The Case Against:
While I love Julian Edelman (he’s one of my favorite players from any sport), he doesn’t deserve to be a Hall of Famer. Edelman simply does not have the regular season statistics to back up his stellar postseason performance. Edelman never made a Pro Bowl in his entire career. Edelman also doesn’t stack up statistically anywhere near other “borderline” Hall of Fame wide receiver candidates. Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Reggie Wayne all have at least 6,800 more regular-season yards and 45 more regular-season touchdowns. They are all also within 450 playoff yards of Edelman in either a similar number of games or fewer games played. While Wayne and Smith will likely eventually get into the Hall of Fame, chances are Boldin won’t, and therefore Edelman shouldn’t either. Edelman’s peak was nothing compared to these other receivers as he only had three 1000-yard seasons. Even then, all were during seasons in which he had 150+ targets and wasn’t very efficient, averaging a meager 7.08 yards per target in those three seasons (in comparison, Jakobi Meyers averaged 9 yards per target this past season even with Cam Newton as his quarterback). A more current comparison to Edelman would be Michael Thomas. While Michael Thomas is the alpha receiver on the Saints compared to Edelman being the slot receiver on the Patriots, both of them played with future HOF quarterbacks in the later stages of their careers and mostly did short routes across the middle of the field. In the prime of his career, 2013-2019, Edelman averaged 153 targets, 102 receptions, and 1117 yards per 16 games. In Michael Thomas’s entire career, 2016-2020, he has averaged 150 targets, 117 receptions, and 1360 yards per 16 games. While Michael Thomas doesn’t have the postseason success of Edelman, I would consider his single-season reception record to hold the same weight as Edelman’s Super Bowl MVP in terms of HOF voting. His first five seasons since entering the league are way better than any of Edelman’s five seasons. Would Michael Thomas make the HOF if he retired today? I don’t think he would. Edelman is one of the greatest postseason receivers of all time, and you can’t tell the story of the NFL without him, but he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame when many others better than him can’t get in.
The Case For:
In recent years, HOF player evaluations have emphasized not only player statistics but also overall performance and impact on the game. Many experts argue that Julian Edelman should not be a Hall of Famer as his regular-season stats underwhelm compared to other contemporary players; however, Edelman’s impact on his team has matched, if not surpassed, all of the “greats” whose statues decorate the NFL Hall of Fame.
In terms of an overall impact on their team’s success, very few individuals at any position can match Julian Edelman. Take, for example, the Patriots’ 2014 Super Bowl run. Having not earned a championship since 2004, the Patriot’s claim as a “dynasty” was coming into doubt entering the 2014 season. Although Brady and Belichick certainly led the team into a position to compete each playoff week, the key plays by Edelman through the postseason turned the Patriots from simply a perennial contender into legendary Super Bowl champions. First, in the divisional round against the imposing reigning champion, the Baltimore Ravens, Edelman was responsible for the unarguably most important play of the game. With the Patriots losing by a touchdown late in the third quarter, Edelman, a former college school quarterback, threw a 51-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola. This play not only shocked the Ravens but also gave the Patriots the motivation to take the lead. In addition, Edelman led the team with eight receptions for 74 yards.
Though Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception is rightly remembered as the key play of the infamous Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl, it was Julian Edelman’s clutch route-running and catch with just 2:02 left in the fourth quarter that gave New England the lead and forced the Seahawks to be overly aggressive on the following drive. Leading the team with 109 yards, Edelman’s effort was indispensable for the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory.
However, Edelman’s clutch performances were not limited to 2014. Just two years later, in the 2016 Super Bowl comeback victory against the Falcons, Edelman once again demonstrated his ability. Although Edelman didn’t put up the ‘best’ stat line of the night, his one miraculous and unforgettable catch, where he snatched the ball a mere inches above the ground with four defenders covering him, proved to be a massive shift in momentum in the game. It helped New England realize that a comeback was possible and demoralized the Falcons. Finally, in the 2018 Super Bowl victory against the Rams, Edelman led the team with ten receptions for 141 yards despite the low scoring.
Ultimately, without Edelman’s efforts in each of the most recent Patriots Super Bowl championships, the Patriots would likely not have won three Super Bowls in the 2010s. Edelman’s efforts in clutch moments proved indispensable, as he became the only wide receiver since Santonio Holmes to win Super Bowl MVP. Edelman’s impact on the history of the league and the Patriots franchise has been immense; thus, Edelman should undoubtedly be a Hall of Famer.