To avoid making future draft mistakes we must first learn from the past. Although every draft is different, there have been some trends that have played out over the years. Based on draft results from 2000-2010, here are some of the facts we’ve encountered about the cornerback position.
The NFL is a passing league, and quarterbacks are the ultimate chess piece. The residual effects are that left tackles have become extremely important and defensively you must have the guys who attack the quarterbacks and guys who cover receivers. Cornerback is clearly a premier position and it should be drafted accordingly.
Cornerbacks are the most highly drafted players on defense and they are the most drafted first round position overall. Of the 48 cornerbacks selected in Round 1, our research shows 25 have worked out (become solid starters) for a hit rate of 52.1 percent. The 52.1 percent hit rate is one of the highest of any position and certainly the highest amongst the “premium positions.” Over the past few years teams have struck gold with the likes of Darrelle Revis, Leon Hall and Nnamdi Asomugha. In fact, since 2007, cornerbacks selected in the first round have better than an 68 percent hit rate (11 of 16).
Can you find a solid cornerback in Round 2?
Unlike the linebacker position in which there’s a greater than 20 percent drop-off from the first round to the second, cornerbacks still offer a solid value in the second round. Our research shows that of the 57 cornerbacks selected in Round 2, 23 of which have worked out (40.4 percent hit rate). Most of the league’s elite at the position were first round picks, but the second round has yielded solid starters such as Rashean Mathis, Stanford Routt, Fred Smoot and Sheldon Brown.
How does the third round look?
The numbers really begin to plummet as we move from Round 2 to Round 3. Our research shows that just 10 of 62 cornerbacks selected in the third round have been hits (16.1 percent). The nearly 25 percent drop-off from the second to third round is the largest of any position. The 16.1 percent hit rate is the second-lowest amongst any defensive position. Although the Colts struck it rich with cornerback Jerraud Powers, there are nearly seven times as many Dustin Fox’s, Rich Gardner’s and Guss Scott’s.
Are there any late-round gems?
Late round cornerbacks (Rounds 4-7) have a somewhat respectable 13.5 percent hit rate (36 of 266). The only defensive position with a lower hit rate in the later rounds is defensive tackle. Some of the players who could be considered late-round gems are Jason McCourty, Charlie Peprah, Cortland Finnegan, Jerrad Page, Terrance McGee and Nathan Vasher.
In summation, cornerback has become an elite defensive position and teams are drafting accordingly. To get one of the truly elite, Pro Bowl types teams must select them in the first round, similar to the quarterback position. Round Two has yielded some solid starters and borderline Pro Bowl players, but the longer you wait the odds severely go diminish of a team finding a quality starter at the position. Now that you’ve seen the stats, draft accordingly.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/nflcharlie"