For those who have never checked it out, Pro Football Focus is a statistical website that offers a variety of their own analysis on the NFL. They recently wrote up an article breaking down the cornerbacks in the NFC West and our very own Nate Clements was rated as the best cornerback in the division. I'd say that's worth a front page post (thanks to manraj7 for pointing this out in a FanShot). Our stats man Florida Danny had some comments a year ago about PFF's stats and process. I recommend reading over his comments at that link just to get his perspective on this. Whether you agree with Danny or not, he knows enough about this stuff that it's at least worth a read.
The PFF article linked above goes through the top thee cornerbacks for each team based on snaps played. Nate Clements rated the highest and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie rated out as the worst cornerback in the division. Clements high rating came from having the highest rating in run support and the second highest rating in pass coverage. The run support rating isn't particularly surprising. He's always been incredibly solid in defending the run and general open-field tackling. However, I'd imagine a few folks will be surprised by the high rating he received in pass coverage. The only corner with a higher coverage rating in the NFC West was Bradley Fletcher of the Rams. The number three corner in the division was Michael Adams from Arizona.
For a guy like Clements, it's easy to jump on him because of the contract. We can't blame him for taking the big money contract from the 49ers but it does put a big X on his back, particularly when he gets blown up for a big play. Of course, in the NFC West considering him the "top cornerback" isn't exactly a monstrous stretch. The division isn't exactly packed with big time corners.
They also refer to Shawntae Spencer's substandard level of play in that he reportedly gave up the worst completion rate for a starter (70.1%) and missed the most tackles (14). Given his relatively strong 2009 season, one has to wonder where he really settles on the continuum of good to bad. I know some folks think he's just awful, but I'm not quite so inclined to write him off at this point. 2011 will bring an interesting competition at the cornerback position, particularly if the 49ers add a first round cornerback.