Patriots Mailbag: Who Could Replace Julian Edelman In 2021 NFL Draft?

Julian Edelman was more than just a slot receiver


Apr 16, 2021

It will be interesting to see how many new titles have been doled out in the personnel department when the New England Patriots release the 2021 media guide.

Bill Belichick said Thursday during a video conference call that assistant director of player personnel Dave Ziegler, national scout Matt Groh, scouting consultant Eliot Wolf and Matt Patricia, New England’s former defensive coordinator and the former head coach of the Detroit Lions, have run point on the draft this offseason. Director of player personnel Nick Caserio left to become general manager of the Houston Texans in the winter.

It’s possible that Ziegler, Groh and Wolf could be in line for promotions.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag. Watch above and read below.

Best Edelman replacement in the draft. If you could only select one.

I’m not necessarily looking for a Julian Edelman clone in answering this question. The answer also might not be what most would expect based on the public perception of Edelman and requires some myth-busting.

Edelman often gets miscast as a “slot receiver.” He was just as much a “Z” receiver as he was a slot during the prime of his career. He really only moved over to primarily playing in the slot once Danny Amendola left after the 2017 season. Prior to that, Edelman was splitting his time pretty evenly between the slot and outside.

So, to answer this question, you have to find a player who can play outside and in the slot. The Patriots already have three of them on their roster in Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. Meyers actually filled Edelman’s role really nicely in 2020.

Some of the top options in the draft include Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, BYU’s Dax Milne and Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge.

Players like Mississippi’s Elijah Moore and Purdue’s Rondale Moore are more exclusively slot options.

Toney has some off-field concerns that could dissuade the Patriots (and other teams) from taking him in the first or second round. But he’s a receiver who could play in the slot or Z roles and do damage in the middle of the field with the ball in his hands.

Between the free agent signings, which guys can you and your media peers see contributing the most? #MailDoug @Patriots

Wide receiver Nelson Agholor, tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Matt Judon should be every-down players for the Patriots. As far as who I see making the biggest impact, that’s tough. I know he wasn’t the most popular signing, but I might say Agholor. He’ll be the Patriots’ No. 1 wideout unless New England winds up with one of the top three receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft. Smith and Henry could cut into each other’s production since they share a position. And Van Noy and Judon might wind up doing the same.

As the Patriots’ depth chart currently is constructed, Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne are the top three wide receivers. The Patriots are paying Agholor big money. He needs to make a big impact.

For what player outside of the first round could you see Belichick trading up? #MailDoug #FemaleHallie

The first place I would look is at fringe first/second-round prospects where the Patriots would have to move up from No. 46 overall.

Some players who catch my eye: Elijah Moore, Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins and Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon. Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is another possibility.

Those are players who could fill needs on the roster and are good fits based on what the Patriots usually look for at those positions.

Welcome back Doug!! Who do you think is the better fit at qb for us: Jones, Lance or Fields?

Thanks, Ashley!

I’ll say Justin Fields if only because I think he’s the best player of the three quarterbacks. The Patriots also value experience at the quarterback position, and Mac Jones and Trey Lance both were just one-year starters. All three players protected the football well during their college careers and have the requisite size to play in New England.

Fields is the most mobile of the three players and is an excellent passer.

Overall, though, any of the three would be fine and significantly better than what the Patriots currently have for the future at quarterback.

Let’s go rapid fire.

How’s Olivia handling older sister duties? #MailDoug

I was gone for two weeks on daddy duty with a new baby, Hallie, in the house. I’ve been really proud of our older daughter, Olivia, who’s 3. She’s handling older sister duties like a champ.

Who is this year’s surprise cut. Are either of last year’s TE picks in trouble

It’s too early for surprise cuts, but after the Patriots signed Smith and Henry, I’m not sure if I’d put Devin Asiasi or Dalton Keene in the “stone-cold lock” category. They are both near-locks to make the 2021 roster, though.

If it comes to it : Darrisaw, Horn or Paye ? #MailDoug

Jaycee Horn out of those three.

Who is San Fran going to take at 3? No way Mac Jones right? Would it be worth it for the Pats to choose Jones? There’s the move toward dual threat QB’s but look at Brady, Brees and Rodgers? Why bother? Having your QB running around just exposes them to injury.

I have a completely unfounded and made-up conspiracy theory that the San Francisco 49ers’ interest in taking Jones at No. 3 was put out there so it wouldn’t look as bad when the Patriots draft or trade up for him.

I’m kidding, of course.

I have no idea who the 49ers will take.

If these consensus top rated 14 players are taken before you
5 QB
3 WR
2 OT
2 CB
1 TE
Who is your pick at 15?
How far can you trade back for Caleb Farley?

OK, so that would be Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Fields, Lance, Jones, Ja’Marr Chase, Waddle, Smith, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn, Kyle Pitts and Micah Parson off the board?

I’d take Georgia outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari at No. 15 overall.

It seems like you could probably trade back into the high-20s for Caleb Farley.

New key lime M&Ms. Have you given them a shot ? #MailDoug #DougsBuds

I haven’t, but I’ll try to find them and give them a shot.

I’ve also been trying to find the new peanut butter lover’s Reese’s.


Honestly? I’ve been watching old seasons of MTV’s “The Challenge” while filling out spreadsheets for this year’s Patriots draft fits.

Thumbnail photo via Brad McClenny/USA TODAY NETWORK Images
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