Player versatility is the cornerstone of the New Orleans Saints. Under Payton's watchful eye, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Alvin Kamara have showcased their various rushing, receiving, and overall playmaking skills.
Gil Brandt, the Godfather, and legendary former NFL executive ranked the most versatile players in the National Football League. There's little argument against the two Saints players selected by Brandt, other than the players they rank behind.
New Orleans' Alvin Kamara (3rd) and Taysom Hill (4th) ranked behind Carolina's Jeremy Chinn (1st) and Christian McCaffrey (2nd) on Brandt's list. Interestingly enough, he gave the top four spot to players from the NFC South.
So, where's the argument? I believe two additional Saints players were inconveniently left off the ranks of most versatile. Those players are New Orleans' DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson, aka "Ceedy Duce," and All-Pro WR/KR Deonte Harris.
No. 3 - ALVIN KAMARA
Kamara's 2020 alone should have had him at Brandt's top spot. In 15 games, he scored 21 touchdowns (16 rushing, 5 receiving), 932 rushing yards (5.0 yards/carry), 756 receiving yards (9.1 yards/reception), and was targeted 107 times by Saints quarterbacks in the offense.
The former 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year is a defensive coordinator's nightmare. He burned you on the ground or air with his speed, strength, instincts, and dangerous playmaking ability.
After drafting Kamara in the 2017 NFL Draft's third-round, Sean Payton raved and compared him to a Hall of Fame versatile running back and native of New Orleans, Marshall Faulk. "There's some traits that Kamara has that remind me (of Faulk) in regards to his intelligence, his ability to run routes," said Sean Payton.
Brandt on Kamara:
"There's no question the Saints' selection of Kamara in the 2017 NFL Draft made the final four years of Drew Brees' career a lot easier than they would have been otherwise."
No. 4 - TAYSOM HILL
Whether or not Taysom Hill becomes the primary signal-caller in 2021 doesn't negate his overall importance in the Saints' offensive attack. Hill is a "throwback football player" who can play multiple positions - offense and special teams.
If given a chance, you have to wonder how effective he could be at safety or linebacker as well. He throws, catches, runs, kick returns, blocks, tackles, and creates havoc on special teams - there's nothing he cannot do on a football field. In a different football era, Hill's performance would be legendary.
Based on the various positions Taysom Hill can perform for New Orleans, he could have been No. 1 on Brandt's list as well as Kamara.
Brandt on Taysom Hill:
"The term Swiss Army Knife gets tossed around a lot, but it has hardly fit a player better than it fits Hill, who has lined up at not one but four different offensive positions — quarterback, running back, tight end, and receiver — in his NFL career."
Here are the two Saints players worthy of inclusion on Brandt's list, but missed the cut.
C.J. GARDNER-JOHNSON - CEEDY DUCE
Like Chinn, C.J. Gardner-Johnson can play versatile positions in the Saints defensive secondary. The 5-11 and 210 pounds defensive back takes on 6-3+ tall tight ends along with speedy and shifty slot receivers since his rookie campaign. He has the football insight and confidence to play outside receivers and become a linebacker playing in the box. He has accounted for 11 tackles for losses, 21 passes defended, two interceptions, and one sack.
Brandt overlooked Gardner-Johnson. If you compare Gardner-Johnson's first season to Chinn's, here's the breakdown:
|First-Season Stats||C.J. Gardner-Johnson||Jeremy Chinn|
Tackles for Losses
Both players have pretty similar stats in their first seasons in the league. Chinn had one more fumble and two recovered fumbles for two touchdowns, but they are scarily mirroring one another.
While on the playing field, his physical style and skillful trash-talk had led to wide receivers losing their cool and getting penalized in games.
2021 will be different without former defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn, but just as enjoyable with new position coach Kris Richard.
DEONTE HARRIS - THE DANGEROUS ALL-PRO
All-Pro as a kick returner and lightening like speed as a wideout makes Deonte Harris a viable candidate for most versatile player consideration. Not only is he a catalyst for the big play on special teams, but he has also matured on offense as a deep threat and off-scheduled rusher.
Harris has rushed ten times for 82 yards with an 8.2 yards per rush average. He's become difficult to defend in open space — he can stop on a dime and quickly transition to another gear.
New Orleans usage of Harris on offense increase somewhat in 2020. The QBs targeted him 31 times for 26 receptions, 210 yards, and one touchdown.
Deonte Harris had workouts with quarterback Jameis Winston this offseason. Winston chose him, Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and other players to connect and bond during the downtime. Harris is another dangerous weapon Sean Payton can deploy on the opposition. We will soon witness how explosive Harris can become with quarterbacks who can pass the football downfield with more frequency and accuracy.