Fantasy Football: Forecasting the Future of Julian Edelman
When Wes Welker went to injury in Week Two, Edelman got his chance and seized the day, catching eight passes for 98 yards against the Jets. When Welker went down again in Week 17, Edelman stepped in and logged a 10-reception, 103-yard game, and then posted a two-touchdown performance game in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Ravens.
With Welker’s health in question, one has to be excited about Edelman’s potential in Tom Brady’s offense. Is the hype real and justified or is it just smoke and mirrors?
When one discusses Edelman, the first thing that comes to people’s mind is that he’s the next Wes Welker. They both have similar frames; Edelman is 5’10”, 198 pounds, to Welker’s 5’9”, 185 pounds.
They are both steady, reliable possession receivers for Tom Brady to go to extend drives and move the chains. However, while their playing styles may be similar, Edelman is no Wes Welker.
Welker has established himself as the premier possession receiver in the league who is both respected and feared by his opponents for his ability to get open and haul in catches even when he knows the big hit is coming. While Edelman certainly has that “it” factor, he has a long way to be considered as being in the same league as Welker, who has put up three straight 110+ receptions/1,100 yard receiving seasons.
That being said, the Edelman’s fantasy value is directly tied into how quickly Welker can return from the knee and shoulder injuries suffered when Bill Belichick inexplicably left him in during a meaningless (for the Patriots) Week 17 game. The latest report is immensely vague, with Welker claiming that he’ll return whenever the doctors clear him, although given the gravity of his injuries (torn ACL) one would have to expect him to miss at least a few games at the start of 2010.
And even if he does return, whether he will be 100 percent healthy remains to be seen.
The Patriots gave Edelman a strong vote of confidence when they failed to acquire or draft another slot receiver, so if Welker can’t make it back in time, he will be their starting slot receiver.
While new additions Torry Holt and dynamic pass-catching tight end Rob Gronkowski will certainly poach some catches, Edelman’s piece of the pie will certainly be enough to make him fantasy worthy in Tom Brady’s explosive pass-first offense that can erupt for a 40+ point game at the drop of a hat. Edelman figures to continue to get plenty of looks and touches to help the Patriots extend drives.
In PPR leagues, I really love the sneaky late-round value that he can provide for you. I still don’t expect a ton of touchdown upside for Edelman, as the Pats tend to look for Randy Moss or their tight ends in those situations.
To illustrate my point, despite tallying 234 receptions in the past two seasons, Welker has only scored seven touchdowns. This is why Edelman’s ceiling remains somewhat low, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make for a nice WR3/flex option who can give you consistent production from week-to-week.
I love stories like that of Edelman, a seventh round pick out of Kent State. He switched positions (was a quarterback at Kent State) after leading his team in rushing, passing, and handling return duties, showing he will do whatever it takes for the team. Edelman is a likable player who you want to root for, and is the type of player that I like taking a late-round flier on.
Late in drafts you shouldn’t be taking washed-up veterans who might regain their past glory; that kind of stuff only happens in the movies. Instead you should be taking chances on up-and-coming players who will give you solid contributions if given the chance.
Edelman fits that mold, and if things break right, (i.e. Welker misses more time than expected), he will definitely make for a nice WR3/flex play, possibly even sneak into the WR2 echelon in PPR leagues.
Edelman isn’t the Miles Austin type guy who’s going to break out and win your league single handedly, but given the chance he can give your team steady production from the WR3 slot that can save you in a given week, when one of your players has a dud week.
As long as questions remain surrounding Welker’s health, feel free to draft Edelman and enjoy the production for as long as he is in the lineup.
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