Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 5:50 PM
By John Mullin
Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead are spending a fair amount of time this season making NFL defensive backs look bad. They also are making more than a few so-called personnel experts look downright stupid.
They are living proof that living well is indeed the best revenge.
Welker is a shade under 5-9 and about 195 pounds, roughly the size of Carolina's Steve Smith or the Bears' Rashied Davis. He 'towers' over Woodhead, who lists at 5-7, 200 pounds.
Welker wasn't initially offered a scholarship, then was given one to Texas Tech when another player backed out of a commitment. Woodhead at least had the distinction of being given the first full athletic scholarship to Chardon State College (Neb.).
Welker was not invited to the NFL scouting combine. After all, he only ran a 4.65-sec. in the 40. Neither was drafted out of college. And for Welker, who has gone on to be named to Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams, those slights have mattered.
"I don't so much think about it anymore," Welker said. "Maybe earlier on but really I just try to do my best because I want our team to be successful, move the ball and do some things like that."
Welker in 2009 joined Brandon Marshall, Marvin Harrison, Herman Moore and Jerry Rice as the only receivers in NFL history to catch 100 passes in three straight seasons. He currently leads the Patriots with 72 catches (next closest is Deon Branch with 49) and 7 receiving touchdowns.
Woodhead this year has 355 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns and has caught 28 passes, one of those for a TD.
Both Welker and Woodhead have the unspoken satisfaction of shattering the cliched thinking that too often governs NFL personnel evaluators.
"I hope so," Welker said. "I think it's definitely something to look at and the main thing you can really do is look at the tape, see how a player plays and see what kind of production he's had. I think those things are the most key things to look at when you look at a player and not get enamored with the measurables when the Combine comes around."
Making an impression
Welker went to camp with San Diego in 2004 but was cut and went on to Miami. What he did there was deliver performances that specifically had to impress his future bosses.
In his rookie year Welker became just the second person in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in the same game.
That was against none other than the New England Patriots. In Miami's second game against New England that season, Welker broke a punt return 71 yards to set up a touchdown.
The Patriots had a good memory. They traded second- and seventh-round draft choices for Welker in 2007, perhaps figuring it was a good way to avoid having to deal with him twice a year on special teams.
And he fit some of the key concepts that the Patriots look for in personnel, notions that have served them well this decade.
"There are a lot of things we look for and it varies from position to position but in the end each player has his own unique set of skills and strengths and weaknesses; we all do," said coach Bill Belichick.
"The question really is what is the total balance in production of that whole skill set and how can it be used in a particular system or particular position. That varies a lot from player to player and sometimes from year to year."
Welker and Woodhead also have gotten shots at receiver and running back despite the reality in some minds that NFL personnel evaluators look askance at white players at their positions the way personnel thinking made it difficult for black players to earn fair chances at quarterback, center and some other positions.
Welker does not rule out the possibility of a white player being overlooked but as far as that being common, "I don't think so," he said. "I think if you can play, you can play. I think there are plenty of white guys at the receiver position. I wouldn't know how many exactly but at the same time I wouldn't say someone's overlooked or it can't happen. If you can play, they're going to find a spot for you."
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.