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Can Braylon Edwards Reboot His Career?

It’s extremely challenging to predict the future fantasy production of a clearly talented, but struggling player who has switched teams, such as wide receiver Braylon Edwards. As you know, Edwards was the marquee player in a very recent Cleveland Browns/New York Jets trade that sent him from the shores of Lake Erie to the Big Apple in exchange for wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik and two Jets draft picks. According to ESPN News, the draft choices are rumored to be a third-rounder and a fifth-rounder. The third-rounder could turn into a second-rounder, if Edwards catches “a high number of passes” during his first season with Gang Green.

 

The 26-year-old Edwards, a former first-round draft pick who had been a top-flight college wide receiver at Michigan, had looked like he was on his way to NFL stardom following his 2007 Pro Bowl season. Edwards’ career, however, took a sharp nosedive in 2008 because of quarterback woes and other problems in Cleveland. With his poor judgment mostly to blame, Edwards also ran into some off-the-field problems during his stint with the Browns and brings some baggage to his new team. Will a supposedly motivated Edwards take advantage of a fresh start, turn things around and return to his 2007 form? Will Edwards still produce for his fantasy owners this season, despite changing teams?

 

BRAYLON’S PRE-NFL FOOTBALL BIO

 

Born February 21, 1983, in Detroit, Michigan, Braylon Jamel Edwards played one season of high school football at Martin Luther King High School (Detroit) before transferring to Bishop Gallagher High School in Harper Woods, Michigan. During his three years at Bishop, Edwards compiled 63 catches for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Edwards also set school and state records for starting at 11 different positions in one season: wide receiver, quarterback, running back, tight end, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, free safety, kick returner, punt returner and long snapper. Edwards finished high school ranked as the 20th-best player in Michigan by the Detroit Free Press, while Rivals.com ranked him as the 49th-best wide receiver in the country. Edwards decided to attend Michigan, like his father, Stan Edwards, who also had played football for the Wolverines (1977-1981) and the NFL’s old Houston Oilers (1982-1986).

 

Thanks to his impressive size, speed and leaping ability, Edwards was the most prolific wide receiver to wear a Michigan uniform (2001-2004) and play in the Big 10 Conference in recent memory. During his three seasons as a starter (2002-2004), Edwards amassed 1,000+ receiving yards each year; he was the only Big 10 player and just the third player in NCAA Division I-A history to accomplish that feat. Edwards wrapped up his senior season in spectacular fashion, compiling 97 receptions for 1,330 yards, which are both Michigan single-season records, and 15 touchdowns. He also set Michigan career marks for receptions (252), receiving yards (1,330) and touchdowns (39), and set a school record for most games with 100+ receiving yards (17). Edwards won the Fred Biletnikoff Award (2004), which goes to the best receiver in the nation, and he won the Big 10 Conference Most Valuable Player Award (2004). Edwards wowed the NFL scouts during his final college game — the 2005 Rose Bowl — tying a bowl record with three touchdown receptions against a Vince Young-led Texas squad.

 

BRAYLON’S NFL YEARS

 

Many NFL scouts and NFL Draft pundits had projected Edwards as a can’t-miss first-round prospect:

 

The Edwards Pre-Draft Profile

  • Height: 6’3”

  • Weight: 215 pounds

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.40

  • Wonderlic: 27

  • Positives: Possesses big-play ability, possesses the size and strength necessary to be a featured receiver, elusive, capable of breaking tackles, has produced in big games, great hand-eye coordination, can make difficult catches, a hand catcher who is not afraid to jump for a ball or catch over the middle, has been durable and has displayed leadership qualities.

  • Negatives: Occasionally drops easy passes, occasional lapses in concentration.

 

BRAYLON EDWARDS – CLEVELAND BROWNS

REGULAR SEASON CAREER STATISTICS

YEAR

AGE

G

GS

REC

YDS

AVE

TD

LNG

2005

22

10

7

32

512

16.0

3

80

2006

23

16

15

61

884

14.5

6

75

2007

24

16

16

80

1,289

16.1

16

78

2008

25

16

16

55

873

15.9

3

70

2009

26

4

4

10

139

13.9

0

24

 

The Browns chose Edwards with their first-round selection (No. 3 overall). A contract holdout caused him to miss training camp, but Edwards eventually signed a five-year, $40 million deal with $18.5 million guaranteed and joined the team as a slot receiver. Edwards’ rookie season, however, was a bumpy one. Despite missing two weeks due to a staph infection, the Michigan native moved into the starting lineup by midseason. Edwards was enjoying a breakout game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in early December (five catches for 86 yards and two scores) when he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

 

Thanks to a successful rehabilitation, Edwards returned to the field for the 2006 season, leading the Browns in receiving. Off the field, Edwards demonstrated a generous side, giving a $500,000 scholarship fund to Michigan for Cleveland high school students. He also pledged $1 million in college scholarships to Cleveland high school students who maintained at least a 2.5 grade point average throughout high school. On the downside, Edwards, who was not known for having character issues during his college days, got into a much-publicized sideline altercation with now-former Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye. The wide receiver also made headlines by calling out two members of the Carolina Panthers secondary. Now-former Cleveland head coach Romeo Crennel benched and fined Edwards for showing up late for a Sunday game in November after the wide receiver had spent the previous day in Columbus, Ohio, watching an Ohio State/Michigan clash.

 

Like many receivers, Edwards enjoyed a magical third-year breakout season (2007), amassing career-best statistics thanks in large part to the unexpectedly strong play of quarterback Derek Anderson. Edwards finished the season with 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, which averaged out to five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown per game. His 1,289 receiving yards broke a team record of 1,236 yards that had been set by Webster Slaughter (1989). The 16 scores also set a new team record. In addition, Edwards became the first Cleveland receiver to be elected to the Pro Bowl since Slaughter (1989).

 

The up-and-coming wide out displayed some surprisingly poor judgment — again — during Cleveland’s 2008 training camp. Edwards, who was running without shoes on, had his ankle accidentally cut open by now-ex teammate Donte’ Stallworth. With lofty preseason expectations for a club that had gone 10-6 and just missed the playoffs the prior season, the Browns’ 4-12 showing in 2008 was a colossal disappointment for Edwards and the entire team. Edward’s numbers took a major nosedive. He led the NFL in dropped passes (16) and apparently tried to do too much on the field. Anderson also struggled mightily — enemy defenses apparently discovered his tendencies — and Brady Quinn, Anderson’s replacement, did not play any better. Both Anderson and Quinn were eventually lost for the season due to injuries, which seemed to zap the life out of the Browns. There was an off-the-field incident involving Edwards in November. He was fined $150 and given 30 hours of community service for driving 120 miles per hour through a small Ohio town. Edwards also lashed out publically at Browns fans who criticized his poor 2008 performance, saying they have not embraced him, because he had played football at Michigan.

 

When 2009 rolled around, Edwards continued to conduct himself as a person who was fed up with losing and wanted to bolt Cleveland, despite the team’s decision to fire Crennel and hire Eric Mangini. Edwards missed OTAs, flunked his team physical and did not report to training camp when he was expected. The NFL is currently investigating whether Edwards violated the league conduct policy following allegations that he punched a friend of NBA star LeBron James following an argument in downtown Cleveland. As for his on-the-field performance, Edwards has caught just 10 passes for 139 yards without scoring so far this season, and he was held without a catch for the first time in his career this past Sunday.

 

BRAYLON’S FANTASY FORECAST

 

When I heard Edwards had been traded to the Jets, I was reminded of the trade that sent then-Oakland Raiders receiver Randy Moss to the New England Patriots. A frustrated, bitter Moss had struggled mightily with the Raiders, and many had wrongly thought he was washed up. I am not comparing Edwards to Moss in terms of talent, but I really think we have a similar situation here.

When Edwards rediscovers his 2007 form — Yes, I think he will — the talented wide out will provide the Jets with a lethal, durable and much-needed deep threat who can stretch the field, pulling double-teams away from Jerricho Cotchery or Dustin Keller while opening up things underneath for what has been a struggling rushing attack. Granted, Edwards has been a disappointment this season (and last season), but Cleveland’s quarterback woes and his poor attitude were largely responsible. Edwards also brings a lot of off-the-field baggage to his new team — which obviously makes him a risk — but it is reasonable to suspect that Edwards, as he told the New York media, is looking forward to having “a clean slate” and will likely be on his best behavior. Bottom line — the change of scenery should motivate him.

 

Will Edwards make an immediate impact like Moss did? I do not think so. Moss was present for the Patriots’ training camp and played with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. For the rest of the season (short-term), I think Edwards will be inconsistent, which makes him a WR3 matchup play. Edwards has to learn a new system and build some chemistry with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who undoubtedly will continue to have occasional growing pains. New York wants to utilize a run-first offense, although the acquisition of Edwards suggests they may want to use a more-balanced attack.

When I say long-term, I am thinking about the 2010 season. At that point, Edwards will have had a full offseason and training camp to work with Sanchez and his new teammates, and learn the offense. Assuming a perfect-world scenario, Edwards will head into 2010 as a WR2 with intriguing upside, and the Jets will look like geniuses when he plays up to his potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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