New England Patriots: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /
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James Develin, New England Patriots
James Develin, New England Patriots. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

47. . FB. (2012-Present). James Develin. 13. player

  • 3x Super Bowl champion (XLIX, LI, LIII)
  • Pro Bowl (2017)
  • 31 career receptions
  • Five career rushing touchdowns

James Develin is part of a dying breed.

Much has been written about the imminent demise of the fullback position in professional football. Whether you choose to believe in the narrative or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that more and more teams in today’s NFL are getting away from employing fullbacks on offense, especially given the surge of popularity in spread and Air Raid-style passing attacks.

Bill Belichick, somehow the league’s biggest traditionalist and its biggest non-conformist at the same time, doesn’t seem to care.

As the rest of his contemporaries focus on stockpiling only the fastest and flashiest of receivers and running backs, Mr. Old School keeps preaching smashmouth power football, preferring instead to run the pigskin down his opponents’ throats and bludgeon them to death.

Enter James Develin, an Ivy Leaguer who went undrafted and played in both the AFL and the UFL before finally getting a chance with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010. Never more than a practice squad player in Cincinnati, Develin was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in 2012.

Slowly but surely, his toughness and tenacity made a positive impression on the New England coaching staff. He played his first full 16-game NFL season with the team in 2013. Since that point, he has been a mainstay on the game day roster.

The 2018 season was his seventh with the Patriots. Over that time period, he has become a favorite among teammates, coaches and fans. While none of his career statistics really jump off the page, Develin’s value to the club goes beyond just numbers and figures.

Besides his rugged style of play and infectious work ethic, he’s also a major factor in the success the Patriots have had running the ball these past five or six years.

Throw on any game tape where a New England halfback is decimating an opposing defense; chances are you’ll see No. 46 out there leading the charge, bowling over defensive ends and linebackers alike, as he opens up traffic lanes for his more-famous running mates.

Develin is a cornerstone-type player the Patriots are lucky to have. And like Rex Burkhead, he’s much better suited in blue, white and silver than in orange-and-black tiger stripes.