New England Patriots fullback James Develin was very deserving of his selection for the Pro Bowl.
Before we start, I’m not going to sit here and declare that I have discovered this unknown New England Patriots diamond in the rough named James Develin. Most Patriots fans already know all about the fullback, but what some might not know is that he is having a career year. A year that has deservedly yielded Pro Bowl honors for the Pennsylvania native.
The Patriots Fan Campaign Begins
PFW in Progress’ Andy Hart (@JumboHart) has long been a proponent of Develin and the skills he brings to the table and even had an online campaign to get him to the Pro Bowl. Despite the campaign, the fan vote had Develin hovering around 5th in AFC voting.
NFL fans instead opted for the familiar names and those that collected statistics such as Tommy Bohanon who has 3 TD’s so far this year. For comparison, Develin has 6 receptions for 38 yards. Luckily, the players and football writers recognized his performances and voted him in.
Develin’s value cannot be measured in the traditional statistical sense. He is a true fullback, a blocker that can bludgeon a defensive line into submission.
Develin is a throwback to a bygone era, with the neck roll and no-nonsense attitude harken back to a time of broken noses and the smell of deep heat. Before I get too misty-eyed, if you look at statistics in the untraditional sense i.e. Pro Football Focus, he is having the best season of any fullback in the NFL.
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An underrated part of his game is his leadership, particularly off the field. In 2015 Develin missed the season due to a broken leg, Tom Brady spoke about the 255lb hole that was left in his absence;
“He’s really a great leader for our team. He always sets the example…..That was a tough loss I think just emotionally for the whole team because of what he did the year before and just the toughness that he brings,” article by Henry McKenna for Boston.com.
Bill Belichick on Develin
Bill Belichick doesn’t often single out players for individual praise but has done so several times during Develin’s tenure in New England. Here are just a few:
- “He is one of the strongest players on the team and very dependable and he assists us in a lot of different ways in the unsung dirty jobs” From an article by Rich Thompson for the Boston Herald.
- “He’s the ultimate team player, works really hard at his job every day, very dependable, is a great teammate, and if we ask him to do something, we’ve been able to count on him over a consistent period of time. And that means a lot to everybody.” From an article by Zack Cox for NESN.
- “He’s just always got to be ready but I think that’s the impressive thing about James is he is” From an article by Mark Daniels for the Providence Journal.
- “He’s got a good mentality. He likes contact. He seeks it out, but he’s changed up his techniques and as he’s played more guys have kind of played him differently”. From an article by Tarringo Basile-Vaughan for Chowder and Champions.
Develin the Receiver
One of the most surprising things about his game is his hands. For a bruising fullback, he has a soft pair of hands. Typically the smaller fullbacks in the league are the better receivers.
Guys like Patrick DiMarco, (234lbs) Kyle Juszczyk, (240lbs) and Anthony Sherman, (242lbs) are known for their catching ability. It might come as a surprise to learn that Develin has a career average of 8.8 yards per catch. In the offseason. he trains with the tight ends and is known for having the ability to make diving and one-handed catches when required.
At the age of 29, the Chemical Engineering graduate from Brown has come a long way. He initially started out as a defensive lineman for the Bears in the Ivy League. He went undrafted and signed with the Arena League team the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz.
From there he joined the Florida Tuskers of the UFL where he converted to fullback, before eventually making it to the NFL with the Bengals. Since then he has collected two Super Bowls and now has his deserved spot as a Pro Bowler.
If he continues on his current upward trend, an All-Pro berth surely is within his grasp in 2017.