Statistically Superior: The Best Cornerbacks in the AFC North

PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 23: Bryant McFadden #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pumps up the defense prior to the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field on January 23 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Okay, we are going to completely ignore scheme and everything else and just look at who, statistically, has the best cornerbacks in our division.  I will be using PFF's stats, so if you are not a member you will just have to believe me with the numbers.  Arbitrarily, I will just break it down by tackling, playmaking ability, and coverage skills.  For sake of brevity, I will exclude players with less than 150 snaps

Table notes: The tables are sortable.  Click the table header to sort by that row.  Green boxes represent leader in that category and red boxes represent the worst.  Stops are plays that constitute an offensive failure (that can be a tackle for a loss or a tackle that prevents a 3rd down conversion).  MT = missed tackle.  QB Pr = QB Pressure.  FF = forced fumble.  TA = thrown at.  Rec = reception against.  % Ct = % of TAs caught.  YAC = yards after catch.  PD = pass defensed/deflected.

Tackling

Player Team Snaps Tackles Stops Stop % MT % of T Made
Chris Carr Ravens 1060 58 18 31.03 8 87.9
Josh Wilson Ravens 559 33 9 27.27 3 91.7
Fabian Washington Ravens 534 30 5 16.67 5 85.7
Lardarius Webb Ravens 517 49 11 22.45 4 92.5
Leon Hall Bengals 988 36 13 36.11 7 83.7
Johnathan Joseph Bengals 612 44 16 36.366 5 89.8
Morgan Trent Bengals 201 23 10 43.48 0 100
Adam Jones Bengals 170 11 3 27.27 0 100
Jonathan Wade Bengals 167 15 4 26.67 2 88.2
Sheldon Brown Browns 909 55 16 29.09 8 87.3
Joe Haden Browns 813 51 17 33.33 2 96.2
Eric Wright Browns 727 41 12 29.27 8 83.7
Mike Adams Browns 155 11 4 36.36 2 84.6
Ike Taylor Steelers 996 48 11 22.92 6 88.9
Bryant McFadden Steelers 908 72 26 36.11 5 93.5
William Gay Steelers 587 35 15 42.86 6 85.4
Mr. Average NA 619 38 12 31.05 4.4 89.6

 

As with most of the stat tables I do, I urge you to focus on the percentages rather than straight up numbers.  Those averages accommodate for the difference between Chris Carr's 1000+ snaps and Mike Adams' sub 200.  Carr has more missed tackles than Adams, but he sees the field much less.  Looking at the percent of tackles made, we can see that Carr makes his tackles more often than Adams.

I am not surprised that Bryant McFadden is one of, if not the best tackling cornerback in the division.  Not only does he rarely miss tackles, but he also makes a ton of stops.  The Steelers defense relies heavily on their cornerbacks being able to seal up plays outside the tackles and that is why they love McFadden more than most Steelers fans do.  The most interesting part of the table, in my opinion, is that "Big Play" William Gay leads the division in stop percentage, especially considering he is below average in tackle percentage.  It must be that "boom or bust" we always experience with him.  He either makes really good plays or really bad plays, the middle ground seems to be lost to him.  Ike Taylor?  Just about average.

 

Playmaking Ability

Name Team Snaps QB Sack QB Hit QB Pr Int FF Def. TD "Plays"
Chris Carr Ravens 1060 0 0 5 2 3 0 10
Josh Wilson Ravens 559 0 0 0 3 0 1 4
Fabian Washington Ravens 534 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lardarius Webb Ravens 517 0 1 1 2 0 0 4
Leon Hall Bengals 988 0 1 0 4 2 0 7
Johnathan Joseph Bengals 612 0 0 0 3 0 1 4
Morgan Trent Bengals 201 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Adam Jones Bengals 170 0 0 0 1 1 1 3
Jonathan Wade Bengals 167 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sheldon Brown Browns 909 0 0 1 2 0 0 3
Joe Haden Browns 813 1 0 1 6 1 0 9
Eric Wright Browns 727 0 4 3 1 0 0 8
Mike Adams Browns 155 1 2 0 1 0 0 4
Ike Taylor Steelers 996 2 0 2 2 1 0 7
Bryant McFadden Steelers 908 2 0 1 2 2 0 7
William Gay Steelers 587 2 3 3 0 1 0 9

 

Doing averages here is kind of tough because the numbers are not abundant.  We will just have to go off these numbers.  I made up the last category "plays", which is just the total of all the other categories.  The Steelers have the best team of playmakers, averaging 7.7 "plays", which can be credited to LeBeau's zone blitz scheme that brings CB blitzes more often than most other teams.  We could sit here and argue the value of an interception vs. a QB hit, but we will not be.  I am just keeping it simple.

Overall, Chris Carr would be the best playmaker, although Joe Haden's production is more impressive.  On the other end of the spectrum we have Fabian Washington, who made no big plays, despite being in on 534 snaps.  Just behind him would be Sheldon Brown who only made 3 plays on 909 snaps.  I will not pick on Jonathan Wade, because his low total is probably a result of his low snap count.

 

Coverage

Name Team Cov. Snaps TA TA % Rec. % Ct Yd. Avg. YAC Avg. TD %
PD%
Chris Carr Ravens 636 90 14.15 54 60 8.7 2.6 1.11 4.44
Josh Wilson Ravens 387 64 16.54 30 46.88 15.7 5 4.69 14.06
Fabian Washington Ravens 312 51 16.35 35 68.63 15.3 6 5.88 9.8
Lardarius Webb Ravens 392 80 20.41 50 62.5 11 3.2 3.75 5.0
Leon Hall Bengals 563 74 13.14 44 59.46 13.2 5.4 6.76 6.76
Johnathan Joseph Bengals 371 64 17.25 42 65.63 10.4 2.7 4.69 6.25
Morgan Trent Bengals 139 29 20.86 19 65.52 10.5 2.4 0 3.45
Adam Jones Bengals 118 16 13.56 10 62.5 16.2 5.7 12.5 6.25
Jonathan Wade Bengals 91 19 20.88 12 63.16 15.1 3.6 10.5 10.53
Sheldon Brown Browns 481 72 14.97 46 63.89 14.3 5.6 9.72 11.11
Joe Haden Browns 452 77 17.04 41 53.25 12.4 3.4 2.6 14.29
Eric Wright Browns 382 65 17.02 43 66.15 14.5 4.4 9.23 7.69
Mike Adams Browns 233 15 6.44 9 60 9.3 2.7 13.3 13.33
Ike Taylor Steelers 763 90 11.8 52 57.78 12.7 4 1.11 5.56
Bryant McFadden Steelers 642 109 16.98 76 69.72 10.7 2.6 5.5 5.5
William Gay Steelers 519 65 12.52 44 67.69 11.1 3.9 7.69 9.23
Mr. Average
NA 405 61 15.12 38 62.3 12.2 3.86 5.2 8.0

 

As bad as that looks for McFadden and Gay, I kind of expected worse, did you?  We can start out by saying the obvious; their catch rate is God awful.  However, it is not all bad when looking at the numbers.  Both are below average in yards per catch and at or below average in YAC.  They might give up receptions, but it appears that they do not allow a ton of yards after that.  Willie Gay's TD% is awful too, although I think the Patriots game boosted that through the roof.  Surprisingly, Gay gets more passes defensed than our starting two CBs.  Moving on, we can see that Ike Taylor is pretty solid across the board.  He is below average or right around average on all of the categories.  The most impressive number for the Swaggin' University Professor was his extremely low TD% despite his very high coverage snap count. I would probably give the worst coverage CB in the division to McFadden or Fabian Washington.  It is a coin toss.

 

Conclusion

How can we summarize all of this?  Well, technically we cannot.  However, that will not stop me from trying.  Lets make up a statistic that combines several of these numbers.  This statistic is probably very inaccurate, but I figured it would be an interesting way to combine all the numbers and look at how everyone falls.  This breakdwon is for recreational purposes only.  Attempting to use it for commercial use could lead to serious personal harm or embarrassment. I am going to call it the CPmT Rating (Cover, Playmaker, Tackle).

Name Team CPmT Team CPmT
Chris Carr Ravens 63  
Josh Wilson Ravens 69.1  
Fabian Washington Ravens 33.4  
Lardarius Webb Ravens 49.5 53.8
Leon Hall Bengals 53.5  
Johnathan Joseph Bengals 50.4  
Morgan Trent Bengals 46.5  
Adam Jones Bengals 42.5  
Jonathan Wade Bengals 38.8 46.3
Sheldon Brown Browns 48.1  
Joe Haden Browns 79.8  
Eric Wright Browns 44.8  
Mike Adams Browns 46 54.7
Ike Taylor Steelers 58.2  
Bryant McFadden Steelers 58.3  
William Gay Steelers 51.3 55.9

 

I played around with this number for a month or so, trying to get it to something that seemed reasonable.  I am still not 100% satisfied with it, because it is hard to weigh the importance of a turnover versus a good completion percentage against, for example.  Turnovers have been statistically proven to have a strong impact on the outcome of a game, but no such study, to my knowledge, has been done on the latter.  In my opinion, forcing a turnover or making a big stop, is better than having a really low completion percentage.  That is to say, as long as you keep your Y/Comp and YAC fairly low.  Therefore, I think my statistic is a bit weighted in that direction.

Anyway, we can conclude that Joe Haden was an absolute beast last year.  I am not sure if he spent a lot of time guarding #2 WRs in his rookie campaign or #1s, but hopefully a Browns fan will see this and let us know.  He ranks very highly, because of his ability to make plays and keep a low completion rate.  Second place, goes to a Raven FA CB, who I praised quite a bit last season.  His completion % ranks top 10 in the league and he has a knack for making some critical plays.  I think if Ike Taylor walks away, the Steelers might want to consider trying to steal him from the Ravens.  Overall, the Steelers have the highest ranked team.  The reason for this, like I said earlier, is that the Steelers cornerbacks seem to be called upon more often to make big plays (i.e. zone blitz corned blitzes).  Watch out for the Browns, I think they are just around the corner of being an elite defense, which is scary considering how young a majority of their key pieces are.

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