Just How Valuable Are Edelman, Hightower, and McCourty To The Patriots?

Even the casual Patriots fan knows how important Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty, and Dont’a Hightower are to the Patriots Super Bowl chances.

Hightower is arguably the team’s best player on defense, and is most certainly the best run defender they have in the front seven.

Edelman might be less valuable than Brady and Gronkowski, but is the clear cut third on the Patriots offense.

Devin McCourty is a team captain, and his versatility in the secondary gives Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia all sorts of unique ways to defend the opposing offense.

These are things we all know, but the goal here is to take the next step and show just how valuable those three are to the team.

Julian Edelman (pct of snaps since 2013: 82.3) : Most national media have chalked Edelman up to being a slot guy that’s perfect for what Tom Brady does well. That’s definitely true on some levels, but he’s actually a more dynamic and versatile player than he is given credit for. Edelman was having a career year prior to his foot injury, and was keeping pace with some of the top wideouts in the NFL. His value to the Patriots offense and Tom Brady is pretty staggering:

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Dont’a Hightower (pct of snaps since 2012: 76.4): Hightower is one of the best young linebackers in the league today. He has a great combination of speed and strength, and when he gets downhill can be extremely disruptive at the point of attack. Hightower is also the signal caller on defense, which was something that cost the Patriots in the 2nd half against Denver. Some of the players noted after that game that they were in the wrong play call a few times on some of the Broncos big runs. The sample size is smaller with Hightower, so the numbers aren’t as staggering, but against the run especially the Patriots suffer big time without him:

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Devin McCourty (pct of snaps since 2010: 92.0): McCourty has been extremely durable in his six years in the league. He has missed just three games in his career, and one of those games he got a veterans day off in Week 17, 2013. How about this for a stat? Since his rookie season in 2010, McCourty has played in nearly 92% of the Patriots plays on defense. His value might not be quantified in numbers like Hightower and Edelman, but rather just in the fact that the Patriots haven’t played a lot without McCourty since drafting him in the first round in 2010. When the Pats moved McCourty to safety he played a lot of deep zone in the middle of the field. This season, they have been able to use him more as a matchup based weapon and a robber in the middle of the field in cover-1. McCourty has basically been a cross between a corner and safety, which has been huge for the Pats due to their lack of depth at the CB position. McCourty missed his second straight practice on Thursday, so the Patriots will have to get used to life without DMC.  

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