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Is Richard Sherman the Best Cornerback in the NFL?

Updated on January 29, 2014

Physically Gifted

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Who Is Richard Sherman?

If you don't know who Richard Sherman is by now, you must not be very into sports.... at all. The loudmouth cornerback is one of the best defenders in the NFL without question. With talented play though comes a reputation. This is especially true for Sherman. A true cover corner that plays physical, he was born with more than just a good football body, but strong vocals. He's used his vocals for more than just adjusting the defense, too. The cornerback is generally associated with his rants on the same level as his play. To help you understand this player a little more, I'll give a brief history. The 25 year old cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks grew up in Compton, California. This city was notorious for students being gang-affiliated and failing out of school on a high level. A standout, Sherman graduated with a 3.9 GPA and attended the University of Stanford on a football scholarship. While there he amassed a 4.0 GPA while racking up yards as a wide receiver. In the spring of his 4th year (missed a year with medical redshirt) he made the switch to cornerback and hasn't looked back. After being a contributing player on a young team, Sherman quickly turned heads once given the starting gig. Has he become the best at his position is yet to be determined.

What Makes Sherman Dominate

A Unique Player

At 6'3" and 195 pounds, Sherman is one of the tallest cornerbacks in the game. The only one that can probably boast a taller height is teammate Brandon Browner at 6'4". He towers over most other cornerbacks whose average height is 5'11". A tall cornerback is listed at 6'1". Sherman boasts a solid two inches over the mold of a "tall" cornerback. This means he can match up well with the new breed of physically imposing wide receivers. Take a glance at the table below to get a feel for what I'm talking about. I don't know about you, but I'm a little hesitant to put a 5'10" player on any of those guys. A big reason why tight ends and Calvin Johnson are lighting up defenses is the struggle to cover these guys. They are just too big! That is where a guy like Sherman has set himself apart from the common cornerback. His tall frame allows him to match up better against these physically dominating players. Height is a reason why Sherman plays so well, so I will take that into account for his title as best cornerback. At 195 pounds though, he is a bit slender. Fellow All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson is a thick 6'0" and 219lbs. While not as tall, Peterson can certainly shove even a big receiver around. This may cause Sherman to be pushed around by larger wide receivers. His 40 yard dash is a 4.54, which means he does not match up well with faster wide receivers. Peterson runs a 4.34, also allowing him to keep up with even the speediest receivers. Sherman's long legs allow for big strides, but put a speedster on him and he may get beat over the top. He gets a bonus from his height but slender frame and a low forty bring him slightly down.

Size of Receivers

Player
Height (feet)
Weight (lbs)
Calvin Johnson
6'5"
236
Andrew Johnson
6'3"
230
Brandon Marshall
6'4"
230
Demaryius Thomas
6'4"
229
Dez Bryant
6'2"
220
AJ Green
6'4"
203
Julio Jones
6'3"
220

Career Accolades

• 1x Pro Bowl (2013)

• 2x All-Pro First Team

• 2011 All-Rookie Team

• Most likely 2013 Defensive Player of the Year

• 1x NFL interception leader

• 1x NFC Champion (2013)

A Productive Player

During his short, three year career, Richard Sherman has been quite productive. After being selected in the 5th round of the NFL draft it did not take the cornerback long to become a dominant player. He was named to the 2011 All-Rookie team after recording 55 tackles and 4 interceptions. These numbers are usually those of a seasoned veteran, not a 5th round rookie. After securing his spot on the team and in the league, Sherman next set his sites on becoming the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL. The results were exceptional. In his next two seasons he amassed 112 tackles, 16 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 2 forced fumbles, 40 passes defended. A productive player indeed. He was elected to the Pro-Bowl for the first time in 2013, but was named First-Team All Pro for both the 2013 and 2012 seasons. It is worth noting he most likely would have made the Pro-Bowl in 2012 had he not failed a drug test. He is also most likely to be named Defensive Player of the Year for the 2013 season after leading the most dominating defense in the NFL. A defense that was 9th in points allowed, 17th in total yards allowed, 4th in rushing yards allowed, and 26th in passing yards allowed. Sherman was a big reason for all of these stats.

2013 Top Cornerback Stats

Player
Combined Tackles
Interceptions
Passes Defended
Touchdowns
Sherman
48
8
16
1
Revis
50
2
11
0
Talib
41
4
13
0
Peterson
42
3
13
0

Who do you think is the best cornerback in the NFL?

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Stats Don't Lie... Or Do They?

There is no questioning that Sherman is a physical player. His 167 combined tackles over three years prove that. What about his other stats though? How does he stack up against the other top cornerbacks in the game? Above is a chart comparing the stats of who I think are considered the top 4 cornerbacks in the NFL. I had to add Talib because while he may get injured he is dominant. Some people might claim I'm being a homer because I love the Patriots but seriously, watch this guy, he is a true shutdown corner, just ask Jimmy Graham. Honestly, I think Revis has lost a step or too but I added him for all the diehard fans who still believe he is the best. All players don't have tremendously high passes defended, but this is misleading because players of this caliber aren't targeted often, leading to less passes having to be defended. Yet Sherman still has more passes defended despite not being targeted very much. Most Pro-Bowl level cornerbacks have high interception totals in their earlier years then they progressively go down. This is because teams start to plan around these players and quarterbacks do not throw to them as often for fear of being intercepted. This is one of the reasons Revis doesn't put up high interception totals; quarterbacks just avoid him. What's a good way to look at how efficient a players interceptions are? Compare how many passes they intercepted to how many times they were targeted. Unsurprisingly, Sherman tops the list, with impressive results. He intercepted an astounding 13.80% of his 58 targets. Though he still had a low target number, he managed to match his interception total from a year before when he was targeted more. The next closest player on this list is Aqib Talib, who only intercepted 5.60% of his 71 targets. Sherman doubles his efficiency with far less targets.

Still Not Convinced?

By now I've bombarded you with enough stats to make you probably realize that this Richard Sherman guy is pretty good, right? At least I'm hoping you are smart enough to see that. Perhaps I haven't been direct with you enough, and done a really really poor job of explaining things. Honestly though, how can you not agree with the interception percentage. Here's some more information incase you aren't fully committed to Sherman being the best cornerback. Another area that Sherman excels in is yards per snap in coverage. Basically it tracks the amount of yards a cornerback gives up per snap. Sherman's number? 0.77 yards per snap. Wait...what? So out of all the times he dropped back in coverage he gave up an average of 0.77 yards per snap... less than a yard? Wow, that's pretty good. Not the best, however. Revis gave up an average of 0.72 which was slightly better than Sherman. Still, to rank second is pretty admirable. Sherman also lead the NFL in QB rating against (meaning quarterbacks had the lowest rating when throwing to towards him of all players), and was top 3 in yards after the catch allowed. While one could argue that his team is very good so he benefits from the talent around him I would agree. I would also point out that Peterson, Talib, and even Revis have pretty good talent around them, at least defensively. Offensively Revis and Peterson must play more because they have very inefficient offenses, however, their individual targets aren't that much higher.

What Else Is In Store?

Conclusion

Like you, I was a bit skeptical on whether Richard Sherman was truly the best cornerback in the NFL. After digging through some stats I have come to the conclusion that not only is he the best cornerback in the game but the best defensive player in the entire NFL. The numbers don't lie. He is top 5 in all the important cornerback stats, he has 20 interceptions in just 3 years, including leading the NFL in interceptions this past year. He gives up the second fewest yards per reception, intercepts the highest percentage of his targets, and leads one of the best defensives in the NFL. He has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl and has a good chance to win. It was Sherman who also tipped what might have been the game winning touchdown to his teammate for a Super Bowl birth. Sherman is the best cornerback in the game, and I cannot wait to see him play in this upcoming Super Bowl against such talented wide receivers. I can't wait to see what else he accomplishes in his long and fruitful career. Barring injury, I think he has a chance to go down as the best cornerback to ever play the game of football.

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    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Great article. I think it's Sherman, Peterson and then Talib. All three are gonna get paid in a couple of years. I think what makes Sherman unique is that he played different positions at Stamford before moving to corner. Voted up.

    • ParadigmEnacted profile image

      ParadigmEnacted 3 years ago

      I think he probably is the best corner back, but I don't think you can say that anybody is definitively the best on defense. Also at one time, for a very short time, Terrell Owens was the best receiver in the NFL but his antics ended up costing him. Sherman is the same way.

      I'm also far from convinced that he's on the best team in the NFL. Football is a team sport.

    • mschilling20 profile image

      Matt Schilling 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      It's a really hard topic to find the true answer. There's a good shot to him being the best corner, but deciding who is the best corner is the hardest position to decide for. If you're a truly great corner, the important stats like interceptions, touchdowns, and passes defensed will drop because quarterbacks simply won't throw in your direction. Unless you watch every game and every corner, it's hard to decide based on that. Now, what Sherman does is continue with the play and try to make the tackle. If they aren't throwing your way, you have to contribute another way, and Sherman does. More tackles leads to more forced fumbles and more opportunities to have a fumble recovery. I do believe that he is the best corner in the game right now, though, based on the fact that quarterbacks probably fear throwing against him the most out of anybody.

    • Camby24 profile image

      Jon Campbell 3 years ago from Littleton Colorado

      Sherman is solid but he only plays one side of the field, the greats take away your best receiver no matter where he lines up. Sherman's numbers are bolstered by the fact that he often lineup against number two wide receievers when teams simply shift their playmaker away from him. He has the best safety help in the league as well so he can get away with gambling from tie to time on picks. Great player in a generation of sub par corners, he is probably at or near the top. Could not has sniffed Champ, Prime, or Revis before his injury. Good Hub though!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      He's one of the best, but I'm still not sure that he is the best. Good read.

    • Sami Hanson profile image

      Sami 2 years ago from Kansas

      I saved the the final playoffs game of the Seahawks versus the 49ers solely based on the final play when Crabtree got tipped off AND ticked off. His final commentary was television gold. My dad and I are both such outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is folks, that we died of laughter and then we were just in sheer awe of how ballsy Sherman is. I watched the game solely because I hate the 49ers (I'm a Greenbay fan), so that final play was just phenomenal. Then for Sherman to call out Crabtree... priceless. Richard Sherman went from being totally under my radar, to becoming my favorite NFL player. I constantly watched YouTube videos, researched his biography, found out about his humble beginnings, his intelligence, and yes.... Richard Sherman IS THE BEST CORNER IN THE MFing LEAGUE.

    • Thomas G Kuebel profile image

      Thomas G. Kuebel 2 years ago from Chicago, Ill

      "Tonight a man told me that Richard Sherman was the best defensive player in the NFL. That man's name was Richard Sherman." -Drake

      In all seriousness, I think that what makes Sherman unique is his height. If he is not 6'3" he never makes that play on the fade to Crabtree. His height allows him to make plays other corners can't. As far as his actual skill set he is behind Talib, Revis, and Peterson. However, he is young enough and raw enough to improve his skills and become the best. Right now I have him at number 4 behind Peterson, Revis, Talib in that order

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