The 2013 NFL Combine is in full swing, leaving April's draft just a little more than two months away.
With the clock ticking, the New England Patriots find themselves uncharacteristically low on selections, however. With only five allotted picks, the Pats' 2013 roster looks unlikely to be teeming with rookie talent.
Fret not though Patriots fans, because there's plenty of young talent hiding in plain sight. With a head start on the incoming draft class, players like Jeff Demps may have an even better shot at making an immediate, and more importantly, long-term impact.
The victim of a "muscle tweak" in Week 4 of the 2012 preseason, Demps was stashed on the injured reserve for the entirety of his rookie season.
Some have speculated on the validity of the injury, even going as far to suggest that Bill Belichick and the Patriots bent the rules to retain Demps. However, he did visibly pull up limping in the preseason finale, and despite the reported indiscretions, the league never ordered an independent physical.
Having spent the previous eight months preparing himself for the Olympic Games, and loosing 15 pounds in the process, Demps was very likely far from prime football form.
With that in mind, and after investing $211,000 in guaranteed money, the Patriots understandably acted with caution. With a full calendar year in the strength and conditioning program, the hope is to now release this jar of lightning on the league in 2013.
Demps certainly wouldn't be the first Gator to make a big and quick impact for the Pats. In fact, he joins former teammates Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, and Jermaine Cunningham (2008-2009) as Florida alumni collecting on New England's roster.
He racked up 2,470 rushing yards (6.7 YPC) to go along with 23 touchdowns over the course of his four years with Florida. Demps also averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff, but surprisingly he was used very sparingly in the role.
He's also not a highly-touted receiver and relies much more on his straight line speed than his lateral agility. At just 5'7", he isn't going to threaten Stevan Ridley's snaps. They're completely different players.
With that said, he certainly could develop into a dynamic threat on offense given the right circumstances. The free-agency status of third-down back Danny Woodhead will likely influence how that plays out.
One thing is for sure: The Patriots could use a hefty dose of explosiveness on special teams. If the glimpse we got of Demps in last year's preseason was a preview of things to come, they will get just that.
If I were to make an educated and albeit way too early prediction, I'd say Demps is likely to find his way onto the field as both a returner and gadget-type offensive weapon. Think Dexter McCluster or Devin Hester, only with Olympic speed.
Exciting thought, isn't it?