New England Patriots: 6 most valuable players

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5. Dont’a Hightower

Like I said, Collins made the PFF All-Pro Second Team. Well, there was a New England linebacker who forced his way on to the PFF All-Pro First Team. And his name describes a tower that is tall.

In his third NFL season, Hightower corrected mistakes he made as a rookie and sophomore and really took-on the leadership role of the injured Jerod Mayo. Despite missing four games in the regular season, Hightower racked up 61 tackles, six sacks, a pair of passes defended and a forced fumble.

Hightower’s value extends beyond the stat line, however. He is a commanding presence in the middle, looking every bit the part of the former wearer of the Patriots’ No. 54 jersey, Tedy Bruschi.

A testament to Hightower’s commitment to winning and his toughness was the fact that he endured the postseason run with a bum shoulder. There’s no doubt that he was playing through pain in January and February, but if it weren’t for his ten tackles in those three games (including his vital stop of Marshawn Lynch on the goal line), the Patriots probably wouldn’t be entering 2015 as defending champs.

A few days ago, Hightower was seen without the red no-contact jersey that he had been sporting for all of training camp.

That’s some very good news, indeed.

Next: 4. Julian Edelman