Sig Stats: YPCS, Cornerbacks

Continuing our look through the Signature Stats, Kev Connaghan lists the league's top cornerbacks according to PFF's Yards per Cover Snap.

| 2 years ago

Sig Stats: YPCS, Cornerbacks

2014-Sig-Stats-YPCS-CBThroughout this week we’ve been looking at a selection of our Signature Stats and picking out some of the best performers from the 2014 season. While we are confident that individual grades give the best picture of overall performance, these unique stats let us look at specific aspects of player performance, in a way that standard statistics cannot.

In this article we want to use our Yards per Cover Snap (YPCS) statistic to look at which cornerbacks excelled in  the 2014 season. YPCS measures the yardage conceded when a player is in primary coverage, on a per snap basis. It lets us move a little closer to measuring just how shutdown a corner is.

(Note: only corners who played at least 300 coverage snaps in the regular season were considered)

The Top Fifteen

Chris Harris Jr. of the Denver Broncos stands clear atop the rankings with a hugely impressive 0.57 YPCS score. He had to work hard for it, being targeted 89 times in total – only Aqib Talib was targeted more often (95 times) and also made the Top 15, making it even more remarkable. Harris was also moved about, spending 40% of his snaps covering the slot, however his YPCS performance inside (0.57) matched precisely his performance on the outside (0.57). Harris allowed just 7.7 yards per catch, the best mark among starting corners, and completed the season with a positive coverage grade in every game. It was a remarkable year by any measure and earned him fourth place in our Dwight Stephenson Award list, marking him out as one of the very best in football last season.

Second on the list is Richard Sherman, who enjoyed another outstanding season, having led the league in this category last year when he allowed just 0.63 YPCS. Sherman had a perfect three game stretch against the Cardinals, 49ers and Eagles where he was targeted eight times, with zero completions allowed, two picks and a batted pass. Opposing quarterbacks have such high regard for Sherman, that in his two most recent games he was targeted a mere five times for three completions, giving up 12 yards at a paltry 0.14 YPCS. That was in playoff football, when he faced off against two future Hall of Fame passers, while playing with just one fully functional arm for much of the time.

Prior to the season, Panthers corner Josh Norman would have seemed an unlikely contender to finish in the top three. The third-year corner out of Coastal Carolina was a rotational player early in the year, but claimed his spot in the starting line-up midway through the season and more than held his own.

Rank Name Team Coverage snaps Yards NFL QB Rating Yards/Cover Snap
1 Chris Harris Jr. DEN 623 356 47.8 0.57
2 Richard Sherman SEA 552 422 48.4 0.76
3 Josh Norman CAR 379 291 53.2 0.77
4 Demetrius McCray JAX 432 339 81.0 0.78
5 Corey Graham BUF 408 344 57.0 0.84
6 Vontae Davis IND 479 405 38.8 0.85
7 Rashean Mathis DET 643 555 85.2 0.86
8 Darrelle Revis NE 606 557 72.6 0.92
9 Xavier Rhodes MIN 560 526 75.7 0.94
10 Chris Culliver SF 491 468 66.5 0.95
T11 Aqib Talib DEN 590 578 72.2 0.98
T11 Bené Benwikere CAR 306 301 72.9 0.98
13 Kareem Jackson HST 448 448 74.1 1.00
14 Sean Smith KC 594 597 85.3 1.01
T15 E.J. Gaines SL 532 550 79.0 1.03
T15 Adam Jones CIN 506 523 73.1 1.03
T15 Josh Wilson ATL 306 314 84.7 1.03


The PFF Free Agency Tracker shows that two corners listed above are scheduled to hit free agency this year, Rashean Mathis and Kareem Jackson. The veteran Mathis has enjoyed two strong seasons in Detroit, earning as cumulative +16.5 coverage grade and shouldn’t lack for suitors this offseason. Jackson hasn’t always lived up to his status as a former first-round draft choice, but will have been delighted to return to his 2012 form in a contract year.

Rookie Watch

The top performing rookie was Bené Benwikere of the Carolina Panthers, with 0.98 YPCS. Benwikere, a fifth round selection out of San Jose State, opened the season as the team’s slot corner before picking up an injury in Week 5. He was out for eight weeks but returned to start on the outside, finding terrific form during the Panthers’ late surge into the playoffs. He gave up just one touchdown all season, that coming in the divisional round game at Seattle.

E.J. Gaines was the second rookie to make the list. Injuries in the Rams’ secondary forced Gaines into the starting line-up from Week 1, and from that point he was rarely off the field prior to picking up an injury in the penultimate week. He had some difficult days, with four games grading less than -1.0, but showed a welcome propensity for making plays on the ball, with two picks and 10 batted passes.

Top on the Team

Now we can finish with a look at the top YPCS performers on a team by team basis. Whether through fitness or form, some teams struggled to field regular starting corners throughout the season. So, in order to consider more corners per team the cover snap threshold has been lowered to 200.

The most striking feature of this table is the presence of Jimmy Smith right at the top. Prior to his season-ending injury, Smith was matching Harris with a hugely impressive 0.57 YPCS rate. The Baltimore Ravens’ 2011 first-round selection, Smith was certainly living up to that lofty billing in 2014.

Rank Name Team Coverage snaps Yards NFL QB Rating Yards/Cover Snap
T1 Chris Harris Jr. DEN 623 356 47.8 0.57
T1 Jimmy Smith BLT 284 163 51.5 0.57
3 Casey Hayward GB 276 115 73.6 0.70
4 Alan Ball JAX 288 241 64.5 0.74
5 Richard Sherman SEA 552 422 48.4 0.76
6 Josh Norman CAR 379 291 53.2 0.77
7 Corey Graham BUF 408 344 57.0 0.84
8 Vontae Davis IND 479 405 38.8 0.85
9 Rashean Mathis DET 643 555 85.2 0.86
10 Darrelle Revis NE 606 557 72.6 0.92
11 Xavier Rhodes MIN 560 526 75.7 0.94
12 Chris Culliver SF 491 468 66.5 0.95
13 Phillip Gaines KC 211 202 83.3 0.96
T14 Kyle Wilson NYJ 228 228 106.0 1.00
T14 Kareem Jackson HST 448 448 74.1 1.00
T16 E.J. Gaines SL 532 550 79.0 1.03
T16 Adam Jones CIN 506 523 73.1 1.03
T16 Josh Wilson ATL 306 314 84.7 1.03
19 Zach Bowman NYG 242 251 75.1 1.04
20 Patrick Robinson NO 360 377 75.4 1.05
21 K’Waun Williams CLV 209 221 89.2 1.06
T22 Orlando Scandrick DAL 478 516 84.0 1.08
T22 Jimmy Wilson MIA 254 275 129.2 1.08
T24 Tim Jennings CHI 601 658 106.7 1.09
T24 Tarell Brown OAK 478 521 91.7 1.09
T24 Brice McCain PIT 387 422 72.5 1.09
27 Shareece Wright SD 453 513 94.5 1.13
28 Cary Williams PHI 660 757 89.5 1.15
29 Antonio Cromartie ARZ 594 700 80.3 1.18
30 Johnthan Banks TB 516 631 74.2 1.22
31 Coty Sensabaugh TEN 374 461 90.9 1.23
32 E.J. Biggers WAS 317 401 133.7 1.26

Yards per Cover Snap, like the rest of our signature stats, can be found on the Premium Site, along with the full array of player grades.


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| Analyst

Kevin has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, with a particular focus on college football.

  • Jaguars28

    Mathis was the only star corner in our history. That could change with McCray and Colvin.

    • Darnell

      Gratz too?

      Hawks fan, so I pull for Gus.

      • Jaguars28

        I think Gratz could be solid, although he was inconsistent this past year.

        I root for the Hawks to do well, I love the way they built that team, especially the defense. I think we’re using the same blueprint to build a solid team.

        • Darnell

          Gus inherited a fairly barren roster, so hopefully Khan is patient enough to see it through with Bradley/Caldwell.

          There are pieces no doubt: Bortles, Denard, Joeckel, the young interior olinemen, A Rob, Lee, Hurns, (Blackmon ??), Marks, T Smith and I love some of the young dbs.

          Bryant/Clemons are nice leader types but I doubt they’re still there when the Jags are ready to really challenge for something substantial.

          So the draft, has to be Randy Gregory is he’s there right?

          • Jaguars28

            Him or Leonard Williams, I would think

  • Chris

    It’s like teams didn’t watch film of Harris. Why else would they keep targeting someone putting up better numbers than Sherman from all over the field?

    Oh and Adam Jones is the best nickel in football.

    • Jaguars28

      I envy the Broncos history of star cornerbacks.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Maybe it was a pick your poison situation with Talib out there as well. Denver’s Jayhawk backfield is something to behold. Has KU been better represented in the NFL since the Kansas Comet?

    • Malachi

      they see a small corner, and think they can just throw it over him, but his technique and hips are flawless

    • Malachi

      this article didn’t even mention that harris jr. was coming off a torn acl from the DIVISIONAL ROUND in january… lol. kid is a freak

    • alsdkfj

      I’ll take a healthy Mathieu over everybody in the slot

      • Chris

        Jones doesn’t play in the slot. He’s a nickel that lines up outside.

        • Cant FixStupid

          Sorry, but Casey Hayward was the best Nickel CB in the NFL last year.

    • Kirk Vollmer

      The above table IMO just goes to show how vastly overrated Patrick Peterson is. Think about it, he wasn’t even the best CB on his own team and he’s paid like he’s an elite corner on Sherman’s level.

  • PetEng

    Culliver is a free agent, along with Kareem Jackson and Rashean Mathis. The article is misleading.

  • GBPfan

    So of course Dom benches Casey in favor of Davon, Micah, and Jarrett Bush.

    • Kevin

      Hayward IMO is one of the best coverage Nickel CB’s in the game and really should be used more.

      Hyde was usually inserted against more run heavy teams and even though I’m not a big fan, he is good in run support and blitzing.

      House is intriguing but never played in the slot so it was more or less him taking Shields or Williams spot.

      Bush was never in consideration for the nickel spot and I cant think of 1 scenario where he took the nickel spot over Hayward. He played a few snaps in specific packages(mainly goalline and a few obvious run downs).

      Hayward HAS to get on the field more next year. All he did his rookie season was put up insane numbers then followed it up this year with very good numbers. He has earned more playing time, It’s almost baffling too me he hasn’t seen the field more.

  • Blatant_Bolt

    I think the fact that Shareece Wright lead the Chargers is proof that this stat is meaningless. Verrett and Flowers were clearly better.

    I’m really not sure this stat means much without more context. Sure, we know guys like Sherman weren’t playing with help, but a guy with more help or a smaller zone to handle will look better, but not actually be better.

    • eYeDEF

      With only 230 snaps, Verrett wasn’t on the field enough to qualify.

      You’d think Flowers is the better corner than Wright, yet in spite of having nearly an identical number of targets (75 v 71), catch rate (56.0 v 57.7), and receptions (42 v 41) Flowers gave up more yardage (618 v 523) and YAC (273 v 172). The 37% higher yards after the catch appeared to have hurt Flowers the most. So for whatever reason, QBs threw for 200 more yards when targeting Flowers than they did Wright even though Flowers only got 4 more targets.

      So the stat is far from ‘worthless’ when it can help dispel some myths. Flowers might still be the better corner, but based on how many yards they each gave up to opposing quarterbacks he actually played somewhat worse than Wright this season. I think of the PFF signature stats as the most useful thing this site has to offer.

    • LightsOut85

      This is where the grades come into play — and also a situation where the grades are WAY different for some reason PFF probably won’t explain. (Game situation? Flowers errors coming when the game was “already decided” & Wright’s when it was on the line?)

      Flowers had a 7.1 cover grade to Wright’s -16.4. So you’re dead on, Flowers was clearly better this year.

      Verrett was a 6.3 in basically a quarter of Flowers’ snaps. I’d love to see Flowers’ slot/outside *grade* split, if he was better outside.

    • Dalen Erickson

      What do you mean when you say Sherman wasnt playing with help? He has better help than anyone in the league. He has the best free safety in football watching his ass deep. and the best SS in football covering short (or of course covering the TE or RB). Not to mention an excellent pass rush and a couple of the best coverage LBs in football with Wagner and Wright. You have to have meant something else

  • King Booba Jooba

    Chris Harris Jr vs. Amari Cooper will be the new version of Jerry Rice vs. Deion Sanders

  • Cereal

    Tarell Brown is an underrated corner