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2015 NFL Draft: Finding Playmaking Cornerbacks For The Cowboys

Given the current state of the position on their roster, the Cowboys will almost certainly draft a cornerback this year, and perhaps multiple corners. Since this is a deep and varied CB class, it begs the question: who might be good candidates to be these much-needed additions?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

When we peruse the cornerback depth chart (warning: only brave souls durst venture such hazardous gazing), we see many more questions than we do answers. What is the status of Mo Claiborne's health? Of Brandon Carr's contract? Can Tyler Patmon handle heavier responsibilities? Can Corey White play? In short, other than Orlando Scandrick, we see a lot of open questions.

This goes to say that the one position where I am most certain the Cowboys will draft a player is at cornerback. And it wouldn't surprise me at all to see them draft another one in the middle rounds. That's not in question. What IS in question is: which of the many excellent scheme fits (this draft is very deep in terms of the Cowboys' prototype: big 6'0", 195-200 pound with length, who can compete with the new breed of tall receiver) should we hone in on as ideal candidates to replace and/ or reinforce the men currently on the depth chart.

Well, my fellow BTBer, you're in luck. I'm following in the footstep of the inimitable O.C.C., who, in the first in a series of posts on the linebacker prospects, reintroduced us to "Production Points," a metric that gives a total value to defensive stats via a simple points system, as follows:

Production Points scoring system
Stat Points
Tackle 1
Tackle For Loss 3
QB Hurries 3
Pass Breakup 3
Sack 6
Forced Fumble
6
Interception 9

As noted above, the metric is very simple; after tallying all the points for a given player, one simply divides the total by the number of college games played. A proviso: I'm only going to include the numbers from each player's last two college seasons. Thus four-year starters, JUCO transfers and late bloomers all share a relatively level playing field.

A couple of important notes: First, fumble recoveries are not included, as those are about as random a stat as there is. Also not included are defensive scores, as they are largely dependent on field position and have a large degree of randomness as well. Second, there is a significant amount of double-counting within these college stats. Whenever possible, we've tried to offer a clearer picture by eliminating this double counting.

To kick things off, and to get a feel for the metric, let's look at the Production Points for the top three corners (as measured by Approximate Value) from the 2011-2013 draft classes.


NFL College Production Production
Points
Round (Pick) Player Team POS Approx. Val. Tkl TFL QBH SACK PBU FF INT Games
Class of 2013
2 (43) Johnthan Banks TB
CB
11
134
10 4
3
16
4
8
26
12.3
1 (22) Desmond Trufant
ATL
CB
11
100 5
0 1.5
22
3
3
25 9.0
2 (51) David Amerson
WAS
CB
9
120 2.5
0 0 17 0
18
26 13.0
Class of 2012
2 (39) Janoris Jenkins
STL
CB
20
82
8.5
1
1
14
1
5
26 7.6
1 (10) Stephon Gilmore BUF
CB
14
125
9
5
4
9
2
7
27
10.1
3 (65) Trumaine Johnson
STL
CB
11
98
9.5
1
1.5
19
1
6
23
10.5
Class of 2011
5 (154) Richard Sherman
SEA
CB
55
112 1
0
0
17 2
6
26 8.9
1 (5) Patrick Peterson AZ
CB
53 94
1.5 1
0
19 0
6
26 8.1
2 (50) Aaron Williams
BUF
CB/SS
15
78
9.5
1
3
11
5
3 24 8.3

As measured by Approximate Value, the nine players above are the top cornerbacks in their respective draft classes. And going by their Production Points, it seems that a score of 8.0 is about average, a PP/G of of 8.5 or more indicates strong collegiate productivity, and a double-digit score suggests very high college productivity, thus foreshadowing future NFL success. In case you are wondering, the last two major-college CBs the Cowboys drafted, Mo Claiborne and Terrance Mitchell, averaged 8.96 and 7.88 production points per game as collegians.

Let's compare those numbers to this year's draft class. The next table features 35 draftable corners, sorted by their rank on the CBSSports big board on April 13 (it doesn't include every draftable corner, nor the top 35 corners; rather, it's comprised of those CBs who combine sufficient production and athleticism to warrant consideration for this exercise - a rationale that will become clearer in the second part of this two-part series). The table is sortable so you can see who ranks where for each category (just click on the blue column headers):

Cornerbacks in 2015 NFL Draft
Rank Player School HT
WT Proj. Rd TKL
TFL PBU
QBH
SACK
FF
INT
PP
Games PP/G
9 Trae Waynes Michigan State 6-0 186 1 96 3.5 13 0 1.5 0 6 193.5 27 7.43
19 Kevin Johnson Wake Forest 6-0 188 1 102 3.5 18 0 0 2 4 204 24 8.79
21 Byron Jones Connecticut 6-1 199 1
84 2 12 0 0 0 5 165 19 8.89
26 Marcus Peters Washington 6-0 197 1-2 85 7.5 16 0 1 1 8 214 21 10.9
29 Jalen Collins LSU 6-1 203 1-2 60 3 11 0 0 0 1 102 26 4.15
31 Eric Rowe Utah 6-1 205 1-2 128 4 20 0 0.5 0 1 198.5 24 8.6
47
Ronald Darby Florida State 5-11 193 2 57 1 8 0 0 1 2 105 28 3.82
52 Quinten Rollins Miami, OH 5-11 195 2 72 4 9 1 0 1 7 171 12 14.92
66 P.J. Williams Florida State 6-0 194 2-3 109 8 17 2 1 1 4 211 26 8.73
72 D'joun Smith Florida Atlantic 5-10 187 2-3 88 4 21 0 0 3 8 241 23 10.83
88 Josh Shaw USC 6-0 201 3 78 5.5 7 0 0 0 4 135 17 8.59
95 Doran Grant Ohio State 5-10 200 3 121 3 19 0 0 1 8 256 29 9.03
100 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Oregon 5-9 192 3 147 1 15 0 0 2 6 258 26 10.0
109 Steven Nelson Oregon State 5-10 197 3-4 122 2 16 1 0 0 8 245 25 9.96
119 Alex Carter Stanford 6-0 196 3-4 99 1 17 0 0 1 2 174 26 6.77
129 Senquez Golson Mississippi 5-9 176 4 84 5.5 11 2 0.5 0 12 232.5 25 9.74
133 Jacoby Glenn UCF 6-0 179 4 100 4 16 0 2 3 9 253 25 10.44
138 Kevin White TCU 5-9 183 4-5 91 4 19 1 1 0 5 199 25 8.28
148 Craig Mager Texas State 5-11 201 4-5 112 7 19 0 2 1 3 208 24 9.25
155 Charles Gaines Louisville 5-10 180 4-5 58 1 17 1 1 1 7 184 26 7.15
159 Justin Cox Mississippi State 6-2 191 5 52 1 7 0 0 0 2 91 22 4.23
169 Lorenzo Doss Tulane 6-1 182 5 82 6.5 18 0 1 0 9 220 25 9.32
177 JaCorey Shepherd Kansas 5-11 199 5-6 75 2 28 0 1 1 5 213 24 9.04
189 Damian Swann Georgia 6-0 189 5-6 122 5.5 16 4 2 4 4 248 25 10.36
229 Quandre Diggs Texas 5-9 196 6-7 123 8 15 4 4.5 2 3 232.5 26 9.56
235 Deshazor Everett Texas A&M 5-11 188 6-7 152 6.5 14 0 0 0 3 221 26 9.0
256 Bobby McClain Memphis 5-9 195 7 71 2 8 0 0 0 11 194 22 9.0
265 Justin Coleman Tennessee 5-11 185 7-FA 88 5 12 2 0 0 5 175 25 7.40
270 Julian Wilson Oklahoma 6-2 205 7-FA 65 4.5 10 1 0 0 4 134 24 5.96
301 Donald Celiscar Western Michigan 5-11 194 7-FA 123 2.5 26 0 1 2 7 279 25 11.36
304 Ladarius Gunter Miami, FL 6-1 202 7-FA 74 2 15 0 0 1 5 170 25 6.96
335 Cam Thomas Western Kentucky 6-0 200 7-FA 86 2.5 15 3 1 0 7 206 23 9.17
346 Troy Hill Oregon 5-10 180 7-FA 100 4.5 22 0 0 3 1 193 25 8.08
437 Garry Peters Clemson 6-0 191 FA 67 12.5 16 1 2 2 1 145 22 7.73
446 Tye Smith Towson 6-0 195 FA 187 7 18 0 1 3 3 289 27 11.22

A few thoughts after digesting all this information:

Going small school: the three most productive guys here are from smaller schools: Quinten Rollins (Miami, OH); Donald Celiscar (Western Michigan); and Tye Smith (Towson). On one hand, such a high degree of productivity makes one pay attention; on the other, that's what we should expect from NFL-caliber athletes playing against lesser competition. Hey, if you have NFL skillz and are playing D-III? You'd better dominate. And these guys all do, so we can check the box and move on.

And: such high productivity numbers suggest that down-the-board guys Celiscar (# 270) and Tye Smith (#446) might merit second looks...

Mid-range productivity: The majority of the major college guys who populate CBS's top 100 have productivity scores between 8.75 and ten. That confirms our earlier suspicion that the line of demarcation for good collegiate production lies around 8.5. With that in mind, therefore, we should pay special attention to those BSC-level prospects who are significantly above or below the line.

When I do that, three guys jump out at me: Mississippi State's Justin Cox (who may well be a safety), LSU's Jalen Collins and Florida State's Ronald Darby have the three lowest productivity scores in the bunch, 4.23, 4.15 and 3.82 respectively. One could argue that their low scores suggest that they weren't targeted much or that their schemes didn't ask them to tackle or play near the line. In these cases, I suspect it boils down to the fact that they simply weren't very productive.

Big-time productivity: On the opposite side of the outliers' spectrum sit four players with both D-I affiliation and double-digit productivity: UCF's Jacoby Glenn, former Oregon Duck Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Georgia's Damian Swann, and Marcus Peters of Washington. I would like to single out Peters as the only guy on this list to complete the scout's trifecta, combining big-conference status, a top-100 ranking (suggesting good tape), and double-digit production. I have some old trophies in my closet; maybe I'll organize a banquet and give him one...

Star_medium

All these numbers are well and good, of course, but we still want to know: will a prospect's college production translate to the NFL? And that's a question I'll wrangle with in a follow-up post, in which we'll combine Production Points with athletic markers to delineate the most athletic and productive corners in this draft class.