Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley, and more: Breaking down the analytics of the New York Jets’ top CB targets in the 2022 NFL draft
It’s time to continue our series that compares some of the top 2022 NFL draft prospects at each position in a few different advanced metrics. After looking at edge rushers and wide receivers, it’s time to do the same for the cornerback position, which is another spot where the New York Jets are expected to look for help early in the draft.
Here are the seven prospects we’ll be comparing today:
- Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati, age 21.5 (#6 overall prospect on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board)
- Derek Stingley, LSU, age 20.7 (#9)
- Trent McDuffie, Washington, age 21.1 (#23)
- Andrew Booth, Clemson, age 21.5 (#26)
- Kaiir Elam, Florida, age 20.9 (#30)
- Kyler Gordon, Washington, age 22.3 (#36)
- Roger McCreary, Auburn, age 22.1 (#39)
These are the seven cornerbacks who rank among the top 50 overall players on the consensus big board at NFL Mock Draft Database.
All statistics seen below are for the 2021 season, save for LSU’s Derek Stingley, whose 2021 campaign was limited due to injuries. We’ll look at Stingley’s combined numbers between his 2020 sophomore season (7 games) and 2021 junior season (3 games).
All rankings seen below are among 271 qualified FBS cornerbacks (500+ snaps). For the rankings of Stingley, we’ll list where his 2020-21 statistics would have ranked among qualifiers in 2021.
Yards per cover snap
Simply put, this statistic tells you how many receiving yards a player allowed per snap in which he was asked to play in coverage (receiving yards allowed ÷ coverage snaps).
This stat is a good way to combine two aspects of a player’s coverage ability:
- His ability to prevent the ball from being thrown his way
- His ability to limit damage when the ball is thrown his way
Here is how the group fared in yards per cover snap:
- Sauce Gardner: 0.25 (100th percentile) – 122 yards on 482 coverage snaps
- Trent McDuffie: 0.38 (99th) – 111 yards on 296 coverage snaps
- Kaiir Elam: 0.52 (98th) – 185 yards on 359 coverage snaps
- Kyler Gordon: 0.66 (94th) – 234 yards on 354 coverage snaps
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 0.70 (91st*) – 201 yards on 289 coverage snaps
- Roger McCreary: 0.94 (65th) – 442 yards on 470 coverage snaps
- Andrew Booth: 0.98 (60th) – 326 yards on 334 coverage snaps
2021 FBS cornerback average: 1.12
The top cornerbacks in the 2022 draft class tended to fare very well in this metric.
Gardner allowed the fewest yards per cover snap of any qualified FBS cornerback (0.25). Here’s a great way to put his dominance into perspective: Gardner played the 15th-most coverage snaps among FBS corners but allowed the 270th-most yards.
McDuffie wasn’t far behind Gardner, ranking third-best (0.38). Also earning elite rankings were Elam, who placed sixth-best (0.52), and Gordon, who ranked 17th-best (0.66).
While Stingley experienced a massive decline in his playmaking ability following his freshman year, picking off no passes from 2020-21 after grabbing six in 2019, he at least was able to continue keeping opponents quiet in the yardage department.
McCreary and Booth were not quite as excellent at preventing yardage as their fellow highly-regarded prospects.
Allowed passer rating
This statistic tells us the passer rating that opposing quarterbacks generated when targeting the player.
A player’s allowed passer rating is a solid metric for evaluating the quality of his on-ball coverage. It rewards the following four things:
- Allowing a low number of yards per target
- Allowing a low completion percentage
- Allowing a low touchdown rate
- Securing a high rate of interceptions
Here is how the group fared in allowed passer rating:
- Sauce Gardner: 22.6 (100th percentile) – 18/37 for 122 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT
- Kyler Gordon: 47.3 (98th) – 20/40 for 234 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
- Trent McDuffie: 52.0 (96th) – 16/36 for 111 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
- Roger McCreary: 57.8 (93rd) – 34/75 for 442 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
- Andrew Booth: 70.0 (81st) – 29/47 for 326 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT
- Kaiir Elam: 74.0 (74th) – 18/35 for 185 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 85.5 (56th*) – 15/33 for 201 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
2021 FBS cornerback average: 93.4
Gardner remains the cream of the crop. He allowed a passer rating of just 22.6, second-best among all FBS cornerbacks behind only South Alabama sophomore Darrell Luter Jr. (3.9). Opponents averaged only 3.3 yards per target when throwing at Gardner, tossing no touchdowns and three picks.
The Washington duo of Gordon and McDuffie joined Gardner in the group of players that achieved excellence in both yards per cover snap and allowed passer rating. Neither Gordon nor McDuffie allowed a touchdown in 2021.
While McCreary and Booth came in on the lower end in yards per cover snap, their negative touchdown-to-interception ratios helped them minimize their allowed passer ratings. McCreary also allowed a very low completion percentage of 45.3%, which was instrumental in helping him give up a passer rating of just 57.8.
Stingley allowed a completion percentage of just 45.5% from 2020-21, but because he allowed two touchdowns and collected no interceptions, his allowed passer rating was mediocre.
Back in his revered freshman season, Stingley allowed a 51.4 passer rating. He coughed up five touchdowns but he was able to overcome that thanks to his six interceptions and 37.0% completion percentage.
Let’s take a look at how these players perform in man and zone coverage, starting with man.
Before digging into their man-coverage production, it’s worth taking into account how often these cornerbacks were asked to play man coverage.
Here is the percentage of each player’s coverage snaps in which they were asked to play man coverage:
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 48.8% (97th percentile*)
- Sauce Gardner: 43.4% (92nd)
- Roger McCreary: 40.0% (86th)
- Kaiir Elam: 28.1% (53rd)
- Trent McDuffie: 20.6% (27th)
- Kyler Gordon: 19.8% (24th)
- Andrew Booth: 19.5% (24th)
Stingley, Gardner, and McCreary played a lot of man coverage. Elam was around average while McDuffie, Gordon, and Booth were zone-heavy corners.
Without further ado, here is a look at each player’s allowed passer rating in man coverage:
- Sauce Gardner: 12.0 (100th percentile)
- Kyler Gordon: 12.8 (99th)
- Kaiir Elam: 38.9 (95th)
- Trent McDuffie: 49.3 (88th)
- Roger McCreary: 70.4 (69th)
- Andrew Booth: 90.3 (43rd)
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 120.8 (14th*)
Giving up 8-of-18 passing for 46 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions, Gardner was a menace in man coverage. He once again placed second among FBS cornerbacks, trailing only Luter Jr. (0.0).
Gordon placed one spot behind Gardner, ranking third-best. He didn’t play man coverage often but dominated when he did, allowing 4-of-13 passing with 77 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Like Gordon, McDuffie held his own in man coverage when asked to do so despite being primarily a zone corner. McDuffie allowed 5-of-12 passing for 17 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions when playing man.
Elam gave up a touchdown in man coverage but only allowed three completions for 54 yards on 12 targets.
McCreary took on a large workload in man coverage. He saw 38 targets in man, the sixth-most of any FBS cornerback. McCreary handled those assignments fairly well as he gave up 18-of-38 passing for 263 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Stingley had trouble in man coverage. He gave up 10-of-18 passing for 153 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Back in 2019, Stingley allowed a 61.1 passer rating in man coverage.
Here is how the group fared when it came to allowed passer rating in zone coverage:
- Roger McCreary: 29.9 (99th percentile)
- Sauce Gardner: 34.5 (97th)
- Andrew Booth: 41.3 (95th)
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 53.5 (86th*)
- Trent McDuffie: 48.9 (83rd)
- Kyler Gordon: 85.4 (54th)
- Kaiir Elam: 95.4 (40th)
Despite being a man-heavy corner, McCreary was actually much better in zone coverage, where he allowed 11-of-27 passing for 160 yards, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Gardner was similarly fantastic in zone coverage as he was in man, giving up 7-of-13 passing for 61 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Stingley played well in zone, giving up just five catches on 12 targets for a measly 48 yards and no touchdowns. However, his 53.5 zone passer rating from 2020-21 was still a step back from his freshman year, when he allowed a 37.6 zone passer rating (8/30 for 201 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT).
Booth’s zone-heavy usage aligned with his strengths and weaknesses. He was not very good in man but thrived in zone, where he allowed 15-of-25 passing for 135 yards, no scores, and a pair of picks.
McDuffie took advantage of Washington’s zone-heavy defense but Gordon was actually far better in man coverage.
Elam had the greatest struggles in zone of any corner on this list, allowing 14-of-18 passing for 124 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Missed tackle rate
Tackling is an important skill for cornerbacks in both phases of the game. Teams want their corners to be reliable lifelines in the run game, and in coverage, good tackling helps corners limit the damage after allowing a catch.
Here is how the players fared when it came to missed tackle rate (missed tackles ÷ missed tackles-plus-total tackles):
- Kaiir Elam: 10.0% (80th percentile)
- Kyler Gordon: 11.5% (70th)
- Sauce Gardner: 13.0% (60th)
- Trent McDuffie: 13.2% (60th)
- Roger McCreary: 14.5% (51st)
- ’20-21 Derek Stingley: 18.6% (23rd*)
- Andrew Booth: 23.9% (8th)
2021 FBS cornerback average: 15.4%
Tackling is the one area where Gardner was not elite in college. And he knows it – at the 1:59 mark in the interview below, Gardner pinpoints his tackling form as the primary part of his game that he wants to improve on.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 24, 2022
None of these prospects were perfect tacklers in 2021, but Elam, Gordon, Gardner, and McDuffie were all comfortably above-average in the tackling department. McCreary was about average.
Booth and Stingley have a ton of work to do in this area. Booth missed 11 tackles in 10 games this past season while Stingley missed eight tackles in 10 games from 2020-21.
Finally, here’s a roundup of each player’s percentile rankings in the five categories above, listed from best to worst based on their average percentile ranking across the five stats.
|Player||Yds/Snap||QB Rating||Man QB Rating||Zone QB Rating||Tackling||Average|
|Derek Stingley ('20-21)||91||56||14||86||23||54.0|
At least when it comes to analytics, Sauce Gardner stands out as the clear No. 1 cornerback in this class. Gardner’s film seems to back up that claim.
Could the Jets consider taking Gardner with the fourth overall pick? If they want him, that might be the only place they can get him. It’s getting increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario where Gardner remains available for New York in the No. 10 slot.
Boasting chart-topping analytics, impressive film, great character, and record-setting testing numbers, Gardner is a nearly perfect cornerback prospect.
2022 NFL Draft Analytical Comparisons: