This is good news for general managers, because teams are so desperate that they’ll draft basically any corner these days. Last year, teams selected 31 defensive backs in the first four rounds — up from 22 from five years ago, during the 2012 draft, this despite the fact that last year’s crop was not considered particularly great. Prospects who could be drafted Thursday include Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Washington’s Kevin King, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Florida’s Quincy Wilson, and USC’s Adoree’ Jackson.
There are a few theories that explain the cornerback boom (and why it will last at least a few years), but mostly it comes down to the proliferation of the spread offense. The point of the spread is to overextend the defense by putting more receivers on the field. With an increased demand for wideouts, there’s an increased supply, forcing more elite athletes to choose other positions to get noticed. Upon switching to corner, those athletes are testing the “10,000-hour theory” of defensive back play, chasing teams like Baylor, Oregon, and Texas Tech all over the place. During the 2016 college season, 26 teams faced at least 35 passes per game — in 2006, only two teams faced that kind of passing barrage.
It’s led to some rethinking on troop deployment, too.
College corners are seeing more passes and more snaps. The hurry-up craze has led some college defenses to adopt a rotation system. Back in 2008, Aliotti was the defensive coordinator for Oregon and he started to treat his defense “like a hockey team,” rotating players whenever possible to minimize the fatigue caused by the fast pace. “We got to a place where we had 20 to 23 guys we could count on each game,” he said. “You needed to combat the passing. We’d switch out a linebacker and one or two corners per play, I don’t think anyone did that prior to us.”
Aliotti is now an analyst with the Pac-12 Networks, and he’s since visited with many coaches, including Alabama’s Nick Saban, to discuss how to utilize a similar rotation system. The idea has spread throughout college, Aliotti said. Ohio State has rotated their defensive backs in recent years, and could have as many as three picks in the top 15 of this draft.
The result? Mo’ backs and mo’ money for mo’ backs.
… Mike Farrell, national recruiting director at Rivals, said youth players have been figuring out what positions to play earlier on in order to “go where the money is in the pros.” The spread has made good corners a hot commodity in the NFL, and they get paid like it. According to Spotrac, there are 10 cornerbacks who average over $12 million a year; there are six receivers who average that. Josh Norman, Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden, Desmond Trufant, Stephon Gilmore, and Richard Sherman are currently on contracts worth at least $40 million guaranteed. Darrelle Revis is basically Warren Buffett.
Hmmm… I wonder if anyone’s shown Mecole Hardman this yet.