He is not the "reincarnation of Wes Welker," as CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots put it, nor is he a "mini-Wes Welker," as one late-night sportscaster called him. Even esteemed NFL writer Peter King joined the fray, writing that Edelman is "a Welker clone" with "the same body type, the same frenetic quickness after the catch."
Edelman is, simply, a wide receiver that has very little in common with Welker — aside from skin tone and position.
Edelman is 6 feet tall, 198 pounds; Welker is (barely) 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. Edelman has good speed and can make tacklers miss; Welker is a Pro Bowler who's led the league in receptions since 2007. Edelman is closer to 20 years old than 30: Welker's just the opposite.
Yet since Edelman arrived in New England, comparisons were immediately drawn to Welker. Those connections are wrong in a number of ways. For starters, if Edelman were similar to any Patriot, it would probably be the man he was trying to replace — Jabar Gaffney.
Gaffney stands 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. He was a valuable receiver for Tom Brady and the Patriots, catching 74 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns from 2007-08. He left in the offseason, and Edelman was drafted in the seventh round as a potential replacement.
Yet in the NFL, white receivers are often only compared to other white receivers. After all, there just aren't that many of them, and the number seems to be shrinking. That's just the way it is, but it doesn't mean anyone should expect Welker-like performances from Edelman.
Brady, for one, isn't.
"You can’t replace [Welker]," Brady said Monday on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan Show. "There’s no doubt about that. There’s nobody that can substitute in for Wes and think that they’re going to be Wes. He’s everything you ask for. He’s an incredible player and leader."
Head coach Bill Belichick was obviously disappointed to see his leading receiver suffer such a serious injury, but he said on Monday that he's seen tremendous development from Edelman.
"Julian’s made a lot of progress from where he’s started from the beginning of the year back in the spring after we drafted him," he said in a conference call with reporters. "A year ago at this time, he’d never played receiver. He was a college quarterback and he’s come in and made a good adjustment at that position."
Still, he's no Welker. The biggest similarity between the two has much more to do with how they are used in the offense rather than specific body types and abilities. Both are used to get behind the linebackers and get open, ideally either finding room for a catch or drawing defenders away from Randy Moss, and both are pretty good at doing so. Yet even with Welker out, Brady seemed confident that Edelman will be a big part of the Patriots offense "evolving" for the playoffs.
"Julian’s a hard worker," the quarterback said on WEEI. "He has a different skill set than Wes. There’s things you do differently with Julian, and there’s things you do differently with Wes. … In this situation, Julian is probably going to do a few things that Wes did but also the things that he does well.
"You’re not going to be able to make him into Wes Welker," he added. "You’re just going to have to allow him to do what he does well, Randy to do the things that he does well, Sam [Aiken] to do the things that he does well. They all can do things well. That’s why they’re on the team. They can all contribute. They’re all going to have to contribute. And they all will contribute.
"There will be a lot of hard work and effort put into this week. That’s just the way it’s got to be."
With Edelman, hard work won't be a problem, yet he showed a minor issue on Sunday that could become a much larger problem. On his 25-yard catch and run in the first quarter, Edelman took a hit from Dunta Robinson inside the Texans 10-yard line. He immediately clutched his right wrist, which is just below the forearm that he fractured earlier in the season. He broke a bone in his right arm at Kent State in 2007, and he's obviously playing through some pain. Right now, it looks like a hit in the wrong spot could put Edelman on the bench, leaving the Patriots in an ever deeper hole.
But for the time being, Edelman will serve as a viable backup for Welker. Just don't expect him to be a replacement.