Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

24 Jun 2009

Dolphins Among Clubs Supersizing Cornerbacks

ESPN.com's Tim Graham has an interesting blog entry on the emphasis certain teams are placing on larger cornerbacks. A decade ago, some personnel men found value in corners under six feet tall -- if they had field speed and good vertical range, they could make up for their size. But as receivers keep growing, defenses are starting to feel the need to catch up. I ran a quick-and-dirty list of the number of Top 20 cornerback prospects (based on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings) under six feet tall per year. There is a small downswing in recent drafts:

2009 -- 11
2008 -- 10
2007 – 11
2006 – 11
2005 – 10
2004 – 14
2003 – 13
2002 – 12
2001 – 12
2000 - 15

The next thing I want to do is to go back and take the individual height data for all drafted cornerbacks from 2000, run some averages, and see if there's anything conclusive.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 24 Jun 2009

17 comments, Last at 30 Jun 2009, 10:16am by PantsB

Comments

1
by Israel P. - Jer... :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:05am

The other, more important question, is how good these guys are.

7
by Dean :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 12:18pm

Only if you totally discount the concept of matchups - something which NFL Defensive Coordinators do not discount.

Ultimately, there's not enough data here - yet - to draw any meaningful conclusions.

2
by Phyrre56 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 9:20am

Aren't football players gradually getting bigger / stronger / faster at all positions? I guess it's just more noticeable at CB where there are varying opinions on the importance of height.

3
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 9:40am

Tim Ruskell is cackling in his secret Seahawks lair. The door is only 5'10" tall so no CBs but Kelly Jennings, Josh Wilson, and other short guys can come in to visit for interviews.

4
by Israel P. - Jer... :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 9:42am

In previewing the 2006 draft, ESPN's John Clayton noted there also were four 6-foot-2 starting cornerbacks the year before. That quartet was considerably less impressive: Julian Battle, Gary Baxter, Mike Rumph and Andre Woolfolk.

He counts Ike Taylor in 2008 but not in 2005. Did Ike grow since then?

5
by Temo :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:12am

Did Ike start in 2005?

6
by drobviousso :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 10:44am

according to NFL.com, he started 15 and played in 16

8
by Duke :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 3:49pm

I feel like I read this article every 3 years.

9
by lionsbob :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:00pm

Lenny Walls is getting ready for his comeback.

10
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:52pm

I seem to recall that this is a longterm cycle going back to the 80s ... receivers get big, corners get big ... offense counteracts big corners by going with small, nippy receivers; defense gets smaller corners ... offense starts using larger receivers again, defense gets bigger corners ... It's pretty much a matchup that the offense can change without affecting the rest of their offense ...

11
by Theo :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 5:53pm

I'd rather measure the average NFL corner height, instead of the average corner draftee.

12
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 06/24/2009 - 7:09pm

N Asomugha best of both wrolds. tall cornerback but can get low when have to, very athletic cornerbakc, best in league

13
by Harris :: Thu, 06/25/2009 - 10:26am

Somewhere, Matt Jones is working on his backpedal . . . and smoking crank.

Hail Hydra!

14
by Baltimoron (not verified) :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 3:04am

Finally! This is in my top 5 of "Things To Yell at the TV on Sundays".

You would think there's a bunch of 6'4" wide receiver types with lousy hands out there who could be converted to play corner.

15
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 7:22am

In principle you're right, but reality is it won't. Defense is about attitude and mindset. You've got to hate being beat, hate giving up ground. WRs are far too prima donna and pretty boy to want to do that ...

16
by Subrata Sircar :: Fri, 06/26/2009 - 10:11pm

There was a very interesting article - in Sports Illustrated? can't remember - talking to NFL defensive scouts about cornerbacks, height and speed.

The gist of the article was that once you've ascended to the rare heights of being talented enough for NFL consideration, there are some extremely subtle factors that govern how you can apply that talent to various tasks. In particular, they were looking at cornerbacks stopping the run and jumping routes.

I'm paraphrasing here, but if someone remembers the article and can find a link that would be great. Errors are mine not theirs.

Stopping the run is about balance - if you can keep driving after impact, you can tackle people and shed blockers better. It turns out that if you are all leg, or all torso, or even if your thighs are disproportionately sized to your shins, this is harder for you than for others.

Similarly, jumping routes is about changing direction rapidly. Some of this is pure reaction time and can be increased with experience (in other words, you can get a head start), but it is also true that the lower you can get while moving, the faster you'll change directions (you've already got the potential energy stored in your "spring" - your bent leg). This is turn is partially governed by your body proportions.

The article also noted that this was something that experienced scouts would just "know" - presumably experience taught them what to look for - and only recently did someone do the body-as-machine analysis and point out the subtle differences that the scouts were noticing.

It was a fascinating insight into the physics of body mechanics and how scouts are trained to look for subtle things.

17
by PantsB (not verified) :: Tue, 06/30/2009 - 10:16am

And somewhere Wes Welker smiles.