Don't Chase the P.Y.T - A Case for Julian Edelman
In life and in fantasy football, we often seek something that is new and exciting. Many things come to mind in this regard: a new partner, a shiny new car, a top of the line phone, while all along, what you already have at home and in front of you is reliable, predictable, and a proven productive entity. Sure, it might not be sexy, but you can count on it and you don’t need to pay a premium for it.
The same holds true this time of the year in fantasy football, as we are tempted by the allure of rookies and potential sophomore breakouts. There is something inside every fantasy footballer that craves youth and upside in drafts while ignoring consistent year to year production.
What better proven commodity in the WR department is there than New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman? Coming off his best football and fantasy season of his career (1117 yds, 6 TDs, 15.8 fantasy points per game), Edelman is currently being drafted around buzz worthy sophomores Diontae Johnson (88.6 FFPC ADP) and Darius Slayton (109.4 ADP). The former Super Bowl MVP is also being drafted in the same range as rookies CeeDee Lamb (107.4 ADP) and Jerry Jeudy (112.1 ADP), who have yet to play a snap in the league. How does this make any sense for redraft or best ball purposes?
In dynasty leagues, age is an important factor to look at when drafting players but in a redraft format, age SHOULD only be a number. If you are 34 years old and you can still put up top 10 WR numbers, how does that impact ADP and the decision to draft that player or not? The TNFF crew recently did an entire guest podcast with the #GOATCast on this very topic. Make sure to listen to the episode, but in short, ageism exists in fantasy football, and those that look at age over potential production in redraft are simply doing it wrong and are missing out on players that can win them a championship. Edelman is a clear example of this.
WHY IS THERE NO LOVE FOR EDELMAN?
Currently being drafted at 90.4 in FFPC (Fantasy Football Players Championship) season long high stake drafts, Edelman’s ADP has essentially flatlined. Why is this? We need to look at the current situation in Foxboro to get a better understanding. Perhaps, there is uncertainty at the QB position, with the former Auburn Tiger Jarrett Stidham and all of his four pass attempts in 2019, destined to take over from future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Or maybe a certain Free Agent QB that Bill Bellichek has often praised (Cam Newton), is signed late into the off-season. There also seems to be a plethora of quarterbacks with the Miami Dolphins (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen), an organization with strong ties to New England (current head coach Brian Flores was a member of the Patriots coaching staff from 2004-2019) . All of these situations are plausible. However, what is plausible and what is reality are completely two different things. What I do know is that in fantasy, we should focus on the variables that we can control. In this situation, there are two variables that we do know:
1) New England did not add any WR competition for Julian Edelman through the draft or free agency
2) Julian Edelman’s profile and production history
EDELMAN - THE #1 WIDE RECEIVER ON THE PATRIOTS
The Tom Brady-less Patriots decided to double, if not triple down on their greatest strength in the 2020 draft by taking six defensive players. They certainly zigged while everyone else zagged in this historically deep WR class. The Patriots did pick up two interesting pass catching options in the 3rd round with TEs Devin Asiasi (Pick 91) and Dalton Keene (Pick 101). As we’ve often seen, the learning curve for TEs at the NFL level is incredibly steep. Rookie TEs are best left to develop on other teams fantasy benches rather than your own. With no other pass catchers added in the draft or free agency, and even though I do like Keene and Asiasi as upside plays, no one will be challenging Edelman’s role on this team as the WR1.
Edelman’s role is as New England as crab cakes and clam chowda. The much vaunted Patriots run game last year did not take shape like the fantasy community had hoped for. It was the passing game (9th highest volume) that put up points for the Patriots in 2019. Edelman was at the centre of this high volume attack, and ate up 26.2% of the teams target share. What is even more locked in for Edelman is his Red Zone (RZ) production. Edelman had 15 RZ receptions last year, which was good for 5th in the league. Who else is on this roster that could slide into this role? One of the rookie TEs? N’Keal Harry who was only on the field for 45% of snaps in his rookie season? Is the answer the ghost of Mohammed Sanu? Let’s not overcomplicate this. The answer will be Edelman, and it was always Edelman.
The ability to chart and predict Edelman’s production for fantasy has been like clockwork. The reason why is that the New England passing game runs through Edelman first and foremost. He’s schemed open and his domination in the slot (53.6% in 2019) makes him the closest to a sure thing we can bank on in fantasy football. Since 2014, Rotoviz has projected Edelman within 1.7 fantasy points of his actual production. 1.7 fpts! For 2020, Edelman is projected to score 237.4 fantasy points, even with the departure of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. This is just a minor regression from his 2019 production of 266.3 fantasy points. In fact, I’m predicting another top ten WR finish for Edelman, no matter what the masses on Twitter say.
While everyone else on draft day chases that pretty young thing (PYT) WR like a Diontae Johnson or CeeDee Lamb, why don’t you draft a WR like Julian Edeleman in the 8th/9th round, lock up 200 plus points and bank on it. You might not want to brag to your friends about Julian Edelman or share it on social media, but does any of that matter when you are winning fantasy championships?
Will Harris (@itsharristime)
Editor: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)