13 Young NFL Players Who Bring the Most Versatility to Their Teams
The NFL is all about getting bang for your buck, and these young players give their teams exactly that, serving numerous responsibilities that help their unit every week.
Each player on this list is serving in their first or second NFL season, but they're already contributing like veterans, and their unselfish play has been a huge asset to their respective teams.
Read on to see which well-rounded youngsters deserve more recognition for the roles that they're playing in spite of their lack of experience.
QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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In Cam Newton's rookie season, he has broken the record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and surpassed Peyton Manning's record for most passing yards by a rookie.
Newton's progressed as an efficient quarterback who creates more big plays than any player in the NFL, turning the Panthers' last ranked offense into the league's most explosive.
Given time, he can be the most versatile quarterback ever to play the game.
QB Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos
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There will be those who feel Tebow does not deserve to be on this list, but there would be even more who would complain if he was left out. He's an extremely controversial player, but one thing is for sure—he's turned the Broncos offense into something special.
Having a "special" offense doesn't necessarily mean it has to be the most productive, but Tebow has helped turn the Broncos into the top rushing team in the NFL, and although his role in their wins has been overblown, he has undoubtedly made some clutch plays that the majority of NFL quarterbacks would not have been able to make.
RB Ryan Mathews, San Diego
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Mathews could not stay on the field in his rookie season, but he's only missed one game in 2011 and has been a dual threat as a receiver and a productive rusher.
Since LaDainian Tomlinson left San Diego, they've been unable to fill the void that gave this offense its identity, but with Mathews' ascension, that could change.
He's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and has 50 receptions for 455 yards on the season.
WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
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Cobb has slowed down since an amazing NFL debut, but he remains a threat that opposing teams have to keep track of.
He's come on lately as an effective slot receiver, and next season, he could see an increased role and gain even more media attention.
However, for the time being, Cobb makes his money in the return game. He's averaging nearly 30 yards per kickoff return and over 11 per punt return—an accomplishment in itself.
Add to that two return touchdowns and you have yourself a player who can impact any game in a way that few players have the ability to.
WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Antonio Brown has quietly climbed his way past the millennium mark for receiving yards, and he's also been a great return man for this Pittsburgh team that has been one of the more consistent teams this season, due in part to this man.
Brown is undersized, standing at 5'10", but he's used his athleticism to total 17 catches of over 20 yards on the season.
He's also averaging 27.7 yards per kick return in addition to a touchdown that he created on a punt return.
TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
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Rob Gronkowski is only in his second professional season, but he's taken the league by storm with 1,219 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
"Gronk" is clearly a great receiver, despite his lack of speed, but he's an underrated blocker as well.
He's a hard-nosed tight end that plays with attitude that has been a lost art at the position since the days of Mike Ditka and Mark Bavaro.
DE Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns
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Jabaal Sheard is another player who lacks attention because he plays on a bad team.
In his rookie season, he's been a force at defensive end, totaling 7.5 sacks on the season.
Sheard doubles as a great run stuffer as well. He sheds blocks well and delivers on impact. He has five forced fumbles and has played much smarter football than he did in his college career at Pittsburgh.
DE Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Adrian Clayborn and teammate Da'Quan Bowers have been thrown into the starting lineup in Tampa Bay immediately, and while Bowers has struggled to adapt, Clayborn has excelled and looks to be a mainstay on the defensive line for this team.
Coming out of college, we all knew what he was capable of when defending the run. He has excellent strength and plays with solid leverage, but his lack of explosiveness led to questioning of whether or not he could rush the passer in the NFL.
He's answered the call, with 7.5 sacks on the season to go along with three force fumbles.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
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Following an inconsistent rookie season, Pierre-Paul has stepped up for the Giants and has a chance to win Defensive Player of the Year in this—his second NFL season.
Pierre-Paul is extremely athletic and constantly disrupts quarterbacks by interrupting their passing lanes using his 6'5" height and long wingspan—he also blocked a potential game-tying kick against Dallas to put the game away in Week 14—a play that could be responsible for putting the Giants in the playoffs.
With 15.5 sacks on the season and 81 tackles, Pierre-Paul is a versatile player that has Hall of Fame talent.
OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins
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Ryan Kerrigan started out fast when in his rookie debut, he returned an interception for a touchdown, but he proved to be capable of much more over the course of the season.
Kerrigan got to the quarterback for 7.5 sacks and forced four fumbles.
He's played the 3-4 outside linebacker position but is versatile enough to play defensive end in a 4-3 and with some added bulk, in the 3-4.
ILB Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys
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Before being slowed down by a midseason injury, Sean Lee was on a torrid pace, with three interceptions in his team's first five games.
He plays with great instincts and was playing very well in coverage, despite an underwhelming amount of athleticism.
In the Cowboys' 3-4 defense, he's played well within the scheme.
With 94 tackles on the season, he's the leader on this team not only in the box score but vocally as well.
SS Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks
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Kam Chancellor has contributed to his team in about as many ways as you'd imagine a strong safety can.
He's picked off four passes, forced two fumbles, been an effective blitzer and he leads his team in solo tackles.
Chancellor has been asked to do a lot for a second-year player, but he's been the glue that has held together a very underrated Seattle defense. He's steadily improved in coverage to the point where he can be counted on as the team's future alongside free safety Earl Thomas.
CB Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
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Patrick Peterson, the 2011 NFL draft's fifth overall pick, has contributed in more ways than one for Arizona and has set the example of how a young player should strive to get on the field and help their team win in any way possible.
With four punt return touchdowns, Peterson has been elected to the Pro Bowl as a returner, but his defensive play hasn't been poor. He's been physical in run support, and his athleticism has allowed him to make plays all over the field.
With two interceptions and 13 passes deflected, Peterson has established himself as one of the most versatile young players in the NFL.