It might seem like we are skipping around on the defensive side of the ball, but the logic makes sense when you look at it from a financial standpoint. Defenses invest more in edge defenders than any other position on defense. Corners are a close second. Since so much is invested in those corners, we have to believe that they are important to the success of a football team.
Naturally, this is where things get difficult. The greatest corners don’t necessarily have great statistics to fall back on. They are so dominant that opposing teams don’t throw their direction. The great Deion Sanders comes to mind there. If quarterbacks aren’t throwing it your way then it can be hard to justify your existence with basic statistics. As you might imagine, there are all kinds of high octane statistics that measure how often a corner is thrown at and how often other teams succeed against him. While I would love to dive into those numbers today, we will have to wait until another time to do that.
Our task here is to look at the top ten corners in terms of pay according to Spotrac. We will look at their conventional statistics over the last three seasons. I repeat my usual disclaimer. This is not an actual ranking of who is the best. It is simply a look at the ten highest paid players to see if there is a statistical standard that they should have to be one of those players.
The Top Ten
Jaire Alexander— 122 tackles, 33 passes defended, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles
Denzel Ward— 133 tackles, 39 passes defended, 7 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Jalen Ramsey— 171 tackles, 47 passes defended, 6 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
Marshon Lattimore— 187 tackles, 44 passes defended, 6 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
Marlon Humphrey— 205 tackles, 38 passes defended, 5 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles
Xavier Howard— 118 tackles, 40 passes defended, 16 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
Tre’Darius White— 156 tackles, 34 passes defended, 10 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles
Darius Slay— 157 tackles, 28 passes defended, 6 interceptions, 0 forced fumbles
Byron Jones— 141 tackles, 20 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
J.B. Jackson— 134 tackles, 47 passes defended, 22 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
There are any number of ways of finding positive and negative outliers. We could look at the mean for all of these numbers, but we will find that both extremes can skew those results. We can find the median performance at each category and negate the effects of the outliers in each category. Finally, we could simply set a minimum in each category where we find most of the players clearing that bar.
If we use the last category, we find that eight of the corners surpassed 130 tackles over the course of three seasons. Eight players cleared 30 passes defended in three seasons. Eight players forced at least one fumble in three seasons and eight players had at least five interceptions over the course of three seasons. If you find the same guys consistently below those minimum marks then they are probably overpaid.
Byron Jones is below those minimum standards in two categories. Everyone else is above in three or four categories. So, it would seem like the top ten corners are being paid around what they should be based on these numbers alone. Of course, there are other prominent corners that could be better, but haven’t gotten to that huge payday yet. It’s one reason why this list will likely look far different a year from now.
This is one position where the Texans hope they have found that guy. Derek Stingley comes into the league with that kind of pedigree. They could have a legitimate top ten corner as soon as 2023 in terms of performance. The basic year by year numbers for the above guys ends up being 45 tackles, 13 passes defended, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. Stingley could conceivably produce those numbers in his rookie season if he is healthy.
If you have followed this series you will notice that the same teams seem to have multiple top ten players on their roster. Winning teams need big time players to make big time plays. Yes, you need a strong 47 man or 53 man roster to win. Yes, you need all 22 starters and your two specialists to be competent. Yes, you need good play callers on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. All of those things won’t matter if you don’t have skill position players on both sides capable of making plays in key moments. Derek Stingley can give these fans some hope that they have found one of those guys. It could take a few yeas to find more, but finding one on the defensive side of the ball is crucial.