With the multitude of similarities between them – both short, agile and white slot receivers out of Texas Tech – it’s no surprise that Danny Amendola is being compared to Wes Welker after essentially replacing his spot on the Patriots’ roster. After all, Welker had become a fan-favorite in New England over the years, and Patriots Nation wants to like his replacement.
While nobody can predict the future, I’ll take a stab at foreseeing some likely scenarios based on the career paths of players similar to Welker and Amendola. Using our WR Similarity scores tool, which take into account age, experience, and, of course, production, I found the five most similar seasons to both Welker’s and Amendola’s 2012 season. By looking at what these comparable players did in the following seasons, we can get a glimpse of what the future might hold for these two. The five most similar seasons for each were:
|For Amendola 2012|
|2007 Steve Smith|
|2008 Greg Camarillo|
|2007 Bernard Berrian|
|2010 Steve Smith|
|2010 Wes Welker|
|For Welker 2012|
|2010 Reggie Wayne|
|2007 Torry Holt|
|2004 Isaac Bruce|
|2001 Keenan McCardell|
|2006 Mike Furrey|
The Welker list is comprised of some legendary receivers, which is unsurprising given Welker’s historical output last year. However, when looking at these players’ respective following seasons, all of their relevant stats decrease. The five receivers averaged 31.33 less receptions, 404.26 less receiving yards, and 2.08 less recFPOP in the following season. Additionally, they were targeted an average of 39.46 fewer times and scored 2.4 fewer touchdowns over the course of the next season.
Welker’s trunk is also starting to gather a few rings – at the ripe old age of 32, Welker can’t possibly have too many years left. I wouldn’t say that he is nearing the end of his career, but the continual abuse from taking big hits on patterns across the middle has to force him to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is incredibly difficult to sustain the level of play that he has grown accustomed to achieving the past few years, and I would expect him to start reverting to the mean in the next few seasons. Also, only 24 wide receivers since the merger have ever continued their careers into their 35th year of life – not including, curiously, one Wesley Walker, the Jets receiver who retired in 1989 at age 34.
Now let’s look at those seasons similar to Amendola’s 2012. First, we have Steve Smith’s 2007 and 2010 seasons. Smith went on to have two of his best seasons in the years following each of these seasons, respectively racking up 1421 and 1394 receiving yards, 6 and 7 TDs, 78 and 79 receptions, and even a Pro Bowl appearance in 2008, the year following the most similar of all seasons in NFL history to Amendola’s 2012.
Greg Camarillo put up very similar numbers in the season immediately after his Amendola-like performance, but quickly fell off the map when the Dolphins replaced him with Brandon Marshall. Bernard Berrian happened to also switch teams the year after, from St. Louis to Minnesota, making his case even more similar to Amendola’s in a way. How well did Berrian fare after adjusting to the new offense and change in scenery? He set career highs in both receiving yards and touchdowns with 964 yards and 7 TDs.
And finally, Patriots fans are well aware of what Welker did in his historic 2011 season: 122 receptions (t-2nd in Patriots history – only to his own record of 123 in 2009, t-4th in NFL history) to go along with 1,569 receiving yards and 9 TDs, each career highs.
As you can see, hopes are high for Amendola this year. He appears to have his best years still ahead of him, and the explosive, slot-heavy Patriots’ offense will only amplify his success. After all, in Welker’s last season with the Dolphins before becoming a Patriot, he only tallied 67 receptions for 687 yards and a touchdown. Compare that to Amendola in his last year as a Ram – 63 receptions for 666 yards and 3 TDs – and you can see why Patriots Nation is expecting him to replicate Welker’s production. After he fully recovers from his various injuries in the offseason, we can look for him to thrive in Brady’s incredibly efficient offense. Until then, Patriots fans just have to trust the motto they’ve clung to for years – “In Belichick we trust.”
Fun Fact: Berrian and Welker each had a 99 yard reception in their respective seasons immediately following their Amendola-like seasons.