Breakdowns

The More You Can Do: Part 1

The More You Can Do: Part 1
Charles Brensinger worked in the NFL in various Personnel Department roles for nearly a decade. Most recently, he served as a Pro Scout for the Detroit Lions from 2016-2020.

If you’ve ever played or worked in football, you’ve probably been introduced to the phrase “the more you can do.”

“The more you can do” essentially refers to an individual’s ability to create value for a team and job security for themselves due to their willingness and competency to complete a variety of tasks both directly and indirectly related to their position of employment.

The aim of this article is to examine the NFL’s most versatile offensive players in terms of their ability to competently fill roles and complete tasks in ways that are not traditionally expected of players at their given position, and to examine the impact they have on NFL defenses from a matchup and personnel standpoint. I will take a multi-layered approach to uncovering and identifying these players in order to further explore the concept of versatility through a variety of different descriptive lenses.

In this 3-part article, I’ll examine 1) which players function most often out of non-traditional alignments; 2) which players are most often covered by non-traditional defenders; and finally 3) which offenses are defended most often by non-traditional defensive personnel/packages. A top-10 list will be populated for each of the above listed situations.

The definition of versatile, per the Merriam-Webster dictionary is someone or something that is “able to do many different things” or that has “many different uses.” To that end, I will next investigate versatility at the offensive player level by examining how often players are employed in non-traditional alignments, i.e. a HB aligned in the slot or split out wide, as well as their role and productivity in said alignments.

Garbage time was removed from this sample to account for extreme in-game situations, which require a defense to defend the situation as opposed to the personnel. For the purposes of this article, I will examine the offensive skill positions (TE, HB, FB, and WR).


Tight End

  • Alignment: Slot + Wide + QB + Backfield (referred to hereafter as “versatile alignment”).
    • 52 TEs had at least 100 snaps fitting the above criteria during the 2021 regular season
    • TOP 10 SNAPS: TEs with the most “versatile alignment” stats during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: TE Table 1

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERS ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Mike Gesicki Dolphins 88 832 717 86.18% 70.6 51.2 71.9 60 35.7 51.8
Mark Andrews Ravens 89 957 645 67.40% 90.9 90.6 56.9 68.1 63.3
Travis Kelce Chiefs 87 927 561 60.52% 78.1 80 60.9 73.5 41.7
Kyle Pitts Falcons 8 775 512 66.06% 84.6 84.4 68.1 44.6
Zach Ertz Cardinals 86 856 473 55.26% 57.4 59.9 56.2 82.6 37.5
Hunter Henry Patriots 85 794 431 54.28% 72.8 72 46.7 80.6
Dawson Knox Bills 88 916 424 46.29% 58 60 60 46.1 36.3
Jared Cook Chargers 87 651 408 62.67% 55.1 56.7 21.8 29.5
Cole Kmet Bears 85 1043 407 39.02% 59.4 58.2 47.3 70.4
Evan Engram Giants 88 685 405 59.12% 52.7 53.5 56.9 50.4 43.1
Dalton Schultz Cowboys 86 1056 380 35.98% 69.1 67.6 72.1 85.1

***NOTE: Mike Gesiki’s (MIA) “versatile alignment” snaps are such a high percentage of his total snap count that it calls into question whether he is truly a versatile player or rather one-dimensional due his inability to function out of traditional TE alignments. As a result, of the aforementioned findings, I decided to add an additional player, making it a top-11 list.

  • TOP 10 OVERALL PFF GRADES: TEs with at least 100 “versatile alignment” snaps during the 2021 regular season.

The More You Can Do Part I: TE Table 2

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Mark Andrews Ravens 89 957 645 67.40% 90.9 90.6 56.9 68.1 63.3
Kyle Pitts Falcons 8 775 512 66.06% 84.6 84.4 68.1 44.6
George Kittle 49ers 85 851 235 27.61% 83.7 82.9 62.8 63 71.8
Travis Kelce Chiefs 87 927 561 60.52% 78.1 80 60.9 73.5 41.7
Pat Freiermuth Steelers 88 732 182 24.86% 76.9 75.7 70.7 54
Dallas Goedert Eagles 88 796 230 28.89% 74.9 75.6 51.8 42.6
Rob Gronkowski Buccaneers 87 630 196 31.11% 74.7 75.3 67.4 37.9
Hunter Henry Patriots 85 794 431 54.28% 72.8 72 46.7 80.6
Mike Gesicki Dolphins 88 832 717 86.18% 70.6 51.2 71.9 60 35.7 51.8
Darren Waller Raiders 83 611 234 38.30% 69.9 70.5 42.2
Dalton Schultz Cowboys 86 1056 380 35.98% 69.1 67.6 72.1 85.1

The chart directly above, which is comprised of TEs with at least 100 “versatile alignment” snaps and sorted by their overall PFF offensive grade, provides greater value in that it accounts not only for players who align in non-traditional spots often, but also perform at a high-level from those alignments. For the purposes of this study we will consider the players present on both of the above charts (in bold) to be the “most versatile” TEs in the NFL in terms of their frequency of use in non-traditional alignments and their ability to be productive from said alignments, the exception being Mike Gesiki (Dolphins), who is italicized for the reason discussed above.

Most Versatile TEs:

  1. Mark Andrews (Ravens)
  2. Kyle Pitts (Falcons)
  3. Travis Kelce (Chiefs)
  4. Hunter Henry (Patriots)
  5. Dalton Schultz (Cowboys)

Half Back

  • Alignment: Inline + Slot + Wide + QB
    • 51 players who had at least 30 snaps fitting the above criteria during the 2021 regular season (referred to hereafter as “versatile alignment”).
    • TOP 10 SNAPS: HBs with the most “versatile alignment” stats during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: HB Table 2

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Cordarrelle Patterson Falcons 84 486 178 36.63% 86.2 86.7 45 69.4
Nyheim Hines Colts 21 354 128 36.16% 71.4 68 75.5 58.7
Alvin Kamara Saints 41 642 122 19.00% 63.6 63.2 59.9 59.3
Aaron Jones Packers 33 583 120 20.58% 73.8 73.4 58.4
Darrell Henderson Rams 27 493 108 21.91% 51.2 51.3 60
Najee Harris Steelers 22 985 101 10.25% 62 62.8 30.6
Chase Edmonds Cardinals 2 480 96 20.00% 61.2 58.7 67.9 65.8 59.5
J.D. McKissic Commanders 41 338 95 28.11% 71.7 70.9 59.3
Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys 21 796 95 11.93% 51.8 51 62.3
D’Andre Swift Lions 32 548 86 15.69% 61.2 60.6 68.5 58
  • TOP 10 OVERALL PFF GRADES: HBs with at least 30 “versatile alignment” snaps during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: HB Table 2

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Cordarrelle Patterson Falcons 84 486 178 36.63% 86.2 86.7 45 69.4
Aaron Jones Packers 33 583 120 20.58% 73.8 73.4 58.4
James Conner Cardinals 6 601 58 9.65% 73.4 67.5 72.6 70.3 73.7
Chris Evans Bengals 25 87 30 34.48% 73.1 71.6 60
Rex Burkhead Texans 28 358 44 12.29% 71.8 70.5 65.6
J.D. McKissic Commanders 41 338 95 28.11% 71.7 70.9 59.3
Kenneth Gainwell Eagles 14 249 47 18.88% 71.7 70.6 58.4
Nyheim Hines Colts 21 354 128 36.16% 71.4 68 75.5 58.7
Tony Pollard Cowboys 20 353 55 15.58% 70.2 65.1 73.7 60
Kenyan Drake Raiders 23 269 35 13.01% 69.4 71.2 31.4

As in the previous instances, we’ll consider the players located on both charts (in bold) to be the “most versatile” RBs in the NFL in terms of their frequency of use in non-traditional alignments and their ability to be productive from those alignments. In this case the list obviously seems to account more for a RBs ability to provide value in the passing game than it necessarily speaks to his ability to produce as a dual threat (run & pass) option. In order to more fully capture a RBs true versatility, I would have to also incorporate their ability to produce as a runner from more traditional alignments and possibly even examine their ability to pass protect, but that is not really the spirit of this article.

Most Versatile HBs:

  1. Cordarrelle Patterson (Falcons)
  2. Aaron Jones (Packers)
  3. J.D. McKissic (Commanders)
  4. Nyheim Hines (Colts)

Full Back

  • Alignment: Inline + Slot + Wide + QB
    • 11 players who had at least 20 snaps fitting the above criteria during the 2021 regular season (referred to hereafter as “versatile alignment”). 15 players with 10+ “versatile snaps”
    • TOP 10 SNAPS: FBs with the most “versatile alignment” stats during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: FB Table 1

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Patrick Ricard Ravens 42 556 364 65.47% 74.5 50.3 64.6 90.3
Kyle Juszczyk 49ers 44 603 268 44.44% 64.2 63.6 62.1 72.9 61.8
C.J. Ham Vikings 30 380 133 35.00% 81.2 82.2 65.9 74.7
Jason Cabinda Lions 45 142 75 52.82% 58.6 55.1 70.2 61.9
Keith Smith Falcons 40 251 64 25.50% 51.6 58.2 68.5 36.6
Giovanni Ricci Panthers 45 151 56 37.09% 50.6 47.4 71.7 59.5
Derek Watt Steelers 44 88 52 59.09% 80.9 68.7 69.6 77.1
Reggie Gilliam Bills 41 116 46 39.66% 60.4 58.6 73.7 60.1
Jakob Johnson Patriots 47 285 39 13.68% 42.7 50.5 68.2 42.6
      • TOP 10 OVERALL PFF GRADES: FBs with at least 20 “versatile alignment” snaps during the 2021 regular season.

The More You Can Do Part I: FB Table 2

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
C.J. Ham Vikings 30 380 133 35.00% 81.2 82.2 65.9 74.7
Derek Watt Steelers 44 88 52 59.09% 80.9 68.7 69.6 77.1
Patrick Ricard Ravens 42 556 364 65.47% 74.5 50.3 64.6 90.3
Nick Bawden Jets 48 62 32 51.61% 69.4 64.2 73.1 68.3
Kyle Juszczyk 49ers 44 603 268 44.44% 64.2 63.6 62.1 72.9 61.8
Reggie Gilliam Bills 41 116 46 39.66% 60.4 58.6 73.7 60.1
Jason Cabinda Lions 45 142 75 52.82% 58.6 55.1 70.2 61.9
Alec Ingold Raiders 45 140 24 17.14% 56.8 60.9 59.1
Keith Smith Falcons 40 251 64 25.50% 51.6 58.2 68.5 36.6
Giovanni Ricci Panthers 45 151 56 37.09% 50.6 47.4 71.7 59.5

Again, we’ll look to the second of the two charts in order to identify the players that not only align in non-traditional spots often, but also perform at a high-level from those alignments. We’ll consider the players located on both charts (in bold) to be the “most versatile” FBs in the NFL in terms of their frequency of use in non-traditional alignments and their ability to be productive from those alignments. It should noted that I also examined FBs aligned as RBs in single back sets, but found the numbers to be insignificant, with Elijahaa Penny (Giants) and C.J. Ham (Vikings) being the only players to have more than one snap fitting those specifications.

Most Versatile FBs:

  1. C.J. Ham (Vikings)
  2. Derek Watt (Steelers)
  3. Patrick Ricard (Ravens)
  4. Kyle Juszczyk (49ers)
  5. Reggie Gilliam (Bills)
  6. Jason Cabinda (Lions)
  7. Keith Smith (Falcons)
  8. Giovanni Ricci (Panthers)

Wide Receiver

  • Alignment: QB + Backfield (minus victory formation)
    • 13 players who had at least 10 snaps fitting the above criteria during the 2021 regular season (referred to hereafter as “versatile alignment”).”
    • TOP 10 SNAPS: WRs with the most “versatile alignment” stats during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: WR Table 1

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Deebo Samuel 49ers 19 837 78 9.32% 90.6 71 56.9 86.8 69.2 53.1
Ty Montgomery Saints 88 293 75 25.60% 56.8 38.1 68.5 46.5 55.7
Rondale Moore Cardinals 4 411 27 6.57% 73.6 74 70.4 58.9
Demetric Felton Browns 25 130 17 13.08% 59.9 59.1 59.6 75 59.6
Laviska Shenault Jr. Jaguars 10 677 16 2.36% 69 76.3 64.5 76
Isaiah McKenzie Bills 19 240 16 6.67% 60.6 55.2 63.9 54.8
Amon-Ra St. Brown Lions 14 802 14 1.75% 79.7 89.7 72.5 60
Cooper Kupp Rams 10 1002 14 1.40% 71.4 88.9
Jakeem Grant Bears 17 139 14 10.07% 65.8 54.5 68.3 59.6
Darnell Mooney Bears 11 967 14 1.45% 63.3 55.9 64.2 59.4
      • TOP 10 OVERALL PFF GRADES: WRs with at least 10 “versatile alignment” snaps during the 2021 regular season

The More You Can Do Part I: WR Table 2

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS VERSATILE ALIGNMENT VERSATILE ALIGNMENT % VERSATILE ALIGNMENT GRADE PASS GRADE REC GRADE RUSH GRADE PBLK GRADE RBLK GRADE
Deebo Samuel 49ers 19 837 78 9.32% 90.6 71 56.9 86.8 69.2 53.1
Amon-Ra St. Brown Lions 14 802 14 1.75% 79.7 89.7 72.5 60
Jaylen Waddle Dolphins 17 911 11 1.21% 74.7 88.5 62.5 60
Rondale Moore Cardinals 4 411 27 6.57% 73.6 74 70.4 58.9
Cooper Kupp Rams 10 1002 14 1.40% 71.4 88.9
CeeDee Lamb Cowboys 88 880 13 1.48% 70.3 69.8 68.4 60
Laviska Shenault Jr. Jaguars 10 677 16 2.36% 69 76.3 64.5 76
Jakeem Grant Bears 17 139 14 10.07% 65.8 54.5 68.3 59.6
Darnell Mooney Bears 11 967 14 1.45% 63.3 55.9 64.2 59.4
Isaiah McKenzie Bills 19 240 16 6.67% 60.6 55.2 63.9 54.8

In terms of WRs who are capable of aligning in the backfield as either a RB or QB, the players listed below (highlighted in bold on the chart above) represent the most utilized and best producers in that regard. As you can see, the snaps where the examined players lined up in the backfield or at QB accounts for a very small percentage of their overall snap total. Like the RBs discussed above, the WR position is a little bit harder to identify truly versatile players without taking into account their ability to carry out traditional WR duties, including their ability to align as both outside and inside WRs, which we’ll explore in the next chart.

Most Versatile WRs:

  1. Deebo Samuel (49ers)
  2. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Lions)
  3. Rondale Moore (Cardinals)
  4. Cooper Kupp (Rams)
  5. Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Jaguars)
  6. Jakeem Grant (Bears)
  7. Darnell Mooney (Bears)
  8. Isaiah McKenzie (Bills)

WR continued…

  • TOP 10 PFF GRADES: WRs with the most even wide/slot alignment distribution + highest PFF grade
    • 343.45 total snaps is the average in the NFL. [Filter: Greater than or equal to 343]
    • 158.10 snaps is the average difference between wide and slot targets across the NFL. [Filter: Less than or equal to 158]

The More You Can Do Part I: WR Table 3

Name Team # TOTAL SNAPS OFF GRADE BACKFIELD + QB SNAPS WIDE SNAPS WIDE % SLOT SNAPS SLOT % W/S DIFF ATT TGT
Tyreek Hill Chiefs 10 847 85 4 419 49.47% 414 48.88% 5 9 161
Jaylen Waddle Dolphins 17 890 78.7 11 401 45.06% 477 53.60% 76 2 147
Keenan Allen Chargers 13 955 77.8 3 401 41.99% 548 57.38% 147 0 159
Darnell Mooney Bears 11 939 76.2 14 517 55.06% 408 43.45% 109 6 137
Robert Woods Rams 2 508 74.5 6 309 60.83% 178 35.04% 131 8 61
Russell Gage Falcons 14 587 74.1 1 329 56.05% 254 43.27% 75 0 87
Jakobi Meyers Patriots 16 920 73.6 1 398 43.26% 515 55.98% 117 1 126
Kendrick Bourne Patriots 84 562 73 6 342 60.85% 213 37.90% 129 12 68
Mecole Hardman Chiefs 17 593 70.6 9 257 43.34% 321 54.13% 64 8 83
Byron Pringle Chiefs 13 566 67.5 0 253 44.70% 294 51.94% 41 0 59

The players in the chart above display versatility in a more traditional sense at the WR position. The above players represent the highest graded WRs who also possess the most even wide/slot alignment distribution. Only one player, Darnell Mooney (Bears), is represented in the top-10 on all 3 of the WR charts.