The New England Patriots focus more resources on special teams play than probably any other team in the league. The coverage unit is annually one of the best in the league and head coach Bill Belichick will invest draft picks in pure special teams players, instead of giving the special teams coordinator the back-ups that couldn’t crack the starting line-up.
One player that emerged as a star last season was undrafted rookie Brandon King. King was noted for his versatility at Auburn, where he lined up everywhere from defensive tackle to safety, and Belichick viewed that as a major bonus for his projected special teams ability.
The 6’2, 220-pound King was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster prior to the week 5 match-up against the Cowboys and featured as one of the Patriots leading gunners for the rest of the season. He collected 12 tackles and a forced fumble and earned the respect of one of the team leaders.
“I think [King] can be as good as he wants to be,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said during a press conference on Wednesday. “I really do believe that. I've been around the game for a long time now, and I can honestly say that I haven't seen too many guys as talented as him from a physical standpoint. I think the good Lord has given him some excellent physical gifts.”
King is a freakish athlete with a 4.49 40 yard dash, a 38 inch vertical jump, and a 10’6 broad jump. For comparison, Slater runs a 4.44 40 yard dash, has a 33 inch vertical jump, and a 10’1 broad jump, while weighing 20 pounds less than King.
“I tell Brandon 'When I was a rookie I wasn't doing the things you're doing', so I really think the sky's the limit for Brandon,” Slater added. “I think he believes that, he knows that, he's been working with purpose, and I'm excited to see what he's going to do and the type of career he's going to have.”
King joined Slater, Nate Ebner, Jonathan Bostic as the pure-special teams specialists in 2015 and he will likely assume a more critical role with Ebner off at the Olympics and Bostic no longer on the roster.
“You don't necessarily have to be Randy Moss or Tedy Bruschi,” Slater said about finding his place on the Patriots roster. “You can be Larry Izzo if need be and try to carve out your role in the third phase of the game.”
King looks to be the next star in a long line of key Patriots special teams players.