CFB Player Bracket: Marlon Humphrey vs. Jourdan Lewis
Up next in our College 101 Bracket, we have the battle of two of the nation’s best cornerbacks in Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis and Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey. Lewis was the best member of a Wolverines’ secondary that was the second-highest graded in football. The only one higher? The Crimson Tide’s. While Cyrus Jones got the attention at Bama’s other corner spot, Humphrey actually graded higher than him this season.
These are two of the best defensive players in college football right now, but only one can advance. Who’s it going to be?
The case for Marlon Humphrey
Last season, only six corners had a higher overall production grade than Humphrey (Lewis was one of them, with the No. 1 overall grade among CBs). He was targeted 62 times and allowed 31 of those to be caught for 539 yards and just two touchdowns. He added three interceptions and seven passes defended. He was especially effective from Week 11 onward, when he allowed just 9 of 21 passes to be completed for only 158 yards and no touchdowns, adding two interceptions and three passes defended. His coverage and overall grades were both the highest among all corners during that span.
One of the biggest cases for Humphrey was the infrequency in which he allowed receptions. While his completion percentage of 50 percent isn’t as low as some other corners, it’s a slightly misleading number in this case. Humphrey averaged 18.0 coverage snaps per reception, which was the 18th-best mark among corners last year. He was rarely beaten badly, and on deep throws he frequently showed the ability to run with his man and stay on the inside, often finishing by making a play like the one seen here.
The case for Jourdan Lewis
Not much of a case needs to be made for why Lewis is one of the best defensive players in all of college football. Simply put, he was the highest-graded corner in college football last season. He was targeted a ridiculously high 90 times and allowed just 33 passes for 416 yards and a touchdown, and produced two interceptions and a whopping 15 passes defensed. That was the highest number of passes defensed in the country.
While his 12.6 yards per reception allowed wasn’t the lowest number, he allowed a mere 3.8 yards after the catch per reception, and missed just two tackles in the passing game. In other words, he was extremely adept at keeping everything in front of him.
The sheer discrepancy between how often Lewis was targeted and how often he allowed a catch is one of the biggest cases for him to advance. His 4.6 cover snaps per target was the seventh-highest mark in the nation, but he averaged 12.4 cover snaps per reception. While that number didn’t rank anywhere near the top of the corner list, it’s not unexpected given the sheer number of targets. What set him apart from most corners was that he was so frequently in a position to make a play on the football. Even more impressively, 11 of those 15 passes defensed came on go routes like the one below that highlights his ability to stay with his man, get his hand in there and prevent the deep completion.
The Verdict: Jourdan Lewis advances
Lewis allowed just two more receptions than Humphrey, but saw 28 more targets. He was almost always in great position, and excelled at limiting any damage after the catch. While both corners made plays on the ball on a similar percentage of their incompletions (passes defensed plus interceptions), there was just more close coverage from Lewis. That’s the main reason that Lewis comes away with the victory here.
That shouldn’t take anything away from Humphrey, however. He’s a fantastic corner who should get even better this season. He’ll be the No. 1 corner for the Crimson Tide defense now that Cyrus Jones has moved on, and so Humphrey will get a lot of matchups against top-level receivers. He’ll need to shore up his tackling, as another 10 missed-tackle season won’t be ideal for him. But other than that, he has the potential to be one of the best players in the country.
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— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 9, 2016