Value Pricing the NFL Cornerback
Before I begin I would just like to give a big thank you toprofootballfocus.com. It would have been completely impossible without their site to be able to get the data I needed to do this. I don’t always agree with some of the rankings that they and Football Outsiders come up with but they really are excellent tools for more unbiased analysis of certain players and I encourage everyone to at least visit those sites just to browse what they offer.
After looking at the offensive side of the football in the last two price/performance pieces that I wrote I wanted to turn my attention to the defensive side of the football and see about putting together something for cornerbacks. Why corners? Primarily because an article about the slippage of Darrelle Revis in Football Outsiders made me interested to see if Revis still does or does not rank as the best in the game, but also because there always seem to be some outrageous deals that make you shake your head at the position.
The criteria I selected narrowed the list down to 44 names. In order to qualify you had to play a minimum of 60% of the snaps for your team in 2011 and at least 50% of the snaps in either 2009 or 2010. The player also needed at least 25% in a third season, unless he was a rookie in 2010. The only exception was Ladarius Webb who seemed to just miss the 50% threshold in 2010 and I wanted to include him because he signed a large contract a few days ago.
I decided to look at 4 categories for scoring the players. These categories were % Targets Caught, QB Rating Against, % Targets Broken Up (included both PDs and Ints), and YAC/reception. I did not include run defense because I don’t see it as an important category in valuing the player. Nobody is looking at Darrelle Revis and saying that he deserves $11.5 million a season because he is a stellar run defender. Yes it’s an added bonus but that’s not really what people look for in a corner, similar to how nobody is paying a WR because they block great against the run. Same goes for pressures. Those are more scheme dependent than corner dependent, IMO. Penalties I simply did not have enough data on, though I do think PI and DH calls are important, so I did not include it.
The hardest thing I had to wrestle with was going with YAC or YPC. The reason I chose to go with YAC is that I felt it tells me a bit more about the position a player is in on the field when the reception is made while YPC may simply be more about a few catches being made deep because of the situation or opponent tendencies. Unless I could adjust it for specific opponent I did not want to include it.
Each category was scored as a percentage above or below the talent pool average. The final score in each category is a weighted average with 50% of the points being awarded to 2011, 35% to 2010, and the balance to 2009. The two rookies were split 59/41 since they did not play in 2009. There is no adjustment made for snaps played or anything like that. As an example of the scoring I’ll use Revis. His scores tell us that he allowed 30.6% less targets caught, 31.9% lower of a QB rating, 63.5% more targets broken up and 4.7% less YAC than the average player who made the list. In order to give each score equal weight I brought each category up to 0, adjusted the category sum to 1000 and then added them together to come up with the final score. What I present in the table are the actual unadjusted category scores with the final score having all the adjustments required, so that is why they don’t look like they add correctly.
|Rank||Name||% Caught||QBR||% Broken Up||YAC||Total Score|
It should come as no surprise that Revis does rank number 1 with a score of 170.6. He ranks 1 in % Caught and Broken Up and 2 in QBR. Where he falters is that his YAC took a dip in 2010, primarily due to the injury games, and that hurt his numbers there a little. Asante Samuel is a pretty clearcut number 2 with Brent Grimes earning the franchise tag with his outstanding play the last few seasons. Those 3 are the class of the league. Joe Haden is living up to the draft status as number 4 while the Jets Antonio Cromartie ranks number 5 and has helped the Jets maintain the best corner tandem, by far, in the NFL.
Disappointments for teams have to be Nnamdi Asomugha who ranks 21st with a score of 93.7 which is just barely above the average score. He has made so much money with little to show the last three seasons. Maybe some of the 09/10 numbers can be attributed to lack of attempts against, but to me it is amazing that Philadelphia would rather have him than Samuel. DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson are disasters. Cortland Finnegan is going to have a tough time justifying the big money he made with the Rams this year. I guess he doesn’t give up a lot of YPC which I didn’t factor in but I can’t see any logical reason to pay him as they did.
Here is a chart with the annual salaries of the players plotted against the performance, with a few of the big names listed on the chart. As always please note that many of these salaries for players are approximations based on media reports as I don’t have full access to all the salaries. I believe them to be pretty accurate, but there could be some mistakes. Terence Newman is still a free agent so I just gave him a marker of $1 million to use and I don’t believe Webb had signed his tender so I used a 6 year APY rather than a 5 year in calculating his salary.
I wanted to try a little experiment here in determining whether or not a player is under or overpaid and what I would peg his adjusted value at based on his play the last 3 years under this criteria. To do this I took the average performance for all the players, 90.9%, and determined by what percentage a player was above or below the average score. Revis for example is 87.6% higher than the average. I then took the average salary, $5,995,540, and multiplied that by the percentage increase or decrease the player gives above the average. This number now indicates what the player should be paid based on the actual performance on the field and helps give an idea of what a player should or should not be earning in free agency.
This little study indicates that the high end of the market, which is Revis, should be adjusted downward by about 2.2% to $11.25 million. Until somebody surpasses Revis (or Revis improves before his next deal) that would be the maximum APY for the player. When Brandon Carr hits free agency, if he maintains his score, he would be performing at a $7.8 million level. Now he is going to make more than that, but that would be a fair dollar figure for his performance. Outside of those on rookie deals the best top end bargain player is Samuel. What I also found interesting was that Cromartie comes in at slightly underpaid by about 1%. Now I’m not sure how Cro would do on a team without Revis, but his contract has been the subject of much debate but it sure seems as if it is the perfect figure for him based on how he has done the last few seasons.
I would have to think that at the lower end, players such as Sean Smith have a chance to stick around for awhile since their price is low compared to the performance they give in the time they see the field. In contrast, the big money tickets who are underperforming have to be cut as soon as feasible within the construct of the teams cap. Anyway the columns should all be sortable so have some fun fooling around with them and seeing how the players really seem to stack up.