<
>

McCourty rates highly as future star

Devin McCourty hasn't been a safety for very long (he began the 2012 season as the Patriots starting left cornerback), but he settled in to the new spot and played at a high level last season.

And the future for McCourty looks bright, as ESPN Insider's Matt Williamson ranks him as the second best safety for 2016, trailing only Earl Thomas of the Seahawks.

Writes Williamson:

"McCourty entered the league as a first-round pick at cornerback, but has found a home at safety. He also has cornerback versatility, and the Patriots employ him in many different ways, which is a tremendously valuable asset in today's NFL. McCourty will be 29 when the 2016 season starts and still should be a great player who by then will be much more comfortable as a safety. Also by then, he might just lead a Patriots defense that is made up entirely of guys who played at Rutgers."

McCourty bounced back from a difficult 2011 campaign to snag five interceptions and record 82 tackles in 2012. He also further established himself as one of the defensive leaders for the Patriots, often earning the praise of head coach Bill Belichick in that regard.

With Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington expected to serve as the Patriots top cornerback trio, the door is open for McCourty to remain at safety and provide stability for the back half of the defense.

He is currently under contract through the 2014 season, but if he remains on his current trajectory as a player, he strikes as the type of individual the Patriots would want to invest in long-term when the time comes to talk about a new deal.

To see Williamson's full list as part of the "future" series, CLICK HERE (Insider content).