Julian Edelman is one of the best pass catchers in NFL postseason history -- and there's little debate about his place amongst the all-time greats in that regard. Edelman has the second-most receptions and receiving yards in the postseason -- trailing only Jerry Rice for the top spot -- with a Super Bowl MVP on his resume. His greatness in January and February is set in stone.
Can Edelman's postseason success garner him enough of a campaign for a Hall of Fame run? The New England Patriots legend has an interesting case for Canton, with a large difference between his stats in the regular season and playoffs. Edelman will end up in the Patriots Hall of Fame as one of the franchise greats, but his case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is controversial.
In a special edition of "By The Numbers," we'll take a strong look at Edelman's candidacy for the Hall of Fame and where he ranks among the Patriots legends and the all-time greats in the postseason, followed by a look at his regular-season stats.
Most catches (NFL playoff history)
- Jerry Rice -- 151
- Julian Edelman -- 118
- Reggie Wayne -- 93
- Rob Gronkowski -- 89
- Hines Ward -- 88
- Wes Welker -- 88
Most receiving yards (NFL playoff history)
- Jerry Rice -- 2,245
- Julian Edelman -- 1,442
- Michael Irvin -- 1,315
- Cliff Branch -- 1,289
- Rob Gronkowski -- 1,273
These numbers are the first ones we'll point to when making the case for Edelman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but let's put this into perspective. Rice played 29 postseason games and averaged 77.41 receiving yards per game while Edelman played 19 postseason games and averaged 75.89 receiving yards per game -- a pretty close average to that of the greatest wide receiver ever.
Irvin has them both beat at 82.18 receiving yards per game, and there are players with higher yards per game averages. Steve Smith averaged 91 yards per game in the playoffs and Larry Fitzgerald averaged 104.7. Those two players combined to play 20 postseason games, just one behind Edelman's 19. The Patriots played in the postseason in the first 10 years of Edelman's career -- but in the first four years he played a limited role in New England due to injury and being buried on the depth chart.
Let's look at the other postseason greatness with Edelman, starting with his Super Bowl and other playoff performances.
Most 100-yard receiving games (NFL playoff history)
- Jerry Rice -- 8 (29 games)
- Julian Edelman -- 6 (19 games)
- Michael Irvin -- 6 (16 games)
- John Stallworth -- 5 (18 games)
- Andre Reed -- 5 (21 games)
- Hines Ward -- 5 (18 games)
- Larry Fitzgerald -- 5 (9 games)
- Antonio Brown -- 5 (13 games)
Most catches (Super Bowl history)
- Jerry Rice -- 33
- Rob Gronkowski -- 29
- Andre Reed -- 27
- Wes Welker -- 26
- Julian Edelman -- 24
- Deion Branch -- 24
Most receiving yards (Super Bowl history)
- Jerry Rice -- 589
- Rob Gronkowski -- 364
- Lynn Swann -- 364
- Julian Edelman -- 337
- Andre Reed -- 323
- Edelman is one of 15 players to have 10+ catches in a Super Bowl (LIII) and one of 10 players to have 140+ yards in a Super Bowl (LIII).
- Edelman is one of six players to gave two 100-yard receiving games in the Super Bowl (Deion Branch, Antonio Freeman, Jerry Rice, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann are the others). He's one of three players to have two 9+ reception games in the Super Bowl (Rice and Branch are the others).
- The MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Edelman is one of just seven wide receivers to win the award.
- Edelman is the only player to have multiple 20+ reception campaigns in the postseason -- and he's done it three times.
- Edelman, Jerry Rice, and Steve Smith are the only players with 300+ receiving yards in multiple postseasons (all three have done it twice).
- Of the 13 players that have 340+ yards in a single postseason, Edelman is the only one to accomplish the feat twice.
Edelman started becoming a significant contributor on offense in the 2013 season, averaging 7.8 receptions a game and and 97.6 receiving yards a game in 14 playoff games since the start of that year. That's significantly higher than the 5.1 catches a game Rice averaged in his illustrious playoff career and higher than Julio Jones' 7.6 receptions per game (eight playoff games).
Now, let's look at Edelman's ranks amongst Patriots legends.
Most catches in Patriots history (regular season)
- Wes Welker -- 672
- Julian Edelman -- 620
- Troy Brown -- 557
- Stanley Morgan -- 534
- Rob Gronkowski -- 521
Most receiving yards in Patriots history (regular season)
- Stanley Morgan -- 10,352
- Rob Gronkowski -- 7,861
- Wes Welker -- 7,459
- Julian Edelman -- 6,822
- Troy Brown -- 6,366
Most all-purpose yards in Patriots history (regular season)
- Kevin Faulk -- 12,339
- Stanley Morgan -- 11,468
- Troy Brown -- 11,128
- Julian Edelman -- 9,869
- Wes Welker -- 9,070
Edelman will find his place in the Patriots Hall of Fame, but his overall regular season numbers aren't something to brag about. He's 156th in career receiving yards, behind Chris Chambers, Dwayne Bowe, and Darrell Jackson. Edelman is 75th in career receptions, behind Santana Moss, Ricky Proehl, and Pierre Garcon. He's 165th in all-purpose yards, behind Jacoby Jones, Jermaine Lewis, and Fred Jackson.
Finally, let's take a look at Edelman's regular season ranks -- a huge red dot on his Hall of Fame chances -- with a view of those who rank near him on the all-time lists.
Most receptions (NFL history)
- 72. Keenan Allen -- 624
- 73. Johnnie Morton -- 624
- 74. LaDainian Tomlinson (RB) -- 624
- 75. Julian Edelman -- 620
- 76. Jordy Nelson -- 613
- 77. DeSean Jackson -- 613
- 78. Travis Kelce (TE) -- 613
Most receiving yards (NFL history)
- 154. Odell Beckham Jr. -- 6,830
- 155. Charley Hennigan -- 6,823
- 156. Julian Edelman -- 6,822
- 157. Larry Centers (FB) -- 6,797
- 158. Randall Cobb -- 6,793
- 159. Alshon Jeffery -- 6,786
Most receiving touchdowns (NFL history)
- 254. Owen Daniels (TE) -- 36
- 254. Anthony Fasano (TE) -- 36
- 254. Eric Green (TE) -- 36
- 254. Julian Edelman -- 36
- 254. Brandon Lloyd -- 36
- 254. Julius Thomas (TE) -- 36
Most all-purpose yards (NFL history)
- 162. Randall Cobb -- 9,948
- 163. Tommy McDonald* -- 9,896
- 164. Frank Gifford (TE)* -- 9,870
- 165. Julian Edelman -- 9,869
- 166. Tim Dwight -- 9,854
- 167. Willis McGahee (RB) -- 9,833
*Hall of Fame
As presented, Edelman's regular season numbers are pedestrian compared to his postseason success. He's never made a Pro Bowl, even though he's recorded two 100-catch seasons and three 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Centers, one of the best receiving fullbacks in NFL history, has a 100-catch season and has made three Pro Bowls (along with a First Team All-Pro honor). Lloyd, Cobb, and Jeffery each have a Pro Bowl selection and Thomas has two (Edelman has just as many 1,000-yard receiving seasons as Cobb, Jeffery, and Thomas combined). None of those receivers -- and Centers -- can get into the Hall of Fame unless they buy a ticket. Edelman is right near them on the all-time ranks in these categories.
Of the Hall of Fame cases that will arise over the next decade, Edelman's will be the most polarizing. His postseason statistics certainly put him in the conversation, specifically the impact he made in the Super Bowl.
There's an argument to be had for putting Edelman in the Hall of Fame, and that's up for the voters to decide whether he belongs with the all-time greats -- or if he's just a footnote with other Hall of Famers that were legends in the postseason.