NFL Draft 2013: Should the Titans take a cornerback early?

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Most of us here at Music City Miracles are satisfied with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner. But are they the right choices?

I want to begin by saying that I am a huge fan of our cornerback tandem of J-Mac and ATV. But now I have begun wondering if maybe they aren't the cornerbacks of the future for this team. Maybe we should look into drafting a cornerback. Now, in order to determine this, I have gone to Advanced NFL Stats for some strong statistics that are past the standard defensive stats of Tackles, Sacks, Fumbles, and Interceptions.

I am going to break this post up into each stat to determine where we stand at the cornerback position.

Interceptions

This is the easiest category to measure for a cornerback. It's plain and simple. This season, Jason intercepted four passes, putting him in a four-way tie for 7th place. He nabbed one more interception than San Diego's Quentin Jammer, Seattle's Brandon Browner, New York's Antonio Cromartie, and none other than Cortland Finnegan (whom had two of those three in the first game of the season).

Alterraun tied with Champ Bailey with two interceptions. This puts him in a 26-way tie for 34th place.This is not nearly impressive.

Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh, and Ryan Mouton did not pick off a quarterback this season.

Interceptions aren't the only important statistic for a cornerback; however, I'm going to continue to examine this stat by looking at the 2011 season for our top two corners.

Jason- two picks. ATV- 1 pick. Finnegan- 1 pick. Wow.

Our cornerbacks doubled their interception count in 2012. Although 2 picks isn't impressive, it is improvement.

Passes Defended

This is the statistic of how many passes that the defender successfully deflected.

Once again, Jason had a good season in a 3-way tie for 13th place with 15 swats. Considering that every team has at least 2 starting corners and that 2 x 32 = 64, Jason is in the top quarter of cornerbacks in interceptions AND passes defended. He deflected more passes than KC's Brandon Flowers, Philly's Asomugha, and his brother that was drafted in the first round the year after Jason (Devin only had one more interception than Jason this season).

Alterraun, however, had nine swats. This put him in a 9-way tie for the 46th place. That is not very impressive; however, he tied with Cortland Finnegan, Quentin Jammer, and Champ Bailey again(!). Considering how much Champ Bailey is paid ($8,000,000 in 2012), we are fine in this aspect ($490, 000 in 2012).

Mounton and Sensabaugh each defended three passes, and Campbell defended one.

Now, to look at 2011.

Jason defended 13 passes in 2011, 2 less than in 2012. ATV had 7, two less than 2012, too. So, once again, our corners improved from 2011 to 2012.

Tackle Factor

This statistic is different. I am going to quote Advanced NFL Stats's definition for its stat:

Tackle Factor (TF) – The ratio of a player’s proportion of his team’s tackles compared to what is expected at his position. For example, middle linebackers in a 4-3 typically make 11.9% of their team's tackles. A MLB who made 12.6% of his team's tackles would have a TF of 11.9/12.6 = 1.06. TF is adjusted for a full 16-game season.

A cornerback tackling a lot can mean two things: (1) poor coverage with a tackle to make up for it or (2) making tackles in the run game. I think in Jason's case, this is making tackles in the run game. He made 73 tackles for a 12th place of a 0.96 TF. His 73 tackles puts him in 3rd place behind #2 K. Lewis and #1 Finnegan.

Verner ranked 26th in this statistic with a 0.81 with 59 tackles. This is in the top half of tackle factors.

In 2011, Jason was 2nd in TFs with a 1.27 with 85 tackles. Verner improved from his 0.63 TF with 40 tackles. So in tackles, J-Mac may not have improved; however, Verner did make strides in the tackle game.

Success Count

Success Count (SC) – The number of plays in which a player was directly involved that would typically be considered successful. Specifically, SC is the number of plays resulting in positive Expected Points Added (EPA). SC is used primarily for individual defenders, because they should not be penalized for making tackles even if the offense has improved it's EP.

Success- something our Titans need to accomplish more. Jason tied for 4th place with a success count of 44 with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears. That is very impressive to me. Furthermore- Verner ranked 13th with a success count of 36. Our cornerbacks were successful in 2012!

In 2011, Jason led the NFL's corners in success count with a score of 54. ATV had a success count of 24. So much improvement for ATV but not so much for Jason.

Positive Win Probability Added

Positive Win Probability Added (+WPA) – The Win Probability Added attributed to a defensive player, limited to only the plays that are net positives for his team. It is a measure of a defender’s impact on the outcome of games in terms of play-making ability. Only positive plays are considered for individual defenders because very good individual plays can still result in net losses in WPA. For example, a safety who makes a shoe-string tackle to stop a TD would be a great individual play, but the play as a whole would still be a net negative outcome for his team. However, overall individual WPA likely correlates well with +WPA.

This is not as tangible of a stat as tackles and interceptions; however, it is definitely an important one- especially for a 6-10 team.

Jason McCourty tied with Finnegan for 17th place with a 1.18. Jason is helping us win games more than he's hurting us by far.

Alterraun Verner ranked 29th with a 0.93. This is good to see ATV in the top 30 of an important statistic, even if it as the bottom of the half.

Now, let's look at a bad cornerback: in 12 games, Mouton racked up at 0.29 +WPA. This was higher than Coty's and Tommie's rankings; however, Mouton was used more, even though Coty played one more game.

In 2011, Jason posted a 1.03 +WPA, Finnegan a 0.88, and ATV a dreadful 0.47. Both of our corners made improvements in 2012.

Positive Expected Points

Positive Expected Points Added (+EPA) -- The Expected Points Added attributed to a defensive player, limited to only the plays that are net positives for his team. It is a measure of a defender’s impact on the game score in terms of play-making ability. Like for +WPA, only positive plays are considered for individual defenders because very good individual defensive plays can still result in net losses in EPA. However, overall individual EPA likely correlates well with +EPA.

Jason ranks in at 16th with a +EPA of 37.3 and Verner at 17th with a +EPA of 35.6. I'm quite satisfied with these numbers. Our corners are not a detriment to this team according to the +WPA and +EPA.

Looking back at 2011, Jason did not improve in 2012. He posted a +EPA of 43.8 in 2011. Verner ranked 69th with a +EPA of 16.6. Verner made huge improvements in 2012 in this aspect.

Overall

Now to look at the overall rank of the corners in 2012:

Jason McCourty comes in as the 18th best corner, and ATV is the 29th best corner. This is pretty promising. Jason appeared to have had a down year compared to 2012; however, this is partially due to taking some of the load that Finnegan had in Tennessee. Nevertheless, Jason had a pretty good season in comparison to the rest of the league.

Alterraun Verner improved this season. There is still much room for improvement; however, ATV is not a player that doesn't take his job seriously.

Verdict

Where should we draft a cornerback? In today's NFL, you need to have three good corners. Coty Sensabaugh showed some good play this season; however, he did not have very good stats, according to Advanced NFL Stats. Stats are not everything in football, but they are definitely important.

I would like to draft a cornerback in the 4th round. That allows us to take a guard, safety, and pass rusher in the first three rounds.

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