiencing a decline in production, due to the fact he was only gaining 8.3 yards per reception and Tom Brady was only gaining 6.4 yards per pass attempt on throws to Welker. Welker’s 8.3 yards per reception marked a 17.0% decrease from his 10.0 yards per reception in 2007 and a 23.9% decrease from his 10.9 yards per reception in 2009. His 6.4 yards per pass attempt represented a 19.0% decrease from his 7.9 yards per pass attempt in 2007 and a 17.9% decrease from his 7.8 yards per pass attempt in 2009.
The New England Patriots could put up with Welker’s decline in value per pass play as long as they had Randy Moss catching the occasional deep pass, but after they traded Moss away after the fourth week of the season, I felt it was imperative that for the Patriots to maintain their elite passing attack, Welker needed to start running deeper routes.
Welker did just that, but some of the improvement he should have expected from gaining more yards per reception was negated by the fact he experienced a decline in his catch rate. In the last 11 games in which Welker played, his yards per reception jumped from 8.3 to 10.5, an increase of 26.5%.
However, his catch rate dropped from 76.5% to 67.4%, which is a decrease of 11.9% and the major reason why Welker and the Patriots only gained 7.1 yards per pass attempt thrown to Welker, an increase of only 10.9% over the 6.4 yards per pass attempt on throws to Welker during the first four games of the season. Welker’s 7.1 yards per pass attempt over those 11 games were also not up to the standards he established in his other two seasons playing with Brady.
For the season, Welker had a 69.9% catch rate, 6.9 yards per pass attempt thrown to him, 9.9 yards per completion, and and 7.7 adjusted yards per pass attempt. All of those statistics comprise the worst of the three seasons he has played with Brady as his quarterback. In addition, Welker’s 7.9% DVOA , which measures value per play, this season is unsurprisingly worse than his 21.3% DVOA in 2007 and his 20.3% DVOA in 2009.
Wes Welker simply did not not produce this season at the level at which fans of the Patriots have become accustomed.