Cornerback is a huge need for the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL draft. How do the top CB prospects compare in terms of statistical production?
As things currently stand, the cornerback position is a massive, massive problem for the New York Jets. If the Jets played a game today, their starters on the outside would likely be Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin, while Javelin Guidry would be the main man in the slot. Hall and Guidry showed promise as rookies, but that was a very small sample. Austin had a brutal sophomore campaign in 2020.
The Jets still have plenty of time to address this position on the free agent market. Brian Poole remains a free agent despite two years of being arguably the best slot corner in football, while strong veteran solutions on the outside, like Steven Nelson and Richard Sherman, are also floating out there.
Regardless of whether the Jets can plug their cornerback holes in free agency, it will be crucial for them to start building a pipeline of young talent in the draft.
How do the top cornerback prospects in the 2021 NFL draft stack up in regards to their advanced statistics in college? Let’s dive in.
Here are the prospects we will be comparing today:
- Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (2020 opt-out, stats will be from 2019)
- Patrick Surtain, Alabama
- Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
- Greg Newsome, Northwestern
- Eric Stokes, Georgia
- Asante Samuel Jr., Florida St.
- Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
- Paulson Adebo, Stanford (2020 opt-out, stats will be from 2019)
- Trill Williams, Syracuse
- Aaron Robinson, UCF
- Benjamin St. Juste, Minnesota
- Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
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Passer rating allowed
Here is a look at the passer rating allowed (the NFL version) by each cornerback across all targets in their direction in 2020.
Each player’s percentile rank in the category among qualified FBS cornerbacks is also listed.
*an asterisk denotes a player whose stats are from the 2019 season.
- Caleb Farley: 26.8 (99th percentile)*
- Greg Newsome: 31.7 (98th)
- Eric Stokes: 43.6 (95th)
- Asante Samuel Jr.: 46.2 (94th)
- Jaycee Horn: 54.9 (90th)
- Patrick Surtain: 67.4 (78th)
- Paulson Adebo: 77.7 (68th)*
- Trill Williams: 80.1 (63rd)
- Ifeatu Melifonwu: 94.9 (43rd)
- Aaron Robinson: 101.0 (34th)
- Benjamin St. Juste: 102.9 (32nd)
- Israel Mukuamu: 118.8 (19th)
Caleb Farley is generally considered the top cornerback in the class (although not unanimously), and his 2019 season makes a great case for that title as his allowed passer rating of 26.8 ranked fifth-best in the nation.
Greg Newsome of Northwestern, who has been a very popular prospect in the draft community in recent weeks, had a dominant 2020 season in which he allowed a 31.7 passer rating. Newsome coughed up no touchdowns, one interception, and an absurdly low completion percentage of 35.3%.
South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu was considered a first-round prospect by some evaluators entering the 2020 season, but his incredibly abysmal 2020 season has him looking at a Day 3 or late-Day 2 slotting. Mukuamu allowed passer ratings of 64.4 and 68.7 over his first two seasons before skyrocketing to 118.8 in 2020.
Mukuamu’s fellow Gamecock, Jaycee Horn, is most likely going to be taken in the first round and is gaining steam to potentially be the first cornerback taken. He gave up three touchdowns in 2020, but also snagged two picks while giving a microscopic completion percentage of 33.3% and only 4.8 yards per target.
Alabama’s Patrick Surtain has long been considered a strong candidate to be the best cornerback in the class. His 67.4 passer rating in 2020 wasn’t quite as electric as some of his competitors, which was mostly due to the fact that he allowed two touchdowns to only one interception. However, Surtain has a very consistent three-year body of work, allowing a career passer rating of 68.7 with his career-worst mark being a still-strong 72.7 as a freshman. Cornerback is an erratic position by nature, so maintaining that high level of production over three years in the SEC is highly impressive.
Yards per cover snap allowed
The formula for yards per cover snap is simple: yards allowed divided by coverage snaps.
This stat is great because it focuses not only on plays in which cornerbacks are targeted, but also gives them credit for logging coverage snaps in which they do not allow the ball to come their way.
- Greg Newsome: 0.44 (99th percentile)
- Patrick Surtain: 0.51 (97th)
- Eric Stokes: 0.51 (97th)
- Jaycee Horn: 0.53 (97th)
- Caleb Farley: 0.68 (93rd)*
- Asante Samuel: 0.70 (87th)
- Trill Williams: 0.85 (78th)
- Aaron Robinson: 0.93 (71st)
- Ifeatu Melifonwu: 0.93 (71st)
- Paulson Adebo: 1.24 (40th)*
- Benjamin St. Juste: 1.37 (28th)
- Israel Mukuamu: 1.88 (8th)
In the battle for the No. 1 cornerback spot, Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn edge out Farley when it comes to per-snap production. Horn and Surtain were beaten extremely infrequently. Horn allowed a reception once every 27.4 coverage snaps, third-best in the nation, while Surtain ranked fifth-best with a mark of 25.0. Farley allowed a catch every 20.9 coverage snaps, which is still ridiculously good (97th percentile) but not quite as dominant as the other two.
Newsome was a lockdown force in 2020, boasting arguably the best coverage numbers of any cornerback in the nation. In addition to being one of the nation’s most productive corners on a per-target basis, he was still fantastic on a per-snap basis, tying for sixth in the nation with only 0.44 yards allowed per cover snap (93 yards over 212 snaps across 6 games).
Georgia’s Eric Stokes has a production track record that puts him in the mix with the other elite names, boasting a 95th-percentile ranking in passer rating and a 97th-percentile ranking in yards per cover snap.
It’s time to add some context to the coverage numbers above.
A cornerback’s production is wildly volatile because it is extremely contingent upon luck. Some cornerbacks benefit from a lot of drops and bad throws, making them look better than they really are. Others get the short end of the stick and are victimized by amazing catches and pinpoint throws while rarely ever benefiting from a mistake by the opposition.
Here is a look at the percentage of targets in which each cornerback benefited from either a drop or a bad pass. A higher number/ranking represents better luck, while a lower number/ranking represents worse luck.