What's Wrong With Julian Edelman? Nothing.
It’s fair to say that lot of people are frustrated with the play of New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman 8 games into the 2014 season.
The 6th-year wideout burst onto the scene in 2013 as Tom Brady's go-to-guy during the injury-laden season of tight Rob Gronkowski, racking up the 10th-most targets (151) and the 4th-most receptions (105) in the NFL. It was expected that, with New England’s keeping a close eye on Gronkowski’s snap count early on this season, Edelman would once again be the player to reap the benefits.
Through 8 weeks, he’s averaging a mere 58.4 receiving yards per game and has netted just 1 score, which came back in Week 2. As Brady’s most targeted wideout, he has yet to record a 100-yard game, something he did 4 times in 2013. But as we dig into the numbers, you’ll see that none of these statistics are really that surprising.
His 2014 Start Resembles His 2013 Start
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Edelman kick off the season on a more conservative note. Through the first eight games last season, six of which featured no Gronkowski, Edelman put up similar numbers to those of his 2014 campaign.
It’s encouraging to see that, even with Gronkowski present and seeing an increased number of snaps each week, Edelman is still getting a ton of looks and could be on his way to another 100-plus catch, 1,000-plus yard season, both marks he hit last year. It’s also worth noting that Edelman’s production up to this point has not wavered despite Brady’s attempting 25 fewer passes this season through Week 8 than he did in 2013.
Since Edelman’s 2014 campaign has essentially mirrored the start of his 2013 season, it’s fair to think that he can finish the year in the same statistical boat, too, right? If so, Edelman fans, and more specifically his beloved fantasy football owners, will be elated. Check out his performance the last month and a half of the 2013 season.
|Production Splits||Weeks 1-11||Weeks 12-17|
Two of Edelman’s best games in Weeks 12 and 13 came when Gronkowski recorded his 2 highest snap totals of the year. It certainly helps Edelman’s cause when Gronk is on the field garnering most of the attention, so as Gronkowski’s snap counts continue to increase as they have been, we can probably expect the field to open up a bit more for Edelman moving forward.
What Our Numbers Say
According to our projections, Edelman will finish the season with 94 receptions and 1,016 yards, both of which would be just shy of his career highs set last year. His projections dropped drastically after Edelman finished with a season-worst 1 reception for 14 yards against the Bears on Sunday, playing in only 45 of the the Patriots' 75 offensive plays. A year after cracking the top-10 in both receptions and targets, Edelman is sitting in somewhat familiar territory entering Week 9, ranking 11th and 12th in targets and receptions, respectively.
However, because of his lack of production thus far, Edelman currently sits outside the top 25 in both our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) and Target NEP metrics, which measure how many points a player will get on each reception or target.
|Rec. NEP||Target NEP||Rec. NEP/Target|
Where Edelman really struggles is in Reception NEP per target, a stat that reflects Reception NEP efficiency on a per-target basis. Typically, big-play receivers score big here, but because Edelman lives underneath, he is miles away from the top of that list. On the contrary, Edelman remains one of the league's better wideouts in terms of catch rate and reception successes. Catch rate looks at how many of the player's targets were caught while reception successes looks at the number of receptions that contribute positively toward Reception NEP. Edelman ranks fifth among the 15 most-targeted wide receivers in catch rate at 65.22 percent and 13th in reception successes among the top 15 reception leaders with 37.
Edelman may be Brady's number one wide receiver, but he will always be his second favorite target - at best. Plus, we all know how prone Brady is to getting multiple guys involved in the passing game, especially his running backs. Edelman's production up to this point in the season is not something that's really out of the ordinary for him, and with Brady heating up as of late, there's no reason to bail on Edelman just yet. In the final six games of 2013, his 53 receptions were more than Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson had during that span.
Outside of PPR (points per reception) formats, Edelman has little value. He's what I call a "PPR Security Blanket." On good days, and even on most bad days, he's going to score you double-digit points.
He's a guy you can count on to put points on the board consistently, but he won't blow you away with long (touchdown) receptions or even touchdowns alone, really, which is reflected in his low Reception NEP per target metric score. With that said, he has best played while getting points for what he's good at - and that's catching the football.