The former 7th round pick saw a quick rise to fame after his increased role in 2013 because of the release of Brandon Lloyd and the loss of Wes Welker. But it appears that, like Brady, his best years are coming later in his career, and even better ones are possibly on the horizon. But so far in his career, there are five seasons that stand out.
Not many people expected Edelman to follow up his breakout season with another great season. Yet he was able to play astoundingly well despite missing two games. Edelman started 14 games for the Patriots, catching 92 passes for 972 receiving yards as well as four scores. But despite his offensive success, he continued to take his returner duties seriously. He finished the season fifth in punt return yards, and third in return touchdowns with one (which also gave him the record for most punt return touchdowns by a Patriot). He earned a spot on the NFL Top 100 Players list for the first time, at #91.
The team went 12-4 with Edelman as Brady’s secondary option behind Gronk, winning the AFC East. In the first round against the Ravens, Edelman recorded 74 receiving yards on eight receptions, as well as recording his first and only NFL touchdown pass on his first-ever NFL pass attempt. The pass thrown by the former college QB was the longest touchdown pass thrown by a non-quarterback in NFL playoff history. He was once again instrumental in the Patriots 45-7 blowout victory against the Colts, tallying almost 100 receiving yards. When it came to the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, Edelman was even better. He led all receivers in yardage with 109 yards, while getting a touchdown with only two minutes left in the fourth quarter. They would, of course, go on to win the game.
2018 was another great year for Edelman, as while he missed four games due to PED suspension, he was terrific when he played. He managed 74 receptions for 850 receiving yards and six touchdowns in only 12 games. The Patriots finished with an 11–5 record, losing only three more games when Edelman began playing, and earned the #2 seed in the AFC. In the Divisional Round against the Chargers, Jules had nine receptions for an incredible 151 yards in their 41–28 victory.
In the AFC Championship game vs the Chiefs he was even more crucial. He collected seven receptions for 96 yards in the 37–31 overtime victory, and was key to the game-winning drive. In the Super Bowl victory against the LA Rams, Edelman caught 10 passes for 141 yards while being named Super Bowl MVP. He finished the postseason with 26 receptions for 388 yards, which moved him into second-place all-time in playoff receptions and receiving yards behind Jerry Rice.
This is the season where Edelman became the man we know today, showing his talent as early as the season opener. In the first game of the season against the Bills, Edelman scored both of New England’s touchdowns in their close 23-21 win. In his 16 games, he made 105 receptions for 1,056 receiving yards with six touchdowns. The Patriots once again won the AFC East and faced off against the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional Round. They won 43–22, with Edelman producing 84 receiving yards.
In the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos he had another solid performance, with 10 receptions for 89 receiving yards, yet the Pats lost 26-16. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Bill Belichick didn’t hesitate to give Edelman a four-year contract worth $17 Million.
Edelman was electric the entire season, even becoming the first Pats receiver since Moss to receive the offensive player of the week award. This occurred in week 17, where he went for 151 yards and one touchdown against the Dolphins. He finished the season with a new career-high 1,106 receiving yards, but with a relatively low three touchdowns. This performance earned Edelman the rank of 71st best player in the NFL on the NFL Top 100 Players list. This was his third time on the list, and the highest placement yet.
In the Divisional Round against the Texans, Edelman caught his 70th postseason pass, setting a new Patriots franchise record. He recorded eight catches for 137 yards in the victory. He carried that play into the AFC Championship game, where he caught eight passes for 118 yards in the win. Then came the infamous Super Bowl game against the Atlanta Falcons, where Edelman made five catches for 87 yards. But the numbers don’t show his impact. In overtime, where the Pats were stuck with a 2nd and 13 on the Falcons 40 yard line, Edelman caught a pass that bounced off cornerback Robert Alford‘s leg a couple of inches off the ground while being tackled by three defenders. The greatest catch in Super Bowl history completed the Patriots come back from 28-3 to 34-28.
In the recent offseason Edelman signed a two-year, $18 Million contract extension. It was seen as a crucial move to retain Edelman for the next few years, especially due to the retirement of Gronkowski. So far this season, he has the opportunity to pass multiple personal records. His 663 yards are on pace to total 1,179, which would break his previous record of 1,106 yards.
Touchdown-wise Julian has four, and is on pace for at least seven, which is his career-high. This is all happening as Edelman battles multiple injuries, most notably a rib injury from week three. In week six, Edelman surpassed Stanley Morgan for the third-most receptions in Patriots history, after catching nine balls for 113 yards. He will be needed down the stretch, as the Patriots must go against fellow playoff-bound teams like the Texans, Chiefs, and Bills. But he will continue to show up to those big games, and won’t need to be relied upon as much with Dorsett, Sanu, and soon Harry to help carry the load.