Punch Drunk Wonderland

The Julian Edelman Factor for the New England Patriots

Patriots Julian Edelman

Despite injury, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman finished out the 2015 regular season with 61 receptions for 692 yards and 7 touchdowns in 9 games. Not too shabby. In all actuality, Edelman’s presence has been a large factor in the Patriots success this season and, despite finding ways to win in many cases, the team struggled mightily in his absence. Now going into the AFC Championship Game versus the Denver Broncos the Patriots have a healthy (or at least relatively healthy) compliment of weapons available. What does that mean for their chances. Our friends at numberFire have taken a look at the Julian Edelman factor. Enjoy.

Edelman by the Numbers

Edelman’s stats don’t tend to jump out like other top receivers because, more than any other top receiver in the league, he does his damage underneath, rarely stretching defenses vertically. The Patriots were the eighth most pass-heavy team in the league this season, with a 1.74 pass-run ratio, and those short quick throws to players like Edelman often take the place of a running game.

That’s not to say that Edelman isn’t productive. He produced 0.73 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target this season (you can read more about NEP here), the best mark since his 2012 season, when he saw only 32 targets.

While those NEP numbers don’t fall into an elite range, ranking 36th among the 86 wideouts to see 50-plus targets this year, it was the best mark among Patriots wide receivers on the season. It was also one of the most efficient season from a New England receiver in recent memory. Since Edelman came into the league in 2009, there have been 22 Patriots receivers with at least 35 targets in a season, and Edelman’s 2015 ranks third in that group for Reception NEP per target.

Edelman’s value also really shines through on third and fourth downs. This season, he posted a 1.01 Reception NEP per target on third and fourth downs. That essentially means that, whenever the Patriots needed a first down and went to Edelman, it contributed more than full point to their expected points on average. Through just nine weeks, Edelman produced a shade over 21 points compared to expectation on third and fourth downs alone.

With Edelman’s efficiency, it’s no surprise then that his presence also has a major impact on how Tom Brady produces.

Edelman’s Impact on Brady’s Performance

Let’s take a look at what our numbers have to say about Tom Brady’s performance in games 1 through 9 (with Edelman) versus games 10 through 16 (without Edelman):

Games Dropbacks Passing NEP Passing NEP per Drop back Success Rate
Games 1-9 389 131.76 0.34 53%
Games 10-16 271 34.16 0.13 41%

To put some context to these numbers, that 0.13 Passing NEP per drop back would’ve ranked 15th among quarterbacks with 200-plus drop backs for the full season, while the 41% Success Rate (which measures what percentage of drop backs generated a positive NEP score) would’ve ranked 35th among the 37 qualifying passers, one spot behind Matt Cassel. Through the first nine games of the season, Brady ranked first among quarterbacks with 100-plus drop backs in Passing NEP per drop back and third in Success Rate.

Though the sample size of games without Edelman in 2014 was much smaller (a full game in Week 16 and half of a game in Week 17), there was a similar trend. Through 14 games, Brady had a 0.24 Passing NEP per drop back, and in the final game and a half actually posted a negative, at -0.11 per drop back.

The difference also shows through in Brady’s raw stats. Over the last two seasons, in games Edelman plays, Brady’s average stat line is 25.78 for 39.17 (a 65.82% completion rate) for 299.22 yards (7.79 yards per attempt), 2.43 touchdowns and 0.48 interceptions.

Without Edelman those numbers fall to 20.22 for 33.83 (a 59.66% completion rate) for 221 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) with 1.44 touchdowns and 0.56 interceptions. Any way you cut it, the difference is massive.

You might be thinking that the running game picks up the slack, or maybe a difficult schedule skews these numbers (the Patriots did, after all, have to play the vaunted Denver defense in a game without Edelman). But if we look at the numbers for the overall offense, even when adjusted for strength of schedule, we see a huge difference.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


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