If scouting departments are doing their jobs properly, they should be looking anywhere and everywhere in the months leading up to the NFL draft for players that could potentially contribute to their respective teams.
It’s easy to visit FCS campuses and get to know the big-name players. But it’s work to visit FBS and Division II, III and even NAIA teams searching for a diamond in the rough, and it also helps to listen to respected voices to help find them.
Sportswriter tips Patriots off about Edelman
It’s pretty well-known by now, but Julian Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State, but not a really good one. He completed 54.5 percent of his passes and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of roughly one-to-one in his three seasons as starter. But he was an athlete and noted for his work ethic.
Now-retired sportswriter Rick Gosselin, who covered the NFL for over 40 years and did copious research on draft-eligible players each year, got wind of the 5-foot-10 California native and mentioned him to Bill Belichick.
Belichick respected Gosselin, in part for his annual special teams grades; though he’s known for his defensive acumen, Belichick began his coaching career on special teams and knows how valuable it is to a team’s success, placing significant emphasis on it.
After Edelman was named Super Bowl LIII most valuable player, Belichick tipped his cap to Gosselin for tipping his team off to Edelman.
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“It’s kind of interesting,” Belichick said. “I’ve got to give Rick Gosselin credit on that one for getting us started. I talked to Rick — as you know, Rick followed the draft very closely — and at one point, he said to me, ‘A kid you might want to take a look at is this quarterback out of Kent State. I don’t think he can play quarterback [in the NFL], but I’ve heard he’s a pretty good player.’
“So we kind of got going on him a little bit, and we were like, ‘OK, what would we do with Julian? Is he a receiver? Is he a punt returner? Is he a defensive back? Is he maybe a guy that just can play multiple positions in the kicking game?’ So we went out and worked him out. How many times did we work you out? Two? So we sent one coach up there. And then we were like, ‘Well all right, let’s send someone else up there,’ because we weren’t really sure what to do with him.
“So, as it turned out, he came to the Patriots and caught passes, which he hadn’t done before, returned kicks, which he hadn’t done before, and played defense, which he hadn’t done before, in addition to covering kicks and all the other things in special teams.”
Drafted in seventh round
The Patriots would draft Edelman in the seventh round, 232nd overall, in 2009, and quickly set out to figuring out what he could do. His very first days weren’t great: during his rookie mini-camp, New England put him back at punt returner and Edelman muffed his first two chances.
While he worked at receiver, he also saw snaps at nickel- and dimeback in 2011, and has been a punt returner throughout his career.
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