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The NFL reception leader is . . .

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  October 26, 2009 11:49 AM

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Randy Moss, deservedly, is the Patriot bandied about as maybe the NFL’s best wide receiver, on a short list with Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, and perhaps a few others. Wes Welker does not possess the freaky athleticism or proclivity for big gains of that foursome. But in his own way, Welker has been as valuable as any wide receiver in the NFL this year.

After his 10-catch, 107-yard, one-touchdown performance yesterday in London, Welker leads the NFL with 46 catches despite missing two games. His 96.8 yards per game is also best in the league. Welker's production isn’t a surprise given his 111 catches last season and 112 in 2007. Welker’s consistency, though, makes it easy to overlook him, particularly outside of New England.

Welker’s style does not lend itself toward him popping up in best-in-the-league conversations, even if he did make the Pro Bowl last year. Welker has produced a first down or touchdown on 58.7 percent of his catches while averaging 10.5 yards, 44th and 54th among players with at least 20 catches.

(For perspective: Moss is at 69.8 and 13.1; Marshall is at 62.1 and 11.4; Fitzgerald is at 65.9 and 10.8; and Johnson is at 63.2 and 16.7. The leader in first-down percentage is Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes at 93.3 percent; 28 of his 30 receptions have produced a touchdown or first down. Miles Austin leads the league with a 23.9-yard-per-catch average.)

Welker doesn’t connect with many haymakers. But he delivers the constant jabs that wear down and frustrate defenses and set up Moss for the knockout. Moss keeps defensive coordinators up Saturday nights; Welker keeps the chains moving on Sunday afternoons.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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