Rookie Surprise: Patriots WR Julian Edelman

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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Few knew what to make of Julian Edelman when the New England Patriots drafted him because it was difficult to project what they would do with the prospect.

The Patriots drafted Edelman, an option quarterback from Kent State, in the seventh round. He was the 232nd overall selection.

Thumbnail scouting reports from the various New England news outlets listed him as a wide receiver because that's what the Patriots announced, but the reports were sprinkled with speculation about Wildcat quarterback, running back, punt returner and even defensive back.

But the overriding theme was that he was a project, a developmental player who could be destined for the practice squad.

That's often where seventh-rounders go, but not Edelman.

Edelman was chosen as the AFC East's surprise rookie not merely because he made the final roster, but because he has been a contributor to a star-studded offense. Candidates were chosen from players drafted from the third round and beyond or not drafted at all. So regardless of how impressed you might be with New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, he didn't qualify. Fifth overall picks from Southern California are supposed to do well.

Seventh-rounders from the Mid American Conference are afterthoughts.

But Edelman already might have surpassed 15-year veteran Joey Galloway in the receiving corps hierarchy. In Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens, Edelman was the third option behind surefire Hall of Famer Randy Moss and the NFL's leading target over the past two seasons, Wes Welker.

In the three games Edelman has played, Tom Brady has thrown only to Moss more often.

Edelman compares quite favorably to Welker, the undrafted slot receiver extraordinaire, in almost every way. Edelman is on the small side, darts off the line, can cut like his legs are scissors, isn't afraid to work underneath and returns punts well.

Edelman has played in three of the Patriots' four games, missing the opener because of an ankle injury. In his NFL debut, he recorded game-highs with eight receptions for 98 yards in a loss to the Jets.