In the 2009 NFL player entry draft the New England Patriots had 12 picks. They had four in the second round. If you were told that there would only be one player left on the active roster and that it would be a college quarterback from Kent State that transitioned to wide receiver would you believe it? (Sebastian Vollmer is on injured reserve)
Julian Edelman is that player.
A college quarterback who caught only one pass in his career at Kent State (Stats Here ) leads the New England Patriots in receptions. Coming into his first preseason after a fantastic punt return Edelman was dubbed a Wes Welker clone. He finished his rookie season with 37 receptions. His most productive games were week two against the Jets when he caught eight balls, week 17 against the Texans when he caught 10 passes and the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens when he caught six passes and scored the Patriots only two touchdowns. No coincidence they were all games that Welker had missed all or part of.
Fast forward to season five of Edelman's career. While he never replicated his rookie stats, he is the active yards per punt return leader. He also played some decent cornerback during the 2011 Super Bowl run. This offseason he was a free agent. He did not garner much attention as he was coming off an injury and had struggled to stay healthy. The Patriots finally brought him back by signing him to a one year deal on April 10, 2013.
Through the 13 games the Patriots have played this season he has played in all of them. Ask yourself where would this team be without him? At season's start he and Matthew Slater were the only wide receivers to catch a regular season pass from quarterback Tom Brady. In week two versus the Jets with the team down Danny Amedola and Shane Vereen, who were injured week one against the Bills, Edelman hauled in 13 passes.
When Rob Gronkowski came back from injury his targets declined. Yet the last three weeks in the three dramatic comebacks victories Edelman has been vital to the team. With Rob Gronkowski out the remainder of the year with an ACL tear Julian is the teams most reliable receiver.
When the Patriots elected to sign Danny Amedola to a six year contract and let Wes Welker walk out the door, many assumed it would be Amendola who replaced Welker's production. Because of injury that has not happened. The man to replace Welker is the man who was first thought of to be the "next Welker" in 2009 Julian Edelman. In fact looking at the numbers. Both Edelman and Welker have played 13 games this year. (Welker missed his fourteenth Thursday evening when he sat out with a concussion) The stat lines are almost identical. Welker has 73 catches for 778 yards. 10.7 yards per catch and ten trips to the end zone. In his 13 games Edelman has 76 receptions for 775 yards. 10.2 yards per catch and five trips for scores. The numbers are there for Edelman.
While many think that letting Welker go was a big mistake and cost the Patriots, the question should be would they be better with him? Welker in an average Pats season at this moment would have 93 catches, 1042 yards and five touchdowns. Numbers better than what Edelman has done this year but not remarkably better. Yes the Patriots would have both Welker and Edleman on the team, but was Welker stunting Edelman's growth? Would it be Julian with the Amendola numbers? 41 catches 448 yards and two touchdowns. We will never know. What we do know is that the Patriots while injured are in the drivers seat for a number one seed in the AFC. We also know that the Patriots have had to develop the young receivers this season, something they were unable to do with Welker in the fold. Finally the Patriots did not win a championship with Welker. Yes Welker routinely caught over 100 balls per season, but no team has won a Super Bowl with a 100 catch wide receiver since the Patriots did it in 2001 with Troy Brown catching 101 that year.
The time for Julian Edelman to shine is now. He is surely proving he can stay healthy and be a productive receiver in the NFL. He sure looks to be setting himself up for a big payday this offseason. The Patriots can not afford to lose him this season, or in the off season. He is just too valuable. Edelman has lessened the hurt of losing Wes Welker this season, He and others now need to lessen the impact of Rob Gronkowski's knee injury. The next three weeks will provide amble time for the Patriots to make themselves ready for a post season push. Can Edelman once again be the savior?
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