Versatility is the buzzword of the week

Prospects who can play multiple positions and fill a variety of roles have always carried extra value in the draft. Those qualities are becoming even more important as the game evolves.

 Jeremy Maclin and Derrick Williams have the kinds of versatile skills scouts are looking for this year. (Getty Images)

Jeremy Maclin and Derrick Williams have the kinds of versatile skills scouts are looking for this year. (Getty Images)

The Patriots are known for putting a premium on guys that are able to line up anywhere on the field and with the recent proliferation of the ‘Wildcat’, more and more teams are making versatility a priority.

Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff, who came from New England, talked about how the ‘Wildcat’ has made versatility a major plus at the skill positions.

“To have versatility in this league is huge at many positions: offensive line, defensive line. But when you get that receiver/skill position guy, who has versatility to run it out of the backfield, to me that holds a whole different dimension,” Dimitroff noted.

The increased focus on such dynamic dual-threat players could work in the favor of prospects like Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin and Penn State’s Derrick Williams.

Maclin was one of the best playmakers at the college level over the past two years, excelling as a receiver, rusher and returner. Maclin had 102 receptions for 1,260 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns for the Tigers. He had more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage.

“Every time I touch the ball I look for the end zone. Whether it be receiving, running, kick return or punt returning, I look to change the game,” Maclin said.

Williams played quarterback in high school and was utilized by the Nittany Lions in a variety of ways.

One play he lined up in the backfield, the next he might swing out wide and then on third down he could slide into the slot. He also returned kicks and punts.

Williams said his versatility allows him to fit into any scheme, “I can help a team out in many different ways. I think coaches like that. They see a player they can put inside, outside, in the backfield, at quarterback. I don’t think it’s just for the wildcat, it’s for regular offense too.”

So while the league is far from going back to the old days where players played both ways, there is certainly a sense that being able to excel at more than one skill is becoming a significant advantage for prospects.

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