The Patriots’ NFL Pro Bowl honorees have been announced, and three of them won’t surprise you – but the fourth is a first-timer. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Matthew Slater have been named AFC Pro Bowlers once again, while fullback James Develin has received the first nod of his career.
Develin has made his first Pro Bowl in his fifth season in six years the NFL. He’s played 29.9 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps, a high number for a fullback, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. He has bounced back in a big way since missing all of 2015 due to injury.
He’s also caught the occasional pass from Brady, including a touchdown in the 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Colts.
James Develin becomes the first Patriots fullback selected since Sam Cunningham in 1978. The 29-year-old spent three seasons on the Patriots practice squad before making the NFL roster in 2012 and played in all 16 games in 2013-2014 and 2016. He’s played in all 14 Patriots games so far in 2017.
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Brady’s Pro Bowl selection is his ninth straight and the 13th of his career, passing John Hannah for the franchise record. He enters Week 16 leading the NFL in passing yards (4,163) and completions (346) to go with 28 touchdown passes, just seven interceptions, and a 104.0 passer rating.
Gronkowski is in the midst of another outstanding campaign as the Patriots’ No. 1 tight end, catching 64 passes for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns in 12 games. The 28-year-old has now been named to the Pro Bowl five times.
Slater, meanwhile, now has seven career Pro Bowl nods as a special teams player. That ties Steve Tasker for the most all-time at the position. He earned an early Christmas present with a $150,000 bonus for once again making the Pro Bowl. The special teams captain’s seventh nod comes despite playing in just seven games this season.
It’s unclear whether any of the Patriots will actually participate in the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl, which takes place on Sunday, Jan. 28 at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. It would be highly unlikely for any of them to play if the Patriots make the Super Bowl. Brady hasn’t played in a Pro Bowl game since 2005.