The PFF 101, No. 6: Richard Sherman

Another returnee to the Top 10 as Richard Sherman followed up his strong 2012 by earning the No. 6 spot here.

| 3 years ago

The PFF 101, No. 6: Richard Sherman

2013-101-feat-shermanIt seems a long time ago that Richard Sherman was featuring as a PFF Secret Superstar. I think we can safely throw the ‘Secret’ part of that moniker out of the window at this stage.  Sherman might be the best corner in the game just three seasons on from being drafted in the fifth round, and he’s certainly not shy about making sure people know it.

Darrelle Revis might have something to say about that a year further removed from injury and in a better situation now in New England, but every number you look at suggests Sherman is right at that level, and clear of the chasing pack behind him. He may talk plenty, but it isn’t as if he doesn’t back it up.

He was ranked relatively lowly in grading terms by his standards during the regular season despite a league-leading eight interceptions. His coverage grade of +8.8 ranked just sixth among corners and that isn’t entirely explained by a relative lack of targets compared to other corners. When the lights came on for the postseason though Sherman raised his game to another level.

In his three postseason games he collected a +4.1 grade and allowed just two catches for ten yards, both of which came in the Super Bowl. Great players are at their best when the stakes are the highest and Sherman certainly fit that description in 2013.

Almost single-handedly he is redefining what the NFL looks for when it comes to the cornerback position, proving that you can succeed and in fact dominate with a different body type and skillset to the one teams have been coveting in recent years. Sherman doesn’t possess 4.3 speed in the forty, but he might be the best corner in the league against the deep ball because he uses his size and physicality to redirect receivers and ensure they never get a clean, untouched run past him.


Best Game: Week 7 @ Arizona (+4.5)

This game is a great example of grading not always matching up with base statistics. Looking at the raw numbers Sherman didn’t have a great day, but if you look a little deeper at the tape you’ll see something else entirely. He was targeted six times in this game (tied for most on the season), allowed the most receptions (5) of his season and notched a pair of passes defensed shaking out to a passer rating of 99.3 into his coverage that day. So where did all the positive grading come from?

Well he also broke up a pass in the end zone on a fade route to deny the Cardinals a two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter as well as another pass defensed that was nullified on a penalty.  On that play Sherman breaks on the ball, avoids making significant contact of any kind until the ball arrives and uses his left arm to perfectly break up the pass. It should have stood as a pass defensed and an incomplete pass but instead Sherman was flagged for defensive pass interference and the play is nullified.


An underrated part of Sherman’s game is his study and knowledge of what an offense is going to run on a specific down and distance. Watch Sherman’s body language in that clip, he’s expecting the break before it comes.

Key Stat: Allowed a passer rating of 41.4 into his coverage, including the postseason.

The bottom line is that challenging Sherman isn’t that smart. The Seahawks don’t ask him to shadow opposing wide receivers and don’t need him to so he plies his trade on the edge playing left cornerback and occasionally coming in to sit atop a threat of a tight end in tight formations. Teams are going away from throwing him the ball, but not enough. He was thrown at 58 times in 2013 which is a low number but only ten times less than Keenan Lewis. When teams do target Sherman they average a passer rating in the 40s and have a far bigger chance of throwing an interception than they have scoring on the play.

Right now teams still throw at Sherman enough that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t track top receivers, but if they begin to avoid him entirely then that becomes more of an issue.

The way Sherman stepped up his game down the stretch and in the postseason launched him up the 101 list and he deserves his spot inside the top 10. Richard Sherman is arguably the best corner in the game right now, and nobody wants to throw the ball in his direction. He is the No. 6 player on the PFF Top 101.


101–91  |  90–81  |  80-71
70–61  |  60–51  |  
40–31  |  30–21  |  20–11

10. Marshawn Lynch, SEA
9. Andrew Whitworth, CIN
8. Lesean McCoy, PHI
7. Evan Mathis, PHI
6. Richard Sherman, SEA



Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam 

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • [email protected]

    There is a flaw in the PFF grading system in that big plays are not adequately rewarded. Every play maxes out at +2. A pick-6 should be +20 at least if we’re going by any advanced statistic on win probability. The grading system rewards steady but unspectacular play. Not that this is really a criticism, no grading system is or could ever be perfect. Just pointing it out in relation to Richard Sherman’s relatively low grade.

  • Ben

    Sorry but that play in the GIF totally looks like DPI due to the hand on the receiver’s shoulder.

    • PFFSamMonson

      Contact isn’t illegal. Contact restricting/preventing the receiver from making a play on the ball is. That hand on his shoulder doesn’t do anything to restrict Floyd making a play on the ball. It’s not illegal contact, merely contact.

    • Bryan

      We got ourselves a replacement ref in the making right here!

      • usuck

        haters be hating!!

  • toogoodforu

    If this guy wasn’t allowed to mug receivers on every play he would be out of the league. Only plays on one side of the field as well, hilarious.

    • USUCK


      • toogoodforu

        Trent Dilfer confirmed as best QB of all time.

  • dylan baker

    …..I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. Is he a good corner?…sure. Is he a great corner?….potentially. I think he has the work ethic, the film study, and the physical tools to be great. However, until you regularly compete against great players, you simply cannot be great nor the greatest. He is the product of a great system surrounded by other great players therefore limiting his responsibility and allowing him to shine when lined up against inferior talent…..Browner @ 38% covered the #1 WR last year, whereas Sherman covered #1 WR @ 27% which is also the lowest percentage of snaps covering a #1 WR on the team. Whatever, its like comparing college players to pro’s when pitting Sherman against the likes of Darrell Revis. Sherman does his job over there in his little section of the field, Revis is the field. I’d take Revis, Peterson, or Hayden over Sherman any day of the week and twice on Sunday.