The New England Patriots have one of the strongest secondaries in the league and they owe a lot of their success to the ability and versatility of safety Devin McCourty.
McCourty is a former All Pro cornerback, turned All Pro free safety, and last year he was asked to play a little more of a hybrid safety role as Duron Harmon played more of the deep safety position in three-safety sets.
Few players offer as much flexibility as McCourty, who is able to play at a high level wherever he lines up. For that, Pro Football Focus ranked him the 4th-best safety heading into the 2018 NFL season.
Superstars have come and gone from the New England Patriots defense, but McCourty has been ever present since being drafted with the 27th overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. Initially a cornerback, the former Rutgers star moved to safety during the 2012 season and has been dominant ever since. Over the past six years he has produced an elite PFF grade of 90.5 or higher three times, and always at 82.6 or higher.
The Patriots captain isn’t as flashy of a player as those other three. Smith has 7 interceptions, 17 passes defended, 5 sacks, and a forced fumble over the past three seasons. Collins has 8 interceptions, 28 passes defended, 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Early Thomas has 9 interceptions, 25 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. Smith and Collins each have a defensive score, while Thomas has two.
McCourty has 3 interceptions, 17 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, and 2 sacks. He’s only been to one Pro Bowl since his All Pro rookie season at cornerback. And yet he’s still such an important part of this Patriots team and defense.
He doesn’t need the statistical production to show his value to this team. Every since he moved to safety, the Patriots coverage ability flipped a switch and became one of the best in the league. He deters quarterbacks from throwing in his direction and he can cover any offensive player the other team puts on the field (if needed!).
I’m expecting a big year from McCourty in 2018 and I think he’ll live up to this top 5 billing.