Right now the NFL is seeing wide receiver talent like never before. Both young and old have been dominating the sport for many years now. Now it’s no secret that Julian Edelman is one of the most valuable weapons in the Patriot’s offense, but where exactly does he rank among the NFL’s best wide receivers?
Edelman may not be the biggest or the fastest, but, like Liam Neeson in Taken, he does have a very particular set of skills. The most important of these skills is his agility, which allows him to break off from defenders and get yards after the catch. As one anonymous GM told ESPN, Julian Edelman is the, “toughest cover in the NFL”.
As we saw in the Super Bowl, despite Seattle’s elite defense, Edelman was able to pick them apart with great route running, and quick movements. Edelman posted 9 catches for 109 yards and 1 touchdown in the biggest game of career.
It is in this facet of the game that Edelman excels. There is no other receiver in the league who has his elusiveness, and it is noticeable over the course of a game. Cornerbacks will often still be in their back pedal by the time Edelman has broken off his route and ran five yards. He is a matchup nightmare for most defensive backs, and is a catch machine.
When the Patriots failed to resign Welker back before the start of the 2013 season, I have to admit I wasn’t worried in the least because I had faith in the guy I thought could fill his role and then some. That player was Danny Amendola and I’m an idiot. (Although give Amendola his due, he did have a great playoff run.) Luckily Edelman was there to step up in a big way, recording his first 100+ catch season, and proving to New England that he was in fact the real deal.
Another aspect that makes Edelman truly unique is his toughness. You’re not going to see many star receivers sell out for a couple extra yards like Edelman will. He can take the hits and keep on trucking. The play that comes immediately to mind is the Super Bowl play in which Edelman caught a laser over the middle and was immediately popped by Kam Chancellor. Most players when they get cracked by Chancellor usually just die, or at the very least lie on the ground for a good half hour. What did Edelman do? He got up and continued to run downfield. The refs ruled him down at the spot of the hit, but it showed how Edelman has little regard for pain, and how he’ll do anything to win.
Now this being a biased sports site one would assume that I would say without a doubt Edelman is the best receiver, but I have to be fair here. Every player is not without their short comings and Edelman is no different.
However, Edelman’s faults are not necessarily hindrances in his game. Edelman is never going to make those highlight reel catches in between three defenders like Calvin Johnson, or Odell Beckham Jr. And he’s never going to burn defenders running fly routes like Mike Wallace, or DeSean Jackson, but that’s fine because Edelman’s play style works perfectly for him, and more importantly for Brady.
The question then becomes whether Edelman would see the success that he does playing for another team, and not alongside Tom Brady. If you stuck Megatron or AJ Green with Brady it’s likely to assume that they would have Randy Moss type seasons, and as we have seen, Edelman has not put up anything remotely close to that.
Since we have only seen Edelman alongside with Brady we don’t know for sure how he would do in another offense. We can, however, say that Edelman has the ability to be a legitimate number one receiver, as we saw when Gronk was injured multiple times in 2013.
However, even as the number one receiving option, rarely did we see Edelman go for the deep ball, and when he did it was often intercepted. That simply isn’t Edelman’s game and he knows that. He can’t play like that so he doesn’t play like that. He takes what the defense gives him and uses his quick breaks and agility to do the rest.
Edelman may not be the most physically gifted player to grace the receiver position, but his determination and will take him a long way, and when utilized properly, like his in New England, I firmly believe he is the best receiver in the league. He is quick, he is uncoverable, and boy is he fun to watch. I look forward to seeing him in a Pats uniform for many years to come.
By Jake Cianci