Signature Stats: YPCS - Cornerbacks
The cornerback position is one of the toughest to evaluate in the NFL based on a box score. The only meaningful statistic they can garner is an interception, and even then you can’t tell if the corner made a good play or the quarterback made a horrible one.
Since we track cornerbacks just like wide receivers we are able to provide far more meaningful coverage statistics. We just looked at Yards Per Route Run for receivers, so today we’ll look at the complementary stat, Yards Per Coverage Snap (YPCS). YPCS helps a lot with comparing base corners and nickel corners because it accounts for the vast differences in snap totals. Let’s see the notable performers.
Benched Nickel Shines
I would venture to guess that not many football fans have even heard of the leader in YPCS this season, and I don’t blame them. Bradley Fletcher was the Rams’ nickelback for nine games this season and then played only 20 snaps after Week 10. No, Fletcher wasn’t hurt, he was benched. Two weeks after his three third-down pass interference penalties against the Patriots Fletcher ceded his job to rookie Trumaine Johnson. Fletcher’s coverage stats were superb. He had the league’s second-best coverage snaps per reception, allowed a catch rate of 47%, and had a quarterback rating against of 55.8. After Fletcher’s six penalties in four games in 2010 though, it was clear he had a problem that needed to be fixed, and his five penalties in 264 coverage snaps this season showed that he never fixed it.
Best Starting Pair
When asking the question, which cornerback duo was the best in the NFL this season, it is impossible to prove definitively one way or the other. What we can tell you though, is which starting cornerback duo gave up the least yardage. That would be the Broncos’ Champ Bailey and Chris Harris Jr. They finished fourth and ninth respectively in YPCS this season, the highest average finish of any starting cornerback tandem. Four individual corners gave up more yards than the 929 yards the Denver duo combined to give up. They may get overlooked because of their modest combined interception total (5), but they played about as good as any pair in the league this season.
The second-best tandem, surprisingly, resides in Minnesota. I say ‘surprisingly’ because while Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook both finished with YPCS of less than one, they seem like they are never on the field together. The Vikings’ corners are on opposite ends of the size spectrum (Cook is 6’2”, while Winfield is 5’9”), but it is the larger Cook who played only 10 regular season games this year. He’s been healthy for only 22 games in three seasons, so it has been difficult to evaluate this group. At Winfield’s advanced age Vikings’ fans may never get to see both playing their best football together.
Yards Per Coverage Snap — Top 15
Rank Name Team Snaps Yards YPCS
1 Bradley Fletcher SL 264 138 0.52
2 Lardarius Webb BLT 185 111 0.60
3 Nate Clements CIN 179 113 0.63
4 Champ Bailey DEN 587 479 0.82
5 Prince Amukamara NYG 434 375 0.86
5 Leodis McKelvin BUF 209 180 0.86
7 Robert McClain ATL 379 335 0.88
8 Leon Hall CIN 508 455 0.90
9 Chris Harris Jr. DEN 493 450 0.91
10 Antoine Winfield MIN 611 575 0.94
10 Brandon Browner SEA 447 421 0.94
12 Chris Culliver SF 494 471 0.95
12 Chris Cook MIN 392 372 0.95
12 Mike Harris JAX 276 263 0.95
12 Mike Jenkins DAL 215 204 0.95
1,000 Yard Club
Last season marked the first time in the PFF era that a cornerback gave up more than 1,000 yards, as Tramon Williams (1,034) and Devin McCourty(1,004) both surpassed that number. This year two more joined the infamous club. Patrick Robinson (1,071) and DeAngelo Hall (1,045) gave up the two highest yardage totals we’ve ever seen. They weren’t completely inept though. Robinson allowed a catch rate of only 56%, and Hall allowed a quarterback rating against of only 90.8.
The 1,000 yards may sound really bad, but all it means is they were able to keep their starting jobs the whole season despite their poor play. Plenty of corners would give up that much yardage, they just weren’t given the snaps.
Yards Per Coverage Snap – Bottom 15
Rank Name Team Snaps Yards YPCS
101 Drayton Florence DET 206 336 1.63
102 Eric Wright TB 311 510 1.64
103 Ronald Bartell OAK 179 295 1.65
104 DeAngelo Hall WAS 628 1045 1.66
105 Buster Skrine CLV 451 751 1.67
106 Cassius Vaughn IND 473 794 1.68
107 Derek Cox JAX 399 670 1.68
108 Jayron Hosley NYG 278 467 1.68
109 Joselio Hanson OAK 333 562 1.69
110 Corey Webster NYG 574 988 1.72
111 Patrick Robinson NO 619 1071 1.73
112 Jerraud Powers IND 267 482 1.81
113 Tracy Porter DEN 167 305 1.83
114 Aqib Talib TB/NE 344 704 2.05
115 Stanford Routt KC 211 469 2.22
I like to say that some statistics have more meaning for those performing poorly, than for those performing well. A YPCS on the high end can be a mirage of sample size to some degree, especially for nickel corners who are on the field with more receiving options. Some corners, like Nate Clements and Mike Jenkins, have low snaps counts and were targeted very infrequently (first and second-least targeted respectively), but gave up catch rates over 60%. Are these players really that good, or would they have been burned more if they saw 113 targets like the Dolphins’ Sean Smith did? It is better to look at all coverage stats together when forming an opinion about a player, and you can only do that in the PFF Premium section.
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