“Sure he was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!”
– Bob Thaves
Cornerbacks don’t wear heels, but there’s a little bit of Ginger Rogers in every good one that has to line up and do the dance with a receiver. Much like Astaire’s underrated partner, there are some misnomers surrounding the cornerback position. The biggest one is that cornerback is a one-size-fits-all position.
The value of a cornerback prospect depends on numerous factors that reflect the style and personnel of the NFL defenses and how they match with the skills and deficiencies of the corner. Does the defense play a lot of zone, off man, or bump and run? Will the corner need to have the skills to play the wide side of the field or does the team have the luxury to use him to the narrow side where he’ll earn more assistance?
North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson whose FBS record-breaking, 13-interception performance in 2011 as a sophomore placed him among the top-five prospects at his position heading into the season, is a good example of a prospect whose skills make his draft stock more volatile than others in his class. Interceptions may heighten a player’s public standing because they tell a positive story, but that one stat is not the book on the junior defensive back.
Darrelle Revis is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and he has only 19 interceptions in his career. The best one-year interception total Champ Bailey had during his 14-year career is 10 in 2006. To give that more perspective, Bailey just earned his 12th interception during the six seasons since that double-digit year. Since every wise soul from Athens, Georgia, Washington D.C., and Denver, Colorado knows that 70 percent of the earth is covered by water and the rest by Champ Bailey, Amerson’s 13-interception season is a great feat but it doesn’t make him a great cornerback.
Based on 2011 performances against Clemson and Louisville and Tennessee in the 2012 opener, Amerson is not a shutdown corner in the style of Revis or Bailey. These two NFL players have that thing that Ginger Rogers did. If seeking a cornerback with shutdown potential, Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, whose physical, man-to-man style; recovery speed; and ability to bring the lumber against the run make them wiser investments for those NFL shoppers. Read the rest at Football Outsiders.