Comparing the Top Cornerbacks

This chart examining the play of five of this draft's top cornerback prospects — a key need for the Packers — was created upon the request of several teams. This encompasses dozens of categories, including completion percentage, yards per attempt, big plays allowed, run defense and much, much more.

Waynes photo by Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY

With the free-agent departures of Tramon Williams and Davon House leaving the Green Bay Packers with former college basketball point guard Demetri Goodson as their fourth corner, the need at cornerback is obvious.

The following comparison chart, which the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas, prepared at the request of several teams, examines five of this draft’s top prospects — LSU’s Jalen Collins, Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson, Washington’s Marcus Peters, Utah’s Eric Rowe and Michigan State’s Trae Waynes based on their 2014 production. (Connecticut’s Byron Jones was not included because he missed half the season due to injury.)

CORNERBACK TALE OF THE TAPE
PLAYERSCHOOL CLASSHEIGHT WEIGHT40-YD
Jalen Collins LSU Junior6:01.4 2034.48
Kevin Johnson Wake Forest Senior6:00.2 1884.52
Marcus Peters Washington Junior5:11.5 1974.53
Eric Rowe UtahSenior 6:00.6205 4.45
Trae Waynes Michigan State Junior6:00.1 1864.31


PASS DEFENSE PERFORMANCE REPORT CARD
PLAYERGM PDIC TGREC YDSCOMP TDCMP ATT
COLLINS11 1217 5123 20445.09 0208.87 04.00
JOHNSON12 0715 5025 30550.00 0112.20 06.10
PETERS08 1022 5314 09826.42 0107.00 01.85
ROWE12 1429 7120 15728.17 0107.85 02.21
WAYNES12 1445 8220 17924.39 0008.95 02.18


PASS DEFENSE PERFORMANCE AVERAGE PER GAME
PLAYERPD RKIC RKTG RECRK YDSRK COMPRK CMPRK ATTRK TOTRK
COLLINS1.09 41.55 44.64 2.094 18.554 45.094 08.873 04.004 154
JOHNSON0.58 51.25 54.17 2.085 25.425 50.005 12.205 06.105 075
PETERS1.25 12.75 26.63 1.752 12.251 26.422 07.001 01.851 321
ROWE1.17 22.42 35.92 1.673 13.082 28.173 07.852 02.213 243
WAYNES1.17 23.75 16.83 1.671 14.923 24.391 08.954 02.182 292
NOTES: GM indicates games played…PD indicates total passes defended (pass break-ups/interceptions)…RK indicates player’s rank based on average passes defended per game…IC indicates amount of passes that the defensive back re-routed/jammed receivers in his territory, preventing the reception…RK indicates player’s rank based on average ICs per game…TG indicates amount of passes the opposition targeted into the defensive back’s territory…REC/YDS indicates amount of targeted passes/ yards gained that the opposition caught in the defensive back’s territory…COMP indicates percentage of passes the opposition completed in the defensive back’s territory…RK indicates player’s rank based on lowest pass completion percentage allowed…TD indicates amount of touchdown receptions vs. the defensive back…CMP indicates average yardage gained per reception by the opponents catching passes in the defensive back’s territory…RK indicates player’s rank based on lowest reception yardage average allowed…ATT indicates average yardage gained per pass attempt by the opponents in the defensive back’s territory…RK indicates player’s rank based on lowest pass attempt yardage average allowed…TOT indicates total points scored by the defensive back for each RK category (5 points awarded for player that finished first in that category; 4 points for second; 3 points for third; 2 points for fourth; 1 point for fifth)… RK indicates rank of the defensive backs based on total points scored.

READING BETWEEN THE LINES
The cornerback is a team’s hope for shutting down the opponent’s passing game. Fleet of foot, the recent trend is securing big-man coverage defenders with solid press-coverage skills to combat the slew of tree-sized receivers entering the league in recent years. Most corners have receiver-like natural hands and the PD category measures the player’s ability to either pick off the pass or bat it away. An acceptable average here is one PD per game played. All but Johnson maintained that level, with Peters having the biggest impact, even though he was available for just eight games.

 

The IC category shows the corner’s ability to disrupt the receiver’s route progression. This category shows how many times the defender was able to prevent his coverage assignment from getting off the line and into his route, usually resulting in an incompletion. You look for the corner to average at least two plays per game in this category. As you can see, Waynes really came into his own after he shifted to the boundary position this year. Evident by his performance at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, he has the speed to stick with any receiver in the NFL.

 

While “manning up” to an opponent is critical, that tell-tale sign for success in that area lies in the amount of passes completed vs. those targeted into the corner’s area (TG/REC). This is calculated by taking the average amount of passes targeted into the defender’s area, minus the average amount of receptions he allowed per game. Peters and Waynes were targeted the most within this group, but both held their opponent to under two catches per game. Collins had the most difficulty covering receivers, but I honestly feel he’s the most overrated cornerback in this draft. His coaches seemed to agree, as he spent two games doing nothing but covering kicks and not wideouts. Both the LSU product and Johnson were “tagged” often by quarterbacks. You really want your corner holding opponents to just a 30 percent pass completion rate, and as numbers indicate Collins and Johnson were not up for that task.

 

The CMP category shows the average gain per reception allowed by the defender and you want to see numbers to be under 8 yards per completion to be acceptable.

 

As for the ATT category, this shows the average gain per pass completion. Anything under 4.00 for an average is acceptable, with Peters’ numbers ranking among the top 10 performances for corners in the last five years. Since developing this format in 1967, only Jim Marsalis of Tennessee State (0.969 in 1968), Deion Sanders of Florida State (0.935 in 1988) and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State (0.820 in 2013) have managed to hold their assignments to under one yard per attempt in that category.


RUSH DEFENSE PERFORMANCE REPORT CARD
PLAYERGM TKTPG RUNYDS AVGTD
COLLINS11 03803.45 18077 04.2800
JOHNSON12 04403.67 16144 09.0001
PETERS08 03003.75 11007 00.6400
ROWE12 05904.92 34097 02.8500
WAYNES12 05904.92 21028 01.3300


RUSH DEFENSE PERFORMANCE AVERAGE PER GAME
PLAYERTPG RKRUN YDSAVG RKTOT RK
COLLINS03.45 518 07704.28 403 4
JOHNSON03.67 416 14409.00 503 4
PETERS03.75 311 00700.64 108 2
ROWE04.92 134 09702.85 308 2
WAYNES04.92 121 02801.33 209 1
NOTES: TK indicates total tackles recorded…TPG indicates tackles per game…RK indicates player’s rank based on average tackles per game…RUN indicates amount of running plays the defensive back made plays against… YDS/AVG indicates the amount of yards/average that the opposition amassed vs. the defensive back on those running plays…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest average yards allowed per running play…TD indicates touchdown runs the opposition registered vs. the defensive back…TOT indicates total points scored by the defensive back for each RK category (5 points awarded for player that finished first in that category; 4 points for second; 3 points for third; 2 points for fourth; 1 point for fifth)… RK indicates rank of the defensive backs based on total points scored.

READING BETWWEEN THE LINES
Most corners don’t play in the box that often, but Waynes and Rowe excel in this area, as both are physical hitters with great ability to keep the action in front of them. Rowe was actually a safety during his first three years before shifting to corner this season. Johnson lacks “sand in his pants” and is nothing more than a “hanger on” (waits for help) in this category. Peters has solid run support skills and even took down five ball carriers for losses last season.


IMPACT PLAYS PERFORMANCE REPORT CARD
PLAYERGM 3RD4TH NGTFL CDTO RZ
COLLINS11 1300 0303 0101 02
JOHNSON12 1205 0304 0202 02
PETERS08 2401 0305 1003 08
ROWE12 1704 0503 1102 11
WAYNES12 2204 0302 0703 05


IMPACT PLAYS PERFORMANCE AVERAGE PER GAME
PLAYER3RD RK4TH RKNG RKTFL RKCD RKTO RKRZ RKTOT RK
COLLINS1.18 40.00 50.23 50.27 30.09 50.09 50.18 411 5
JOHNSON1.00 50.42 10.25 30.33 20.17 40.17 30.17 519 4
PETERS3.00 10.13 40.38 20.63 11.25 10.38 11.00 131 1
ROWE1.42 30.33 20.42 10.25 40.92 20.17 30.92 225 2
WAYNES1.83 20.33 20.25 30.17 50.58 30.25 20.42 322 3
NOTES: 3RD indicates the amount of third down plays the defensive back registered (vs. run-pass)…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of third downs registered…4TH indicates the amount of fourth down plays the defensive back registered (vs. run-pass)…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of fourth downs registered…NG indicates the amount of plays that resulted in no gains by the opponent (vs. pass-run)…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest average of plays that resulted in no gain…TFL indicates amount of tackles behind the line of scrimmage recorded by the defensive back…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of tackles for loss…CD indicates amount of touchdown-saving tackles made by the defender chasing down opponents at the opposite end of the field…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of TD-saving tackles recorded…TO indicates amount of total turnovers registered by the defensive back (fumbles/interceptions/blocked kicks)…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of turnovers recorded…RZ indicates plays recorded by the defensive back in the red zone/goal line…RK indicates player’s rank based on the average of red zone plays recorded…TOT indicates total points scored by the defensive back for each RK category (5 points awarded for player that finished first in that category; 4 points for second; 3 points for third; 2 points for fourth; 1 point for fifth)… RK indicates rank of the defensive backs based on total points scored.

READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Nothing takes the “wind out of the sails” of an opponent’s passing attack than having a corner consistently thwart the quarterback on third- and fourth-down plays. This was Peters’ specialty, as he constantly stuffed receivers to kill drives. In fact, on 20 of his 24 third-down stops, the receiver could not even get into his route. Waynes was also highly effective here. Collins, well, it was obvious that he was not a full-time player and was usually assigned to slot duties rather than going one-on-one with receivers. If a team really wants to salvage his potential at the next level, playing vs. the ball as a free safety might be a better route to take. Yes, Peters ran afoul of his coaches last year, but in all my years of analyzing talent, he’s the closest that I’ve seen to the guy I measure ALL cornerbacks against – Charles Woodson.


NEGATIVE PLAYS PERFORMANCE REPORT CARD
PLAYERGM PEN1ST P10P20 PTDR10 R20RTD
COLLINS11 0317 0803 0201 0200
JOHNSON12 0519 0305 0104 0101
PETERS08 0309 0500 0100 0000
ROWE12 0614 0600 0103 0000
WAYNES12 0110 0501 0003 0000


NEGATIVE PLAY PERFORMANCE AVERAGE PER GAME
PLAYERGM PENRK 1STRK P10P20 RKPTD RKR10 R20RK RTDRK TOTRK
COLLINS11 0.272 1.554 0.730.27 50.18 50.09 0.184 0.001 154
JOHNSON12 0.424 1.585 0.250.42 40.08 20.33 0.085 0.085 115
PETERS08 0.383 1.132 0.630.00 30.13 40.00 0.001 0.001 223
ROWE12 0.505 1.173 0.500.00 10.08 20.25 0.002 0.001 232
WAYNES12 0.081 0.831 0.420.08 20.00 10.25 0.002 0.001 281
NOTES: GM indicates amount of games played…PEN indicates total amount of penalties for the season…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest average of penalties…1ST indicates the amount of first down plays the defensive back allowed (vs. pass-run)…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest average of first downs allowed…P10 indicates receptions allowed from 10-to-19 yards…P20 indicates receptions allowed for 20 yards or longer…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest amount of big plays allowed via receptions…PTD indicates receptions allowed for touchdowns…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest amount of touch-down receptions allowed…R10 indicates running plays allowed from 10-to-19 yards…R20 indicates running plays allowed for 20 yards or longer… RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest amount of big plays allowed via running plays…RTD indicates running plays allowed for touchdowns…RK indicates player’s rank based on the lowest amount of touchdown runs…TOT indicates total points scored by the defensive back for each RK category (5 points awarded for player that finished first in that category; 4 points for second; 3 points for third; 2 points for fourth; 1 point for fifth)… RK indicates rank of the defensive backs based on total points scored.

READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Outside of quarterback, perhaps no position is more scrutinized for mistakes more than a cornerback – a man out on an island. Penalties will kill a defense’s momentum, especially personal fouls, which Peters racked up like I collected baseball cards as a kid. Waynes was the least penalized, as he has near-perfect coverage technique, even with a little hip stiffness. Collins’ low numbers are also encouraging, but he was on the field for just half the plays than any other player listed here. The LSU product and Johnson had the most catches for first downs charged against them, as both preferred to allow big cushions while the other three big hitters enjoyed getting a lot more physical with their opponents. Collins had 51 passes targeted to him, with 23 being completed, but allowed a total of 11 big plays (P10/P20), meaning that opponents produced big numbers on 47.83 percent of the completions that he yielded. Johnson allowed 50 percent of passes targeted in his area (25-of-50) to be completed, but just six of those grabs (24 percent) went for big numbers. Peters held his assignments to 14-of-53 completions, but just five for 10 yards or longer. Rowe had six of 20 completions for 10 or more yards (30 percent) and Waynes gave up six big plays on 20 completions.



FINAL PLAYER REPORT CARD
PLAYERGM PASSRK RUNRK IMPRK NEGRK TOTRK
COLLINS, Jalen11 154 034 115 154 0444
JOHNSON, Kevin12 075 034 194 115 0405
PETERS, Marcus08 321 082 311 223 0931
ROWE, Eric12 243 082 252 232 0803
WAYNES, Trae12 292 091 223 281 0882
AVERAGE11 21.4  6.2  21.6  19.8  69.0 
NOTES: PASS indicates the amount of points scored based on the Pass Defense Performance category…RK indicates player’s rank based on the Pass Defense Performance category… RUN indicates the amount of points scored based on the Run Defense Performance category…RK indicates player’s rank based on the Run Defense Performance category…IMP indicates the amount of points scored based on the Impact Plays Defense Performance category…RK indicates player’s rank based on the Impact Plays Defense Performance category…NEG indicates to amount of points scored based on Negative Plays Defensive Performance category…RK indicates player’s rank based on the Negative Plays Defense Performance category…TOT indicates total points scored by the defensive back for each RK category (5 points awarded for player that finished first in that category; 4 points for second; 3 points for third; 2 points for fourth; 1 point for fifth)… RK indicates rank of the defensive backs based on total points scored.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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