With Danny Woodhead going to San Diego and Julian Edelman visiting other teams, New England’s return game has an uncertain future. Yes, the Pats signed Leon Washington, but the former Seahawk is 30 years old, which typically qualifies as the running back/returner Rubicon.
The good news? The 2013 draft has many special teams candidates who should remain available late on Day Three.
Reggie Dunn, Utah WR (5-10, 172) Dunn may have sprinted out of the Pats’ draft range, as he blazed the best 40-yard dash time of this spring in 4.25 seconds. Dunn was named an All-American kickoff returner, for good reason. Though he brought back only 10 kickoffs this past season, Dunn scored four touchdowns and averaged over 51 yards per return.
Dunn also showed some versatility in a down year for the Utes, catching 12 passes for 74 yards and rushing 13 times for 58 yards.
Drew Terrell, Stanford WR (5-10, 179) As a punt returner, Terrell averaged 12.1 yards this past season (24 for 291) and took one back for a touchdown vs. Duke. He also caught 33 passes for 463 yards (14.0 average) and four TDs.
Terrell was named MVP of the Casino Del Sol College All-Star game in January, setting up a touchdown for the West squad with a 49-yard reception and returning a punt 39 yards.
Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State WR (5-10, 196) Bumphis led the Bulldogs in receiving in 2012 with 58 catches for 922 yards (15.9 average) and 12 touchdowns. Though his special teams play diminished as his receiving role increased, Bumphis caught kicks and punts throughout his MSU career. As a junior, he returned eight punts for 133 yards and a TD. As a freshman, he brought back 16 kickoffs for 383 yards.
Quincy McDuffie, Central Florida WR (5-9, 176) An All-Conference USA selection as special teams player of the year, McDuffie brought back three kicks for TDs in 2012 and had a 34.2-yard return average that led the nation (Dunn’s average did not count as he fell short of the minimum 1.2 returns/game).
McDuffie’s speed (4.43-second 40 on his pro day) came into play all year for the Knights. He had 19 rushes for 170 yards (8.9 average) and three touchdowns, and 28 catches for 350 yards (12.5 average) and three touchdowns.
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn RB (5-10, 168) McCalebb ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the combine and looks like a solid special teams prospect after averaging 22.7 yards per kickoff return (23 for 523) and taking back one kick 100 yards for a touchdown.
McCalebb averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 2012 (94 for 570) and 7.3 yards per reception (18 for 132).
Michael Ford, LSU RB (5-10, 210) Ford left LSU after his junior season in light of some academic issues, which means he will come cheap to an NFL team looking for an athletic running back/returner. Last year, Ford averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff return (20 for 549), including an 86-yarder that helped tilt the balance in a tight game vs. Arkansas.
Ford also had a 5.5-yard rushing average for the Tigers (71 for 392).
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State RB (5-6, 190) And you thought Woodhead was a short dude. Though Rouse did little on special teams for the Bulldogs, he gets a mention for his productivity. Rouse rushed for 1,490 yards in 2012 at a 5.3-yard clip, scoring 12 TDs on the ground. He also ranked second on the team in receptions with 63 for 435 yards (6.9 average) and two TDs.
You can email Chris Warner and say howdy at firstname.lastname@example.org