It almost goes without saying, but the New England Patriots, more than almost any other team in the league, value versatility in their players. That being said, this morning, Scouts Inc's Gary Horton published his list of the AFC's top 10 "most versatile players." The Patriots led all teams, with three total players checking in on the list.
Horton had Aaron Hernandez rank third:
He is an integral part of their innovative two-TE packages and had 79 catches last season. He can line up inside in the traditional position, motion or flex to the outside and line up on the edge like a WR. The coaches have added a new wrinkle to his game by lining him up in the backfield, mostly as a receiver, but occasionally as a runner. There is a concern about him taking too many hits that way, but when he is in the backfield, how does a defense cover him? Is he treated as a RB or a TE?
At fourth, he had Nate Solder:
He was a tight end in college, but his transition to offensive tackle in New England has been very smooth, mostly on the right side. He now moves to LT to replace the retired Matt Light as Tom Brady's blindside pass protector. Bill Belichick loves creativity in his red zone/goal-line packages, and Solder is a perfect fit at the TE position where he can block or release as a receiver in the same role that Mike Vrabel had for so many years for the Patriots.
Finally, Julian Edelman checked in at tenth:
He is the ultimate "jack-of-all-trades" player, and we know that Belichick really values players who can multitask. He was a QB in college, but for the Pats he can line up at RB, WR, CB on defense and even contribute on special teams as a punt returner and kick return specialist. He is not a game changer in any specific area, but he is a guy that you can plug in to give you a few plays without the risk of a big mistake.
So what do you think of these rankings? Who do you think are the Patriots most versatile players? I think Hernandez and Edelman are appropriately placed, although I'm not entirely sure about Solder. He was certainly impressive with his ability to play both tackle spots, something I was unsure if he could do coming out of college. However, when he played at tight end, he rarely, if ever, actually released. While they're rather unlikely to get recognition, the players that I believe could have been ranked above him include Dan Connolly, who can play all three interior line positions as well as fullback, as well as Rob Ninkovich, who can factor in at any linebacker position in the 3-4 or 4-3, as well as at defensive end.