Develin started just four games this year, catching six passes for 43 yards and rushing three times for five yards. The undrafted free agent from Brown has had just one catch in the playoffs, but scored a touchdown on a 1-yard reception in New England’s AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18.
“I love James and I think he’s the best fullback in the league,” Brady said. “He doesn’t get as much credit for it because he doesn’t get as many opportunities, but any time we call on him he delivers.”
Pro Football Focus rated Develin the fourth best blocking fullback in the NFL.
A defensive end in college, Develin played for the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of the Arena Football League in 2010, as well as the Florida Tuskers of the now-defunct United Football League before catching on with the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals that year. He was released by Cincinnati in August 2012 and signed by New England the next month.
“He really, at that position, can bring a significant element of toughness because you’re blocking for the guy with the ball and he takes a lot of pride in that,” Brady said of Develin. “Hopefully he gets some opportunities on Sunday and hopefully we make the most of them.”
Develin has appeared in all 16 games in each of the last two seasons with the Patriots; he has started 10 of those 32 games. The Patriots face the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
- Phil Watson