The list of receivers that are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is impressive.
Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens are some recent ones.
Go back in time and names like Art Monk, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Fred Bilitnekoff and James Lofton come to mind.
Go back even further and you’ve got Don Hutson – well, you get the point: the list of names is iconic. Current receivers like Larry Fitzgerald with the Cardinals and tight end Antonio Gates with the Chargers are having Hall of Fame careers before our very eyes. These are the receivers that changed the game, have multiple Super Bowl rings, and dominated during their time in the NFL. Definite stat stuffers.
Which leads me to my next point, and a legitimate question worth asking: Is current New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman worthy of selection into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame after he calls it a career?
Julian Edelman Bio
A quick bio about Julian Edelman: lightly recruited as a two-star player out of high school, he became a seventh-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2009. Julian Edelman went to Kent State where he was a dual-threat quarterback, still holding the record for total offensive yards in a single season (3,190). The Patriots turned him into a return specialist while also turning him into a receiver. He’s had to put in the work to get where he is.
Julian Edelman had a bit of a blip on his resume to start the 2018 season after he was suspended four games to begin the year for using performance enhancing drugs, but was able to step right in and have a productive 74-850-6 stat line to finish the regular season. Julian Edelman remains one of Tom Brady’s most reliable targets and helped lead the Patriots to a third consecutive Super Bowl.
CASE AGAINST ENSHRINEMENT
Stacking up against the receivers mentioned earlier, Edelman seems light years away in terms of production.
- 499 career receptions
Those receptions are a whopping 1,050 behind career leader Jerry Rice, and a mere 804 behind active leader Larry Fitzgerald. That number has him tied for 148th all-time with the likes of former Patriots tight end Ben Coates, longtime Ravens tight end Todd Heap, and early 2000’s wideout Darrell Jackson – not necessarily the kind of company that is screaming Hall of Fame. Another thing to consider: five of the top ten leaders in career receptions are currently in the Hall, with the other five likely to be enshrined when they become eligible. Julian Edelman does rank a few spots ahead of Hall of Famer Don Hutson in career receiving yards, but I’ll touch on Hutson later.
- 5,390 career receiving yards
Edelman’s career receiving yards ranks 248th all-time, just 17,505 yards short of Rice’s career totals. It’s safe to say Edelman won’t be getting close to that total. Heck, Edelman isn’t even going to get close to active leader Larry Fitzgerald’s 16,279. Just like the career reception leaders, the Hall features five of the top ten career receiving yardage leaders, so it’s safe to say yardage totals factor in the decision of who is entering the Hall.
- 30 career receiving TD’s
Remember when I mentioned Edelman was ahead of Hutson in career receiving yards? Well, this is where Hutson ranks WAY ahead of Edelman. Hutson had 99 career TD, good for 11th all-time. In fact, eight of the top eleven career TD leaders are in the Hall. The only three that aren’t in the Hall that are currently in the top ten in career TD? Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. Gates and Fitzgerald are still active and should get the call, and Gonzalez is likely to get the call to the Hall in 2019. The Hall recognizes TDs big time.
- Zero Pro Bowls or All-Pro Teams
Pro Bowls are more of an informal recognition, but it’s still very telling that Edelman has not been selected to one. The zero All-Pro teams is a bit concerning, as the All-Pro teams usually recognize the best-of-the-best of a given year. Not seeing Edelman on one of those lists is a bit concerning. He’s only 32, so he still has a chance to garner an All-Pro or Pro Bowl nod at some point, but usually the Hall of Fame players achieve numerous post-season accolades throughout their careers.
CASE FOR ENSHRINEMENT
- 105 career postseason receptions
Edelman’s receptions rank second all-time, only behind Rice and his 151. Granted, Edelman has had the luxury of playing for the Patriots and Tom Brady, who basically make the playoffs every year. In his defense, though, Edelman has been counted on to make big time receptions for the Patriots and has been instrumental in helping them to three of the last five Super Bowls (The Pats have made the Super Bowl four of the last five years, but Edelman was injured during 2017 season in which Pats lost the Super Bowl to the Eagles).
- 1.271 career postseason receiving yards
Edelman currently ranks fourth all-time, but needs only 44 yards in Super Bowl 53 to move into second all-time, behind (surprise, surprise) Rice. It’s very likely Edelman will reach that second-place total, as Edelman had a career high 151 yards against the Chargers in this year’s divisional round and then went for 96 yards against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. He’s been heavily involved in the Pats’ game plans yet again this postseason.
- Overall postseason numbers
Let’s remember, Edelman has only started 13 career postseason games at receiver out of 17 appearances. Take away his first three postseason appearances in which he was primarily a returner, and Edelman has 96 catches for 1,196 yards. Equate that to a full 16-game slate? Edelman is on pace for 128 catches for 1,596 yards. Only four receivers ever have had more than 128 catches in a single season. Only 23 receivers ever have had more than 1,596 yards in a single season. And Edelman is putting up these kind of numbers on the biggest of stages: the postseason.
- Two Super Bowl rings
Edelman has started in three Super Bowls: two at receiver, one at returner. The Patriots are 2-1 in those games, 2-0 in which Edelman starts at receiver. Edelman’s career Super Bowl receiving stat line of 14 catches, 196 yards and one touchdown is impressive. Remember, Edelman did not play in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles due to injury. His numbers could be even greater and it’s possible the Patriots could have won with Edelman on the field.
It’s worth noting two monstrous plays Edelman had in the two Super Bowl wins he’s been a part of. First, his fourth quarter catch from Super Bowl 51 against the Falcons with the Patriots down eight with under three minutes left in the game. It was arguably the greatest Super Bowl catch of all-time. (Sorry David Tyree). Second, his go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 49 against the Seahawks, scoring on a pass from Brady with just over two minutes to go. Edelman defines the word clutch when it come to big moments in the Super Bowl. The Patriots continue to call his number when looking for a big play.
Hall of Fame worthy?
The debate for Julian Edelman entering the Hall of Fame has some time to stew, as Edelman has a handful of seasons remaining in his career. Tom Brady will likely (HA!) retire before Edelman call it quits, and as long as Brady is quarterback in New England, Edelman will benefit.
Chances are Edelman’s regular season stats will never live up to the iconic receivers in the Hall of Fame. However, his postseason stats rival nearly every player in Canton. One player I think of when trying to argue for Edelman in the Hall of Fame is Kurt Warner.
Warner had good career stats over 12 seasons. However, his career passing yards and touchdowns aren’t even close to the career leaders in the top-ten. His 67 career regular season wins at QB is currently tied with Russell Wilson. Warner did win MVP twice, was named All-Pro twice and made four Pro Bowls, so there’s that. Where Warner really excelled, though, was on the biggest stage: the postseason.
Warner went 9-4 in the postseason. He had a 66.5% completion percentage (5th all-time), a 102.8 passer rating (10th all-time), threw for 3952 yards and tossed 31 TDs. He played in three Super Bowls and won one, being named MVP in the lone win. Edelman has two Super Bowl rings. Just sayin’.
Let’s refresh: Edelman is a postseason monster. Brady trusts him. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick trusts him. Edelman is one of the greatest receivers in postseason history. We always remember the players who step up in the biggest moments and on the biggest stages. And I think Edelman definitely fits that bill.
*Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference