Today, the New England Patriots cut long-time receiver, Julian Edelman. Edelman, a big part of Tom Brady’s second dynasty, has been a crucial part of the team’s success, and I don’t think it would shock anyone to see him end up in some kind of Patriots Ring of Honor. But… there are people… on the internet… asking if he belongs in Canton? And ya know, my third grade teacher insisted there was no such thing as a stupid question, but…
No, Julian Edelman Is Not a Hall of Famer, and You Should Feel Bad for Asking
First and foremost, I am a fan of Julian Edelman. I read his book, I have some of his merch, I even enjoyed his YouTube skits (BURGERTYME) when he used to upload them. I think he’s a vital part of Tom Brady’s dynasty, and maybe the iconic quarterback’s most reliable target. What I’m about to say will make it sound like I don’t think he has been a good, if never great, wide receiver, and I promise I’m not. I’m just drawing attention to how ridiculous it is that fans insist every player they like get into the Hall of Fame based on emotional attachment.
As reliable as Edelman has been, he’s never been someone you necessarily target early in fantasy football. He hasn’t retired yet, so these numbers might not be final, but in 11 years, he’s caught 620 passes for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns. That means an average season for Jules is good for 56 catches, 620 yards, and three touchdowns. In fairness to Edelman, he’s had a couple of injuries, and he wasn’t a full time wide receiver until his fifth year in the NFL.
Here are the players with more yards than Julian Edelman.
Charlie Hennigan, Odell Beckham Jr., Ahmad Rashad, Jeremy Maclin, Gene Washington, Marshall Faulk, Brandin Cooks, Nate Washington, Derrick Alexander, J.T. Smith, Jake Reed, Pat Tilley, Shawn Jefferson, Jarvis Landry, Elroy Hirsch, John Gilliam, Reggie Rucker, Isaac Curtis, Ken Burrough, Carl Pickens, Darrell Jackson, Lionel Taylor, Dwayne Bowe, DWAYNE BOWE*, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Antonio Freeman, Boyd Dowler, Otis Taylor, Wayne Chrebet, Keenan Allen, Pete Retzlaff, Bob Hayes, Ed McCaffrey, Michael Crabtree, Dez Bryant, Gary Garrison, Roy Jefferson, Nat Moore, Vernon Davis, Brian Blades, Christ Chambers, Anthony Carter, Bobby Engram, Drew Pearson, Pierre Garcon, Travis Kelce, Jimmy Orr, Jackie Smith, Bobby Mitchell, Ozzie Newsome, Tony Hill, Dont Hutson, Bill Brooks, Art Powell, Mike Wallace, Haven Moses, Webster Slaughter, Sterling Sharpe, Eric Martin, Jeff Graham, Ernest Givins, Curtis Conway, Mike Evans, Carroll Dale, Golden Tate, Greg Jennings, Wesley Walker, Jimmy Graham, Eddie Kennison, Tommy McDonald, Billy Howton, Rob Gronkowski, Plaxico Burriss, Paul Warfield, Jordy Nelson, Laveranues Coles, Emmanuel Sanders, Greg Olsen, Cliff Branch, Johnnie Morton, John Stallworth, Joe Horn, Mark Carrier, Terance Mathis, Terry Glenn, Mark Duper, Ricky Proehl, Roy Green, Wes Chandler, Mark Clayton, Freddy Biletnikoff, Harold Carmichael, Tony Martin, Vincent Jackson, Charley Taylor, Anthony Miller, Herman Moore, Raymond Berry, T.Y. Hilton, Rob Moore, A.J. Green, Amani Toomer, Marques Colston, Demaryius Thomas, Drew Will, Wes Welker, Eric Moulds, DeAndre Hopkins, Shannon Sharpe, Donald Driver, Andre Rison, Lance Alworth, Santana Moss, Harold Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Stanley Morgan, Gary Clark, Roddy White, Joey Galloway, Chad Ochocinco, Keenan McCardell, Rod Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Don Maynard, Antonio Gates, Michael Irvin, Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, Charlies Joiner, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Marshall, Art Monk, Irving Fryar, Julio Jones, Jason Witten, Steve Largent, Andre Reed, Torry Holt, Henry Ellard, Anquan Boldin, Cris Carter, James Lofton, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith, Tim Brown, Tony Gonzalez, Isaac Bruce, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jerry Rice.
*I wrote Dwayne Bowe twice in case you forgot you’re advocating for someone that has fewer career yards than Dwayne Bowe to be enshrined next to Jerry Rice and Randy Moss.
Here are the players with more catches than Julian Edelman.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Johnnie Morton, Keenan Allen, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, Rob Moore, Pierre Garcon, Raymond Berry, Don Maynard, Drew Hill, Jarvis Landry, Michael Crabtree, Charley Taylor, A.J. Green, Bobby Engram, Emmanuel Sanders, Ozzie Newsome, Amani Toomer, Ricky Proehl, Herman Moore, Laveranues Coles, Terance Mathis, Golden Tate, Jimmy Graham, Gary Clark, Joey Galloway, Marques Colston, Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Santana Moss, Greg Olsen, Andre Rison, Donald Driver, DeAndre Hopkins, Charlie Joiner, Michael Irvin, Eric Moulds, James Lofton, Chad Ochocinco, Marshall Faulk, Roddy White, Keyshawn Johnson, Henry Ellard, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Largent, Larry Centers, Julio Jones, Rod Smith, Irving Fryer, Muhsin Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Antonio Brown, Wes Welker, Torry Holt, Art Monk, Derrick Mason, Andre Reed, Antonio Gates, Brandon Marshall, Randy Moss, Hines Ward, Isaac Bruce, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin, Terrell Owens, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jerry Rice.
Here are the players with more touchdowns than Julian Edelman.
Editor’s Note- Yeahhhhhh, no. I didn’t mind doing a few dozen names for catches and yards, but touchdowns??? There are at least 268 players who have caught more touchdowns in the NFL than Julian Edelman. If you look up the all time receiving touchdown leaders on Pro-Football-Reference, Edelman doesn’t even show up. Instead, enjoy the ACTIVE players with more touchdowns than Julian Edelman.
Kenny Stills, Tyler Lockett, Marcedes Lewis, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Adam Thielen, Allen Robinson, Brandon Cooks*, Torrey Smith, Jared Cook, Keenan Allen, Ben Watson*, Golden Tate, Alshon Jeffery, Emmanuel Sanders, Tyreek Hill, Randall Cobb, Kyle Rudolph, Travis Kelce, Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Marvin Jones, Odell Beckham Jr, Michael Crabtree, DeSean Jackson, Greg Olsen, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Demaryius Thomas*, Vernon Davis, A.J. Green, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown*, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski*, and Larry Fitzgerald.
*Fellow New England Patriots during the Tom Brady era
Earlier, I said he didn’t become a full time wide receiver until his fifth year. Part of that was his move from quarterback to receiver. Part of that was a series of injuries. Another part of that? There was another guy on his team, doing the same thing he did, at a higher level than he ever would. As good as Julian Edelman was, he was never as great as Wes Welker was in his prime. Welker is still ahead of Edelman as a Patriot in catches (52 more), yards (647 more), and touchdowns (22 more), despite being targeted about 15 more times. You don’t hear anyone banging on Canton’s door for Wes Welker.
The Calvin Johnson Argument
There will be those that argue Calvin Johnson didn’t have the numbers either, but the voters made him a first ballot Hall of Famer. After all, Calvin Johnson isn’t top-20 all-time in touchdowns (23rd), yards (32nd), or receptions (47th) either. And unlike Edelman, Calvin never made an iconic, Super Bowl winning catch!
Here’s the difference. Ignoring that Megatron had 111 more catches for 4,797 more yards and 47 touchdowns in two fewer games, and pretending that Calvin Johnson’s quarterbacks (even Matthew Stafford) compare to a career spent with Tom Brady, Calvin was… actually good. And that sounds harsh, because Julian Edelman was a reliable slot receiver, but Calvin Johnson was a wide receiver triple crown winner. He led the league in catches, yards, and touchdowns at least once, made the Pro Bowl six times, was a first-team All-Pro three times, and set a record for yards in a season that still stands.
Julian Edelman was never voted a Pro Bowl, never named All-Pro, and has yet to lead the NFL in a single category. The double catch was a great play, and he does rank high all-time in playoff stats, but that’s what happens when you’re part of a dynasty. He played in 19 playoff games. That’s basically an elongated regular season by itself.
In the playoffs, he averaged six catches, 76 yards, and not even a touchdown, because he only had five post-season touchdowns in his whole career. If Edelman’s playoff average was stretched out over a regular season, he would’ve caught 96 passes for 1,216 yards, and four touchdowns. In 2020, those would rank 10th, 10th, and 63rd in the league, respectively. Are you putting someone in the Hall of Fame for fringe top ten numbers?
The Bottom Line
Tom Brady doesn’t have six rings without Julian Edelman. The Patriots don’t have a second dynasty without this, Tom’s favorite pet project. If he doesn’t retire, I would bet serious money that he rejoins Brady and Gronkowski in Tampa Bay. But in no way, shape, or form, in any of the alternate realities where the Avengers stole Infinity Stones, is he in the conversation to get into Canton as a player.
The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the best of the best of the best, and I’m not even sure Edelman is the best of the rest of the rest of the rest. If “the catch” wasn’t enough to get Dwight Clark in, and nobody’s making a bust of David Tyree somewhere, there’s no way that a reasonable person could conceivably argue that he has a case.
I’ll even go this far. If Julian Edelman is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Then it no longer matters if you get in. It doesn’t. Because being good for a while, not elite for a while or good for a long time, does not qualify, and a few big moments, namely one playoff catch which was originally a drop, shouldn’t change that.