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Overrated/Underrated Corners

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  • Overrated/Underrated Corners

    No position in the NFL is judged more by hype than accomplishment like the cornerback position. One good performance in a nationally televised game can mean more to a cornerback's reputation than a season's worth of good play on a bad team.

    One of the things I enjoy most is cutting through this kind of subjective analysis. It is in this frame of mind that I present my list of the five most overrated and underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. Keep in mind these are not necessarily the best or worst players at this position. These are simply the players whose reputations don't match their performance level.

    1. Anthony Henry, Dallas Cowboys -- Henry's reputation suffers from being lined up opposite Terence Newman, but his metrics are actually better than Newman's (6.5 yards per attempt for Henry versus 7.8 for Newman). Henry's metrics are even more impressive when you realize he is targeted nearly twice as often as Newman (75 pass attempts thrown at Henry to 44 for Newman).
    Opposing teams have been testing Henry on deep passes of late, throwing 12 deep balls at him in the past five games, but he has allowed only four successful plays out of those 12 (two completions and two pass interference penalties).

    2. Aaron Glenn, Dallas Cowboys -- Glenn is the Cowboys' nickel back, so he doesn't have as many passes thrown to him as Henry or Newman, but his 5.3 YPA indicates he might be the best nickel back in the league. Bill Parcells says he has so much faith in Glenn he believes there would be no drop-off if Glenn had to fill in for either Henry or Newman.

    3. Andre Goodman, Miami Dolphins -- Goodman could be a candidate for most improved player of the year. He languished in Detroit last year and ended up with a YPA of just under 9.0. The Dolphins looked to be in trouble when Goodman was forced into a starting role after Travis Daniels was injured, but Goodman has flourished in Nick Saban's aggressive defensive scheme. Goodman did so well filling in for Daniels, he kept the starting spot even after Daniels returned from his injury.

    4. Andre Dyson, New York Jets -- Dyson's metrics don't make it clear why he is on this list, but consider his situation. All season long, Dyson has been lined up opposite either Justin Miller or Drew Coleman. Miller's YPA this year has hovered well over the 10-yard mark and Coleman hasn't done a whole lot better. The Jets' defensive schemes have been tilted away from Dyson because of this and has often been left on an island. Giving up 8.4 YPA in this instance is actually a badge of honor.

    Player Att Comp Yds TD INT Pen P-Yds YPA
    Henry 75 36 429 2 3 4 62 6.5
    Glenn 16 7 84 0 0 0 0 5.3
    Dyson 48 35 401 6 3 0 0 8.4
    Goodman 42 17 268 1 1 3 18 6.8

    1. DeAngelo Hall, Atlanta Falcons -- John Madden knighted Hall as a great cornerback after Hall had a fairly good game against Terrell Owens in the "Monday Night Football" 2005 season opener. Since then, the hype machine has been going full bore and he is now seen as one of the best corners in the NFL.

    The thing I don't understand is how Hall's reputation keeps surviving after each Sunday's highlight reels. Hall has given up a 40-plus yard pass play in four of his last eight games and three of these have been 60 or more yards. This is the primary reason he is allowing nearly 11 yards per attempt. How anyone can call him a shutdown corner this year is simply beyond me.

    2. Chris Gamble, Carolina Panthers -- Gamble is one of those Lito Sheppard-like players who masks a lack of coverage skills with an ability to get interceptions. These types of players have value when they register six or seven interceptions, as Gamble did in his first two years in the league. When these players have only two interceptions in 11 games and are giving up 11 yards per attempt, their value drops precipitously.

    3. Dunta Robinson, Houston Texans -- Robinson's season-long YPA is quite good, but he tends to build his stats against second-rate opponents. To illustrate this point, I calculated his numbers against the best competition he has faced so far this year (a list that includes Donte Stallworth, Brandon Stokley, Marvin Harrison, Chris Chambers, Santana Moss, Lee Evans and Laveranues Coles). He has allowed 12 completions (20 attempts) for 196 and two touchdowns, without notching an interception. His YPA is 10.1.

    This list didn't include Terry Glenn, who was the one elite receiver Robinson fared well against, allowing only three completions and 28 yards in eight attempts. Beyond Glenn, however, Robinson barely slowed down the best receivers he faced this year. If he can't do better than this against high-level competition, how can he be touted as a Pro Bowl cornerback?

    4. Mike McKenzie, New Orleans Saints -- McKenzie's 8.0 YPA is especially mediocre when you consider the names that showed up at or near the 8.0 YPA mark in the 2005 season: Ron Bartell, Ike Taylor, Fabian Washington, Andre Woolfolk, Will Allen and Jason Webster.

    McKenzie is much more skilled than any of these players, yet for some reason he still gives up as many yards per attempt as they do. Coach Sean Payton has done a great job of getting most of the Saints' players to perform above their talent level this year. If Payton wants a challenge for the 2007 season, he should try getting McKenzie to play to his talent level.

    Player Att Comp Yds TD INT Pen P-Yds YPA
    Gamble 42 23 463 4 3 0 0 11.0
    McKenzie 38 20 314 1 0 1 -10 8.0
    Hall 56 28 575 4 2 1 27 10.8
    Robinson 54 26 389 3 2 1 5 7.3

    Underrated/Overrated tandem pick
    1. Terrence McGee/Nate Clements, Buffalo Bills -- This pair has to be the perfect example of why I hate hype so much. In every Bills' broadcast, the announcers trip over themselves to praise Clements as a great player, while McGee is merely touted as an up-and-coming player. Clements was the high draft pick and signed the big free-agent deal, so the assumption is he must be a much better player.
    The metrics show McGee is nearly as good as, if not better than, Clements. In 2005, McGee had a YPA that was 1.5 yards better than Clements and his success percentage was nearly identical to that of Clements. Clements is ahead in the YPA and success percentage columns this year, but the difference between them isn't terribly significant.

    Clements has allowed only 49 fewer yards than McGee on nearly the same number of pass attempts. McGee has allowed five touchdowns while Clements has allowed one, but their numbers are nearly identical otherwise. Nevertheless, Clements is still seen as the Pro Bowl-caliber player and McGee is merely viewed as a solid starter.

    Player Att Comp Yds TD INT Pen P-Yds YPA
    Clements 56 33 410 1 3 1 -10 7.1
    McGee 53 37 430 5 0 1 19 8.5

    KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. His latest book, "Scientific Football 2006," is available for order at his Web site, Here's a 37-page sample of the new book.
    I love this stuff.

  • #2
    Champ is still underrated.......

    Thank you for everything Darrent. I'll never forget #27.


    • #3
      Whats Bailey's YPA?


      • #4
        Originally posted by cinnamunmun
        Whats Bailey's YPA?
        Have to wait 'til he publicizes his book. Champ was solid in all three depths last year, though. I'd imagine he's doing even better...