The NFL is entering an era where the word positionless is a positive. It's becoming more popular to have players who can play multiple postions. Bills head coach Sean McDermott believes versatility is a strength that every roster needs. Thankfully, the Bills are made up of several players who offer position flexibility. Here's a list of six versatile players to keep an eye on this preseason.
WR Stefon Diggs
By now we all know Stefon Diggs is one of the best receivers in the NFL. He hasn't graced Buffalo with his presence yet, but in due time we will see him line up against Tre'Davious White in training camp. Diggs is dynamic. He may not be lining up as an offensive lineman anytime soon, but he has proven he's more than a deep threat receiver.
Based on Diggs' Next Gen Stats player chart, the wide receiver lined up all over the line of scrimmage last season. Diggs has experience lining up as an X, Z and slot receiver. At each position Diggs has excelled, catching the ball in tight windows. The wide receiver went from lining up mostly in the slot in 2016, producing 903 receiving yards to being considered mostly as a deep ball receiver in 2019. Last season he recorded 1,130 receiving yards, averaging 17.9 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns. The Bills will use Diggs all over the line to expose mismatches. Another thing to note, his versatility opens up the field for all other offensive skill players. His position flexibility will help provide opportunity to his teammates.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
If you look at Tremaine Edmunds body, it's easy to see how he's versatile. Standing tall at 6-5 and weighing 250 pounds, Edmunds doesn't fit the standard middle linebacker body type. Edmunds has the height and speed to be a force on the outside, but on the inside he is an immediate mismatch. As Edmunds continues to grow with experience, he will fall more into the category of a positionless player over the years. In two seasons he has demonstrated his ability to cover a lot of ground, like a massive amount.
Due to Edmunds stature, he can be used in the box or on the perimeter. His lanky arms and frame give him length like a defensive end to bat down a pass or reach for the quarterback. His speed, whether on the inside or outside, gives him the ability to run stride for stride with tight ends and running backs. The power he packs in 250 pounds is on display in blitz and gap assignments. Due to his experience in college, Edmunds can play all three linebacker positions. As his knowledge of the defense grows, the middle linebacker is expected to be even more versatile this season.
DL Quinton Jefferson
The Bills and Quinton Jefferson were a pretty perfect partnership. Why? The Bills wanted Jefferson because of the versatility he offered. One reason Jefferson wanted to come to Buffalo was because he would be used in more than one position on the defensive line. Jefferson will be an important piece to a defensive line that likes to rotate players sometimes similar to a hockey line change.
The defensive lineman can play the six-tech, five-tech, three-tech and nose. That's something not too many defensive lineman can offer at an elite level. Jefferson says the three-tech is his favorite, especially in rush situations. In 2019, the Bills defense struggled when two running backs were on the field. Jefferson will help solidify the Bills run defense as a known run-stuffer. Per Next Gen Stats, he led the Seahawks in QB pressure rate among interior defensive lineman in the last two seasons. Jefferson pressured the QB at a rate of 8.5% in 2018 and 9.6% in 2019. The defensive lineman can win against tackles and guards, posting 6.5 sacks, 61 total tackles, nine tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits over the last two seasons. Jefferson's versatility is an important piece to strengthening the defensive line this season.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
Isaiah McKenzie displays skills beyond what is required from a wide receiver. He's not on the field for every offensive snap, but McKenzie adds another wrinkle to the offense. The wide receiver has speed that's hard to stop. This speed is an advantage for the Bills and was used on the outside, in the slot and at running back.
The wide receiver is the team's favorite player to use for jet sweeps. Last season, McKenzie averaged 9.4 yards per reception and 6.1 yards per carry. McKenzie is used as a swiss army knife in the Bills offense, being called upon when they need a play to ignite the offense. The wide receiver is also dynamic because of what he brings to the special teams room. McKenzie returned three kickoffs last season averaging 21.7 yards per return. Against the Jets in Week 17, McKenzie proved he might be one of the most versatile players on the team by playing in all three phases of the game. The receiver may not be Buffalo's WR1, but the way he brings explosive plays to the offense with his unique style of play is quite beneficial.
LB Matt Milano
Similar to Edmunds, Matt Milano bends the expectations of a linebacker. Unlike Edmunds, you don't look at Milano and wonder if he also doubles as a defensive end. Milano is -'0 and 223 pounds. It's the linebacker's past that gives him versatility. Milano played safety in high school up until his sophomore year at Boston College.
With quickness and a mind like a safety, Milano can drop into coverage and run fluidly with any tight end or running back. He can be used in the box and on the perimeter. In 2019, he racked up nine passes defended, one and a half sacks and 92 total tackles. These numbers show just how versatile he can be in Buffalo's defense. Many call him one of the most underrated players on the team, without him the defense wouldn't be as athletic.
S Jordan Poyer
Safety Jordan Poyer is unlike many other safeties in the NFL. Simply put, he can do far more than an average safety. Poyer takes pride in his versatility. It's tough to describe the tandem of Poyer and Micah Hyde as just safeties because of their roles on defense.
The duo poses a threat of confusing any opposing offense. There aren't many in the league like Poyer and Hyde. The two are keen on exposing any mismatch. Poyer can rush the quarterback, play up on the line and out of position. He will make athletic plays wherever he is put on the field. In 2019, Poyer had two interceptions, one sack, three forced fumbles, three passes defensed and 91 total tackles. McDermott looks at the safeties as the quarterback of the defense, just like the middle linebacker. The safety's multifaceted play is one reason the Bills defense is so difficult to crack.