Over the last few years, several players have been described as the “next Wes Welker.”
Among them: North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer, Emporia State’s Austin Willis and Southern Mississippi’s Casey Martin, who also was referred to as Welker’s “little brother.” Each was compared to the longtime former NFL wide receiver and kick/punt returner who beat the odds by being a small (5-foot-9) wide receiver who succeeded despite coming into the league as an undrafted free agent.
Welker’s quickness and sure hands turned him into dynamic slot receiver. Over 12 NFL seasons he caught 903 passes, three times leading the league in receptions for the New England Patriots.
So far, however, no one has become the next Welker.
Now, the latest to be compared to Welker is the 49ers’ Trent Taylor, a fifth-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech.
Taylor, 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, was a star at Louisiana Tech. In his senior season, Taylor had 136 catches for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also was a standout punt returner.
The 49ers have loved what Taylor has done in offseason workouts. As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted recently, Taylor has impressed teammates and coaches with his ability to get away from coverage in the secondary, run sharp routes and be sure-handed when the ball comes his way.
Said head coach Kyle Shanahan recently: “I’m really excited about Trent.”
Added Shanahan, about what he saw when he watched Taylor on tape before the draft: “What impressed me the most about him besides the separation ability is that when he did get the ball in his hands, he ran angry and pissed off. He got up the field. He’s not scared to get hit. He’s a very competitive, violent runner and those are the guys to me who keep you on the field and move the chains.”
Recently, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a long story about Taylor and his road to success en route to the NFL. Josh Franklin, the former offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, said he was impressed by Taylor from the moment he first saw him. And, Franklin told Branch he has no doubt that Taylor eventually could be the guy who becomes a version of Welker.
Said Franklin: “A lot of times you hear people say, ‘This guy is the next Wes Welker.’ Every small white kid’s been Wes Welker since Wes Welker became a star. I’m telling you, Trent Taylor really is.”
Tim Rattay, a former 49ers quarterback who is now on the coaching staff at Louisiana Tech, also believes Taylor will be an NFL success and told NFL scouts the same thing.
“I told them, ‘He’s going to find a way to make the team and he’s going to find a way to be a very successful player,’ ” Rattay told Branch. “That’s just the way he works. It’s how he’s wired. He won’t stop until he does it. He’s always been that guy that walks on the field and the other team thinks, ‘This little dude can’t do anything.’ And he goes out and shreds them. He believes he is going to beat you.”
Taylor will get his chance to win a roster spot in training camp, starting when it opens in late July.