James Develin and Patriots' TE projection

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In lauding fullback James Develin on Sunday, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio recalled one play during the 2013 season that highlighted his versatility and overall value to the team.

“The Baltimore game [Dec. 22], we lined him up out there kind of detached from the formation,” Caserio said in an impressive recall from a season of 1,273 offensive snaps (including penalties). “We ran a route with he and [Shane] Vereen and because he was able to execute his assignment, we had a play there.”

Caserio’s remarks led me to revisit the play, as it seems clear that Caserio was specifically referring to a 4-yard touchdown catch by Vereen in the first quarter.

The Patriots aligned in a compact formation, with quarterback Tom Brady in the shotgun, Vereen to his left in the backfield, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui on the right side of the line, receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola bunched closely on the left side, and Develin detached by himself to the near right side.

Before the snap on the second-and-goal play, Vereen motioned out of the backfield to Develin’s side, setting briefly to Develin’s left.

Develin was the key on the play as he ran a clear-out route that had safety Matt Elam sticking with him initially, while also creating traffic/a minor rub that linebacker Jameel McClain couldn’t get around as Vereen flashed free to the right flat for an easy touchdown.

With Caserio bringing the play up Sunday, and the fullback position naturally linked with the tight end spot, Develin’s versatility highlights one of the challenges we’ve had in our weekly roster projections.

With three quarterbacks, four running backs, one fullback and potentially six receivers, that’s a lot of skill-position players on the projected roster.

So would the Patriots be comfortable going with just two pure tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Hoomanawanui), with Develin as a possible third option?

Caserio’s remarks further spark thoughts of the possibility.