Can Danny Amendola Replace Wes Welker?
If the Austin Powers movie series came out with a fourth movie, (Please, please, please!) and Mini Me took over Dr. Evil's role as the main villain, we would all be able to tell the difference. Although Mini Me looks exactly like Dr. Evil, he cannot maintain the same level of evilness and more importantly, hilariousness, so the movie probably would not be as good as the first three.
This is exactly how some Patriots fans feel with the transition of Wes Welker as the slot receiver and Tom Brady's number one target to free agent signing Danny Amendola.
Amendola has a similar body type to Welker, as he is two inches taller and only weighs three pounds more, and they both have similar styles of play. Welker has made the slot receiver position famous in his six seasons with New England, and receivers like Amendola have been given opportunities because of it.
Welker has amassed over 100 receptions every season but one with the Pats and has even led the league in receptions in 2009 and 2011. He is a target machine and although he has not been the Patriots' main option in the red zone, he has been the guy that moves the chains and keeps drives going. In other words, he has been an elite receiver. He has proved that no one else can do the job better than he has.
But just because Welker was one of the first slot receivers to find success, does that really make him the best one in the league? I'm sure local Welker fans just jumped out of their seats with that blasphemous question, but honestly, does it?
We all have to remember who Welker had to throw him the ball and who game planned for him. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have turned average-at-best receivers into extremely competent ones in the past like Deion Branch, David Patten, David Givens, Reche Caldwell, and Jabar Gaffney to name a few.
Now, in no way am I comparing Welker to those guys because his production with New England had far outweighed that list, but before Welker became a Patriot, his numbers were equivalent to Amendola's.
He played two seasons with the Miami Dolphins before joining New England and he did not get many opportunities. In his second season, he only saw 99 targets, (his highest number of targets on the Patriots was 174 last season) and his numbers were pedestrian. He hauled in 67 receptions for 687 yards and a touchdown.
Amendola's career has been a bit weird due to the many shortened seasons because of injuries. In his best year, 2010, he saw 123 targets for 85 receptions, 689 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Last season, however, he only played in eleven games and only had 101 targets, which allows us to compare his numbers with Welker's second season.
Amendola totaled 63 receptions for 666 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers are almost identical to Welker's. Welker's targets skyrocketed up to 145 in his first season with the Patriots and he finished the season with 112 receptions. This was before the strong bond between Brady and Welker was formed, and what is to say that Amendola cannot duplicate those numbers in his first season?
[Do you want to put your NFL knowledge to the test with weekly fantasy football? Sin up for FanDuel.com using the promo code TSP for a 50% deposit bonus!]
Well, there is one thing. Amendola has played one full season in his four-year career and in 2011, he only played one game. This is a serious worry because at the very least, Mini Me is a better replacement for Dr. Evil than anyone else. The same is with Amendola and Welker.
The one obvious key to the replacement is whether Amendola can stay healthy. Otherwise, everything is thrown out the window.
But if he can, there is limited reason to worry. Welker was great, but without his number of targets, would he even be recognized as a talented receiver? The offensive game plan and quarterback has had a large impact on Welker's career successes and with the fact that Amendola has proven that he can be a comparable receiver to Welker pre-Patriots when healthy, there is reason to believe that Amendola will be able to replace Welker.
All the Patriots have to do now is wrap Amendola up in bubble wrap at all times and everything should be fine.
By: Matt Levine