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PI Finds: Can Welker Still Challenge Harrison?

Posted by Neil Paine on December 14, 2009

On Sunday, New England Patriots WR Wes Welker continued his remarkable 2009 campaign, snagging 10 Tom Brady passes for 105 yards, bringing his reception total to 105 so far this season. It was his second consecutive 10-reception game, coming on the heels of a performance against the Dolphins that made him the second-fastest to reach 95 catches in a single season, and it gave him the 2nd-highest reception total in NFL history through 13 team games:

Rk Player Age Year Tm G Rec Yds TD
1 Marvin Harrison 30 2002 CLT 13 118 1394 8
2 Wes Welker 28 2009 NWE 11 105 1158 4
3 Cris Carter 29 1994 MIN 13 102 1041 7
4 Herman Moore 25 1995 DET 13 101 1417 12
5 Keyshawn Johnson 29 2001 TAM 13 100 1196 1
6 Michael Irvin* 29 1995 DAL 13 98 1391 10
7 Hines Ward 26 2002 PIT 13 98 1166 11
8 Terance Mathis 27 1994 ATL 13 97 1201 10
9 Torry Holt 27 2003 RAM 13 96 1418 10
10 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 30 2007 CIN 13 96 966 11
11 Wes Welker 27 2008 NWE 13 96 1002 1
12 Cris Carter 29 1995 MIN 13 95 1080 14
13 Sterling Sharpe 28 1993 GNB 13 93 1016 9
14 Wes Welker 26 2007 NWE 13 93 974 8
15 Andre Johnson 27 2008 HTX 13 92 1201 5
16 Andre Johnson 25 2006 HTX 13 92 1059 5
17 Johnny Morris 28 1964 CHI 13 92 1195 10
18 Terrell Owens 29 2002 SFO 13 92 1225 12
19 Jimmy Smith 32 2001 JAX 13 92 1137 7
20 Brett Perriman 30 1995 DET 13 91 1176 8

Of course, Welker's terrific play so far in 2009 (he became just the 4th player in NFL history to have 3 consecutive 100-catch seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, and Herman Moore) has also allowed us to reflect back on just how insane Harrison's production was during his peak. First, he is the only player in NFL history to have four straight 100-catch campaigns. Also, notice that the difference between #1 and #2 on the list above, in terms of receptions through 13 games, is the same as the difference between #2 and #15! In order to catch Harrison's staggering record of 143 catches in a season from 2002, Welker will have to haul in 12.7 catches per game for the remaining 3 games of the regular season.

That said, the real gap between Welker and Harrison isn't anywhere near as great as it sounds from the raw numbers, because Welker has suffered a handicap in his pursuit of Harrison this year -- he missed 2 games early in the season. If Welker played at his current pace, but in 13 games instead of 11 (remember, Harrison didn't miss any games during his 2002 season), Welker would have 124 catches through 13 games, which is actually 6 more than Harrison's record pace!

Thanks to the 2-game absence, we'll probably never know whether a full season of Welker could have challenged or even broken Harrison's record, but we should still count ourselves as lucky to see two of the great possession-receiver seasons of all time separated by just 7 years.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 11:27 pm and is filed under PI Finds. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.