Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer?

Julian Edelman’s NFL career has certainly been unique, but the merit of its greatness is fair to question. Edelman’s resumé isn’t lacking in team accomplishments, but are his individual accolades enough to earn him a spot in Canton?No one could’ve imagined we’d be having this debate about the former 7th round pick back in 2009. Even four years into his NFL career, no one would’ve thought the former quarterback turned punt returner taking snaps at cornerback would turn into perhaps the most revered receiver in Patriots history. His story is an incredible one, but Edelman is fighting an uphill battle to make the Hall of Fame.

On the one hand, he’s never been recognized by the league as one of the best players at his position. Edelman has never been named to a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team in his 11-year career. While the Pro Bowl itself is widely mocked for its illegitimacy, the accolade itself of being named to the team is nothing to scoff at when evaluating a player’s career. The sad thing is, Edelman really should’ve made it last season, but was beat out by Browns receiver Jarvis Landry for the spot. Landry had 17 less receptions, the same amount of touchdowns and only 57 more receiving yards while playing for an underachieving Browns team.

On the other hand, what Edelman lacks in traditional individual accomplishments, he makes up for with his playoff accolades. Edelman is 2nd all-time in both receptions and receiving yards, behind only Jerry Rice. That combined with Edelman’s Super Bowl MVP gives him at least a shot at being given some consideration by the Hall of Fame voters. If you look at the first 35 Super Bowl MVP winners (since most players who have won the award more recently than that are either still playing or are not eligible to be voted in yet), 25 of them are in the Hall of Fame. 

These are the 10 who are not:

Chuck Howley
Jake Scott
Harvey Martin
Jim Plunkett
Phil Simms
Doug Williams
Otis Anderson
Mark Rypien
Larry Brown
Desmond Howard

Of those players, Harvey Martin (71.83) and Chuck Howley (71.28) have the highest score in Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame monitor. Edelman’s current score of 35.35 doesn’t quite stack up with those two. In fact, Edelman’s score is lower than the two worst players to ever make the Hall of Fame according to Pro Football Reference’s metric, Floyd Little (40.25) and Elvin Bethea (40.45).

The Hall of Famer who Edelman compares closest to from a team accolade standpoint is Michael Irvin. Irvin was never a Super Bowl MVP, but, like Edelman, did win three championships. However, Edelman’s other accolades pale in comparison to Irvin’s.

5x Pro Bowler
1x All-Pro
750 receptions
11,904 yards
65 TDs

0x Pro Bowler
0x All-Pro
599 receptions
6,507 yards
36 TDs

Statistically, Edelman doesn’t hold a candle to these other receivers. He’ll have to play a lot longer to rack up enough yards and catches to even get close to the numbers put up by the likes of Larry Fitzgerald or Julio Jones, but maybe playing into his late 30s in a possibilty for Edelman. He’s certainly shown an affinity for Tom Brady and his mindset in his time as a Patriot, so maybe Edelman adopts the idea of playing longer than many would expect him to like Brady has.

Edelman isn’t exactly showing any signs of decline. He struggled with drops last year, but he also had one of the best seasons of his career. He posted a career-high in receiving yards, the second 100-catch season of his career and was one touchdown shy of his career in that category too. If Edelman were to play into his 40s, he might be able to reach the statistical milestones needed to convince skeptics he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It’s not unprecedented for a receiver to play into their 40s either. Jerry Rice, who as aforementioned is the only player with more career playoff catches and receiving yards than Edelman, played until he was 42. Edelman could make a real case based on longevity and team accomplishments. An endorsement from two of his close friends, the greatest player of all-time and the greatest coach of all-time, might help too.

Right now, the answer is no. Julian Edelman is not a Hall of Famer. If Edelman retires in two years, he won’t make it to Canton. But, if he puts up a few more seasons like last year, finds himself on another Super Bowl team, and sticks around until no one will sign him anymore, he just might have a small chance at making it to the Hall. And if there’s one thing Julian Edelman has proven without a doubt in his NFL career, it’s that all he’s ever needed was a small chance.

​Photo: (Gary Landers – AP Photo)

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