Football Outsiders is releasing their 2016 Almanac next week, and in the lead up to it, they are releasing a variety of stats from their game charting project. The latest information relates to cornerbacks, and includes some reasons for optimism in 2016.
The San Francisco 49ers entered the offseason with questions about the cornerback position. We saw them draft Will Redmond and Rashard Robinson, and then move Jimmie Ward from nickel back to starter opposite Tramaine Brock in the offseason workout program. Neither Ward or Brock has that “shut down” corner label attached to them, but both are coming off solid seasons in 2015, and the stats back it up.
Football Outsiders put together a look first at adjusted yards per target. The adjustment comes in terms of the quality of the opponent. They used to compare No. 1 receivers to other No. 1 receivers, No. 2 receivers to other No. 2 receivers, and so forth. They changed that this year, instead comparing No. 1 receivers to all receivers. The idea is that in the old system, slot corners got a bump because they often were facing lesser receivers compared to many outside cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson led this stat at 4.4 adjusted yards per target, with Adam Jones right behind him at 4.5. Jimmie Ward shows up at No. 20 out of 75 cornerbacks.
The second stat is adjusted success rate. This looks at the percentage of targets where the corner prevented a successful gain (45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third or fourth down). Among the 75 qualifying cornerbacks, Patrick Peterson again led the way. Tramaine Brock showed up on this list, rankings No. 10.
As FO noted, cornerback statistics can be incredibly volatile from year-to-year. Jimmie Ward took a big step forward last season, and is looking at a more significant role in 2016. He and/or Brock could very well take a step back, but if they can build on last year, the 49ers secondary could very well do some big things in 2016. They’ll need help from the defensive front, but the talent in the secondary could be cause for optimism this season.