If you are a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, then you know all about the effect Patrick Peterson had on the team during his rookie season. Not only was he the best cornerback the team had on the field, but he was the most dynamic punt returner that, quite possibly, we have ever seen don a Cardinals uniform. He returned a total of four punt returns for touchdowns last year, three of them proving to be pivotal in their respective games.
ESPN just published an insider article listing the top 10 most versatile players in the NFC. Not only did Peterson easily make the list, but two of his NFC West rivals joined him.
Here is what Gary Horton from Scouts, Inc. had to say about Peterson's versatility. Peterson was put as the 4th most versatile player in the NFC:
As a rookie last season, most of his game-changing plays were on special teams, as he became the first player in NFL history to record four punt returns of more than 80 yards in one season. As a starting corner, he struggled early with some mental lapses and up-and-down cover skills, but he seems to be getting better and has rare burst and explosiveness. Big improvement in man-to-man coverage is expected in 2012.
If Peterson can improve his coverage skills next season --which is being expected out of him-- he could be one of the most valuable players in the entire league.
Joining Peterson were Ted Ginn Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers and Leon Washington, a member of Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks. We saw the effects of the 49ers not having Ginn readily available to them in the playoffs last season. Former Arizona State Sun Devil, Kyle Williams struggled in return duty, fumbling two away and quite possibly, costing the 49ers a Super Bowl berth. Ginn is an incredibly speedy player that never lived up to his draft hype, but as a returner, he is on par with the best of them. That is why he made fifth place in Horton's rankings.
Lastly, Leon Washington has had his fair share of success as a kick returner and he earned 10th most versatile player in the NFC for it. Yes, he can break away plays as a running back as well, but his success mostly comes on special teams. As Horton states, look for him to have an even more expanded role with the 'Hawks this season.
Needless to say, each one of these players are good at returning the football on kickoffs and punts, but it is what they are able to do in almost every department that makes them special.