Patriots Convert QB to Receiver in Bid to Find Next Julian Edelman

Switching positions may be the only way that 2018 pick Danny Etling can make the 53-man roster

QB Danny Etling plays receiver at Patriots training camp
New England Patriots QB Danny Etling working out as a receiver. (Jim Davis/Boston Globe via Getty)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

In New England, there’s a long history of players changing positions in order to keep themselves in Bill Belichick’s good graces and, more importantly, on the roster.

Troy Brown switched from receiver to defensive back, Devin McCourty went from playing cornerback to suiting up at safety and Julian Edelman, who was selected as a quarterback out of Kent State in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, changed positions twice, first to defensive back and then to wide receiver.

Obviously, that was a transition that worked out pretty nicely for the reigning Super Bowl MVP, as he’s now Tom Brady’s top target and was rewarded with a $15 million contract extension this offseason.

Now another quarterback who was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round, 2018 draft pick Danny Etling, is hoping to follow in Edelman’s cleat-steps.

Etling, a seventh-round pick out of LSU in 2018, ditched his red quarterback jersy and began taking reps at wide receiver when the Patriots opened training camp in Foxboro on Thursday.

It’s possible the Patriots envision Etling, who spent his rookie season on the practice squad, as their version of Tayson Hill: a do-it-all gadget player who New Orleans uses as a threat all over the field. But it’s more likely they’re just trying to give the second-year player a way to make the team.

Though Etling didn’t run a very fast 40-yard-dash (4.7 seconds) at the Combine before he was drafted, the LSU product did show off some receiver-like wheels in the open field during the preseason last year while playing quarterback.

Unfortunately for him, making plays on the ground instead of through the air is not the best way to ingratiate one’s self to Belichick as a QB, since he’s never really kept a mobile quarterback around for long.

Despite his past, the 25-year-old sounds open to making the switch if it will keep him with the team.

“I love playing football and I’m out here in an NFL training camp playing for the Patriots and finding a new role for myself and getting to be coached by some of the greatest coaches and be a teammate to some of the greatest teammates of all time,” Etling told NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of this team and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to continue to do that and keep becoming a better football player every day.”

That’s the right attitude for Etling to have given that it’s become increasingly unlikely he is going to make the team as a quarterback: 2019 draft pick Jarrett Stidham, who New England took out of Auburn with the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round in April, has shown well at camp thus far. If Stidham makes the team and longtime Brady backup Brian Hoyer does as well (he should), Etling will have no other spot on the squad than in the receiving corps.

It’s a difficult position for the second-year player to be in, as the odds of him becoming the next Edelman are about as good as they were of Edelman making that catch against the Falcons in the Super Bowl. Maybe, just maybe, Etling will get the chance to do the same one day. But he has to make the team first.

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