This article is part of a series that is designed to look outside Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones for receivers that could potentially lead the NFL in total targets. Being the NFL leader in targets is absolutely in Edelman’s range of outcomes.
To do so, he would need at least 170 targets. More realistically, he would need to make a run at 200 total targets. Is that possible?
Julian Edelman Already Receives High Volume
Julian Edelman has averaged 9.6 targets per game since he became a starter. This would put him right around 150 targets over a full season. Edelman had 151 targets in 2013 and had 134 targets in his injury shortened 2014 season. He was targeted even more in 2015 and was on a 166 target pace before he was injured. If he had been able to finish out the season, he likely would have finished the year with about as many targets as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. This type of usage immediately puts Edelman in the conversation of being the target leader, and he could get there just from positive variance.
Edelman Has Situational Upside
Julian Edelman has unique upside to go along with his already high volume. Here at RotoViz, we draft hoping that no player is ever injured. We also draft recognizing that injuries do happen. Running backs and tight ends have a much higher chance of injury than wide receivers, and Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis are Edelman’s greatest competition for targets. Edelman would likely benefit from a tight end or running back injury more than any other receiver in the NFL. If either were injured, Edelman could easily make the jump from being a 150 to 160 target guy to receiving somewhere around 180 to 190 targets.
The game splits app demonstrates that Edelman has had over two extra targets per game when Gronk is out. The last five target leaders averaged 11.9 targets a game. Edelman’s upside following a Gronkowski injury is league leading targets, since that is historically what he has received in games Gronkowski has missed.
Belichick Doesn’t Give a Damn About Traditional Game Flow
Even without an injury, Edelman has unique target upside with the Patriots. A big part of this comes from the Patriots’ offensive tendencies. Bill Belichick really doesn’t give a damn about offensive balance and game flow, and this can only help Edelman. The Patriots spent most of the 2007 season passing the ball despite multi-touchdown leads. Another great example of this in 2015 is a game in which the Patriots ran the ball only five times with running backs in a win against the New York Jets. Because of this, Edelman does not have the same type of target cap many other receivers have. He has the ability to receive targets late into the fourth quarter with multi-touchdown leads.
Is The Tom Brady Suspension a Concern?
I do not think a suspension to Tom Brady would hurt Edelman’s targets. In 2008, The Patriots took Matt Cassel and his 53 passing attempts in the NFL and college combined and threw the ball 516 times. I expect the Patriots to remain pass-heavy even if Jimmy Garoppolo starts the season.
Julian Edelman has a high baseline level of volume, situational upside, and is on a pass-heavy team. This makes Edelman a threat to be the overall target leader in 2016. He is one of the cheapest ways to add targets to your team. Right now he has an MFL 10 ADP of WR 20 and a dynasty ADP of WR 30. Both of those prices represent Edelman’s floor and do not recognize his tremendous upside.