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Jets 2021 free agency: Ranking the cornerbacks from best to worst

Jason Verrett, Richard Sherman
(Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Ranking 53 impending NFL free agent cornerbacks from best to worst, based on an accumulation of their 2020 statistics.

Using an agglomeration of four different key statistics, I ranked the 53 impending NFL free agent cornerbacks that played at least 250 defensive snaps in 2020. This is the third in a series of articles that will rank all of the qualified free agents at key positions of need for the New York Jets – I have already ranked 47 free agent wide receivers and 47 free agent edge rushers.

The players were ranked according to their average percentile ranking among 129 qualified cornerbacks in these four statistics:

Pro Football Focus coverage grade: PFF’s all-encompassing evaluation of a player’s performance in coverage based on the grading of every coverage snap. This stat’s best attribute is its ability to account for mishaps by the opponent. If a player is burnt in coverage but gets bailed out by a drop or bad throw, his coverage stats will reflect him positively, but PFF’s grading system will give him the negative credit he deserves.

Passer rating allowed: Passer rating allowed by the player across all targets in his direction.

Yards per cover snap allowed: Formula: yards allowed divided by snaps played in coverage. Yards per cover snap is a solid stat for evaluating coverage impact because it accounts for not only a player’s ability to limit production on targets in his direction but also his ability to limit targets altogether. It’s nice to know what players allow when they are targeted, but it is also important to take into account how good of a job they do at preventing the ball from coming their way in the first place. In a vacuum, players deserve credit for logging a coverage snap without being targeted. Yards per cover snap accomplishes that, while coverage stats that look only at what players allow on a per-target basis do not.

Players who are targeted at a low frequency tend to perform well in this stat.

Pro Football Focus run defense grade: PFF’s all-encompassing evaluation of a player’s performance as a run defender based on the grading of every snap against the run.

Overall score: The player’s percentile rankings in each of the four metrics above are averaged together to create an overall score by which the group was ranked.

Of course, coverage is far more important than run defense for a cornerback, so that is why I decided to only include one run defense stat against three coverage stats, making a player’s coverage stats responsible for 75% of their overall final score.

The chart showcases some other crucial information, including the player’s free agency type, exact age to the decimal point on Sept. 1, and their average number of defensive snaps per game.

In addition, there are two metrics listed to showcase each player’s usage. “Outside percentage” refers to the percentage of a player’s snaps in which they lined up as an outside cornerback. Players with a high number in this column typically line up as the outermost cornerback on their side of the field, while players with lower numbers line up more frequently in the slot. “Left side percentage” refers to the percentage of a player’s snaps in which they lined up on the defense’s left side, showcasing which side of the field their team preferred to use them on. A lower number in this column means that the player was used more frequently on the right side of the field.

Here it is: 53 of the top 2021 free agent cornerbacks, ranked from best to worst:

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