Rookie Cornerback Target Analysis
As I was looking through my Twitter timeline, I noticed some back and forth between a few of the guys I follow about rookie corners. The assumption being that they are targeted more because they are rookies. Now, I’m not going to deny that, as in IDP leagues, it’s all about opportunities to maximize points. So I got to thinking, as my curiosity got the better of me, let’s see what kind of targets rookie cornerbacks typically see in their first year.
The corner position is one of the more volatile positions in IDP leagues. More and more leagues are moving away from the general DB position (S+CB), and requiring separate corner and safety positions. It’s more important than ever to get that necessary data so that you are armed with as much as data as possible to take advantage of your fellow league mates.
I used PFF data going back to 2008 and looked at the top 10 CBs in snaps
The Chiefs drafted the top two corners in snaps and each drew over 75 targets in Flowers and Carr. The average targets for this group was 63 and the corners that appeared in 500+ snaps were targeted more than 75 times, which represented a real opportunity in IDP leagues that year. There were also three other cornerbacks that appeared in 300-plus snaps (Terrell Thomas, Jonathan Wilhite and Tracy Porter). Of the 30-plus corners drafted, there were seven that didn’t get on the field and two were converted to safety (Amari Spievey and Tyvon Branch).
The 2009 class of corners was a talented group that saw plenty of defensive snaps. Derek Cox led the group in snaps and targets. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith were the starting corners for Miami and saw significant action which led to their high target count. The average number of targets went up in 2009, as the top 10 group averaged 67 targets and six of the top 10 corners saw 60-plus targets. Five corners appeared in 200-plus snaps as a rookie (Lardarius Webb, Christopher Owens, Jason McCourty, Bradley Fletcher, Brice McCain) and of the 35-plus corners drafted, there were just six that failed to appear in any games.
Devin McCourty and Alterraun Verner were thrust into the starting lineup and each appeared in over 1,000 snaps which led to them seeing 90-plus targets thrown their way. Kareem Jackson struggled as a rookie, which led to quarterbacks throwing at him 86 times. Even though Joe Haden possessed shutdown corner capabilities, quarterbacks still threw his way. Javier Arenas, even in limited playing time, saw 72 targets in under 500 snaps. The 2010 class of corners in the top 10, averaged 68 targets between them and six of the corners saw 70-plus targets. Of this group of corners, there were just three others that had over 200 snaps and 10 didn’t see the field.
|DeMarucs Van Dyke||OAK||329||30|
The 2011 class was a weaker group, and thus, not many corners saw the field. Only two corners saw more than 700 snaps and the average number of targets dropped from 63, 67 and 68 between 2008-2010 to just 48 and only three corners saw 50-plus targets, as most of the corners were on the field for situational roles. Of this group, 13 corners didn’t see the field in 2011.
The 2012 class of corners was led by Morris Claiborne, in terms of hype, but it was Stephon Gilmore that led the rookies in snaps and Janoris Jenkins was the leader in targets. Josh Norman and Casey Hayward were surprise upstarts in their first year, as they saw 154 total targets between them. Alfonzo Dennard was the biggest surprise of 2012. The 7th round pick saw just over 600 defensive snaps for the Patriots defense. This group saw over 70 targets on average and nine of the top 10 saw 50-plus targets. Of the 2012 rookie class, there were seven others that saw 200-plus snaps and 11 corners didn’t take a defensive snap.
What Can We Conclude?
One thing I can conclude from the data is that draft position has no bearing on the snaps or targets. Of the top 10 in 2008 and 2010, five of the corners were 1st round picks. In 2009, 2011, and 2012 there were just two 1st round picks. In most instances, there are very few cornerbacks who receive a 1st round grade, meanings the position is relatively deep and gems can be found in the later rounds (Richard Sherman 154th overall).
When it comes to IDP, the CB position is a volatile and unpredictable position to project. It really depends on the snaps and if the player is named as starter. In most instances, corners aren’t targeted any more than their teammates, unless they are a No. 1 corner covering the opposing team’s top receiver. There’s a good chance that if a corner gets 700-plus snaps, he’ll likely see at least 70 targets. The only exception seems to be Morris Claiborne, who saw just 69 targets in over 900 snaps this past season. For IDP leagues, the key is identifying the corner that has the best chance at seeing a high number of defensive snaps. I’ve indentified five cornerbacks who should start and see significant action in their rookie year:
1. Dwayne Gratz (JAC) – He was taken 64th overall and has good size and able to play physical. He shows good instincts and is locked in as a starter for a defense that’s going to be on the field a lot in 2013.
2. Darius Slay (DET) – Might be a camp battle to watch, but someone with a 4.36 40 should be on the field quite a bit. Another physical corner, he should come in start opposite Chris Houston come Week 1.
3. Xavier Rhodes (MIN) – You don’t take a corner in the 1st and not expect him to contribute right away. At over 6 feet tall and possessing tremendous length, I don’t see any reason why he won’t start right away in 2013.
4. Dee Milliner (NYJ) – Expectations are already high being in New York, but he’s expected to be the heir apparent to Darrelle Revis. Milliner’s injury history is cause for concern, but there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be Week 1 starter opposite Antonio Cromartie.
5. D.J. Hayden (OAK) – The Raiders brought in Mike Jenkins in free agency, but with just one pick in his past few season, he doesn’t offer as much upside as Hayden. Hayden nabbed six INTs and 25 defended passes in his time at Houston. Hayden’s true test will lie when it’s time to take live hits in practice.
Mike Woellert is a Senior Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow Mike on Twitter @PFF_MWoellert