I like Julian Edelman. I like Danny Woodhead. And even Wes Welker. All three have shown their merit in the punt and kick return game over the years.
But then there are the Brandon Banks’ of the NFL, tiny little speed demons who can shred a special teams unit so fast they make it halfway up the field before anyone even knows they’ve started running.
That is what the Patriots need. And that’s what they could have in Jeff Demps.
Technically, the former Florida Gator, who just returned from the London Olympics with a silver medal in the 4×100 M relay, was a running back in Gainesville. But his speed is what really makes him standout more so than his ball carrying abilities. If he was representing the U.S. on the most prestigious of athletics stages, you know the kid is no slouch.
So, why wasn’t he drafted upon leaving college in April? Demps was public about his desire to focus solely on Olympic training until after the Games, and thusly no team decided to take him and retain his rights. It’s not an unexpected move, nor is it reflective of what Demps could bring to a team. What if he got injured in London? What if he decided afterwards to pursue track full-time and forget football all together? Then he’s a wasted draft pick.
But now that he’s back and committed to the NFL, the Patriots should take a good look at what he could bring to the team. Last season, the Pats averaged just 21 yards per kickoff return and 10 yards per punt return. At Florida, Demps averaged nearly 30 yards per return and collected 2, 470 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns over the course of his career. Again, though, it’s the return prowess that makes Demps so appealing. The Pats have a decent special teams unit, who can open up a run way for a guy who can fly. Demps can fly.
If the Patriots offensive line doesn’t get itself sorted soon, Tom Brady is going to have quite the task this season making the offense go. A juggernaut return man who can set Brady and company up frequently with good field position is an easy, ideal solution to a problem that is one or two more injuries away from potentially derailing this offensive unit entirely.
Plus, in a pinch, he can play running back. And, knowing Belichick, I’m sure he could groom him to play safety or something too. The point is, he’s a pure athlete, and that’s handy to have. If they can get him relatively cheap, there is huge upside to Demps. The Patriots need a boost in the kickoff game. That’s been talked about for months. Here’s an opportunity to do just that, fresh off the proverbial boat from London.
And really, why not take a shot on an Olympian?