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Super Bowl LIII receivers: Both teams loaded with options in the passing game

The Patriots' Julian Edelman is the latest of Tom Brady's receivers to rise from unheralded prospect to standout on a Super Bowl contender.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman has been one

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman has been one of Tom Brady's favorite targets for several years. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jim Rogash

Throughout Tom Brady's illustrious run as the New England Patriots' quarterback, he has helped unheralded wide receivers become household names.

Be it Troy Brown (eighth-round NFL Draft selection) in 2001, David Givens (seventh round) in 2004 or Wes Welker (undrafted) in 2011, New England maximizes returns from players overlooked by most teams. (Brady, himself, of course, being the supreme example.)

The same goes this year for Julian Edelman, the Patriots' top receiver, as he prepares to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday. Edelman, 32, a seventh-round pick by the Pats in 2009, has been one of Brady's favorite targets for five years running. In that span, Edelman ranks fifth leaguewide in targets per game (9.6). Despite missing the first four games in 2018 due to suspension for using "performance-enhancing substances," Edelman still led the team with 850 receiving yards and six touchdown receptions in the regular season.

As reliable and successful as Edelman has been as Brady's favored option, the future Hall of Fame passer loves to share the wealth with other receivers and, especially, his all-time great tight end.

The latter, Rob Gronkowski, wasn't as productive this year as years past due to an unusual number of nagging injuries. Still, Gronk came through in a big way in the AFC Championship Game victory over the Kansas City Chiefs with six catches for 79 yards. When healthy, he's Brady's most potent option.

The Pats won't have Josh Gordon, the talented but troubled wideout whom the team acquired in an early season trade with the Cleveland Browns. He ranked second among New England receivers with 720 yards in 11 games this season. During the four regular-season and postseason games since he stepped away to focus on his mental health, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett have seen a rise in targets. 

Like New England, Los Angeles enters the game having lost one of its top wideouts before the playoffs. Cooper Kupp suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 11, ending his season where he tallied 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.

Because quarterback Jared Goff also spreads the ball around, the Rams have largely weathered Kupp's absence. Receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks each surpassed 80 receptions, 1,200 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. Each was utilized on at least 10 rushing plays as well, with each adding another score on the ground.

Like Kupp, understudy Josh Reynolds and tight end Gerald Everett garnered at least 50 targets and combined for eight touchdowns. A second tight end, Tyler Higbee, also is in the mix.

Both teams heavily involve their talented running backs, with their multifaceted contributions covered in amNY's running backs feature.

Super Bowl LIII wide receivers by the numbers

Includes 2018 regular-season and postseason stats 

Julian Edelman (Patriots)
Seasons: 9
Games: 14
Receptions: 90
Targets: 131
Yards per game: 78.4
Yards per catch: 12.2
Touchdown catches: 6

Robert Woods (Rams)
Seasons: 6
Games: 18
Receptions: 98
Targets: 148
Yards per game: 73.4
Yards per catch: 13.5
Touchdown catches: 6

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