Signature Stats: YPCS – Cornerbacks

Mike Renner uses PFF's unique Yards Per Coverage Snap data to bring a little accuracy to rating the NFL's best cover corners.

| 4 years ago

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 SnapTop 15

1Bradley FletcherSL2641380.52
2Lardarius WebbBLT1851110.60
3Nate ClementsCIN1791130.63
4Champ BaileyDEN5874790.82
5Prince AmukamaraNYG4343750.86
5Leodis McKelvinBUF2091800.86
7Robert McClainATL3793350.88
8Leon HallCIN5084550.90
9Chris Harris Jr.DEN4934500.91
10Antoine WinfieldMIN6115750.94
10Brandon BrownerSEA4474210.94
12Chris CulliverSF4944710.95
12Chris CookMIN3923720.95
12Mike HarrisJAX2762630.95
12Mike JenkinsDAL2152040.95


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

101Drayton FlorenceDET2063361.63
102Eric WrightTB3115101.64
103Ronald BartellOAK1792951.65
104DeAngelo HallWAS62810451.66
105Buster SkrineCLV4517511.67
106Cassius VaughnIND4737941.68
107Derek CoxJAX3996701.68
108Jayron HosleyNYG2784671.68
109Joselio HansonOAK3335621.69
110Corey WebsterNYG5749881.72
111Patrick RobinsonNO61910711.73
112Jerraud PowersIND2674821.81
113Tracy PorterDEN1673051.83
114Aqib TalibTB/NE3447042.05
115Stanford RouttKC2114692.22


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.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • B Amadeo

    Leodis McKelvin?!?!?!
    Did he played well this season?

    • n s

      stats are stats, you cant alter them

  • MB89

    I agree that it is extremely hard to compare cornerbacks. I just don’t like this stat. There are so many variables that it doesn’t take into consideration.

  • George McDowell

    And to think some morons think Champ Bailey is done as a corner. Thanks for providing evidence of what I actually saw out on the field this past season.

  • JonFrum

    The Patriots’ pass defense got better when they got Talib.

  • DeBaliviere

    Wait a minute. How does Cincinnati not have the best corners? Nate Clements had a better YPCS than Champ Bailey and Leon Hall had a better YPCS than Chris Harris.

    • your father

      nate clements is a slot corner not on the field as much. chris harris was also was also on the 2.5 times more