Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon

Pocket rocket Demps could be weapon
August 17, 2012, 6:43 pm
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FOXBORO - If Jeff Demps wasn't heading to London for the Olympics, he probably would have been a fourth or fifth-round pick back in April, an AFC personnel man told me Friday.

But Demps, who has reached agreement with the Patriots according to his agent, went to London, won a silver medal for the 4x100 team (he didn't race in the final; just the qualifying) and is now resuming his football career.

What do we know?

That the University of Florida product he is breathtakingly fast. Perhaps the fastest player to ever enter the NFL at 100 meters. That he set the world junior record in the 100 in 2008 (10.01). That he only returned 21 kickoffs in four years at Florida. That he is short (5-8) and built like the proverbial brick outhouse (180 pounds). That he's a gadget guy at this point.

"He's a little shrimp but he had a ton of production at Florida," an AFC personnel man told me Friday. "He can maybe be a third running back, a specialist. He can maybe be a fourth wide receiver. You don't know. But he's had production and he's ridiculously fast."

If Demps were in the 2012 draft, he would have projected as a "fourth or fifth-round pick" according to my source. Pro Football Weekly, one of my go-to sources on college prospects, said Demps merited late-round consideration despite the track plans. They agreed he graded as a "middle-round pick on talent alone."

The need for a dedicated kickoff returner in a league that's trying its best to make the play obsolete is questionable. And punt returning is an art that Demps has no background in while at Florida. He's also not known for his hands.

So if the Patriots are going to get bang for having Demps around, they'll need to find a way to make him relevant in the offense.

With the return of Josh McDaniels and the offense's revival of the screen pass, that could be the spot we see Demps in first. Get him the ball on the perimeter and see if he can crease the defense. The mere threat of it would be a distraction.

Currently, the Patriots have their third-down back in Danny Woodhead. They have a fleet of receivers and - candidly - Demps wouldn't pick up what the hell the Patriots are doing in two weeks.

He will - if he sticks - have a specific role. And it will be one that extends beyond kickoff returns. He can fire off the edge on punt block. He can be a gunner on punts and kickoff team.

How things proceed will be interesting. If the Patriots want to get him to their practice squad, they'll need to release him at some point and hope nobody else claims him. Although Demps could pass on being claimed to another team's roster and choose the Patriots practice squad, that's a risk. So if the Patriots don't want to take that risk, they'll have to use a roster spot on him at the end of camp.

The Jets, Bucs and Colts all had interest.