I’ve been at this short d-back thing for months. I know it seems like I’m beating this horse and I promise, I’ll let it go once my twitter timeline can go 24 hours without telling me that Leon McFadden was a smart pick. More precisely, that McFadden represents addressing the issue at cornerback.
My problem is that I keep finding data that confirm what my gut already knew: when you’re the 26th shortest d-backfield in the league, you’re not addressing the problem by becoming the 32nd shortest.
Without even talking about whether or not drafting a rush linebacker at #6 after signing two FA OLBs and converting a third so you’ve just drafted your fourth OLB at six overall… without even going there, let’s review the d-backfield thing. Let’s review the number one need of this off-season.
This whole exercise began with a simple observation. A basic truth. Water is wet. Sky is blue. Buster Skrine is short. Short cornerbacks struggle against tall receivers. There are more tall receivers in the league.
WRs 6′ 3″ or taller who started three or more games:
It just seems to me that a
5′ 9″ sorry, 5′ 9.5″, CB is going to have problems no matter how fast he is or how many games he started in the WAC. I’m surprised this is controversial. So I decided to look at the data. How are other teams dealing with a short backfield?
Using PFR, I collected all d-backs who started three or more games, sorted by team, found average height in inches. Here’s the bottom half of the NFL in d-backfield average height. (Here’s the messy spreadsheet.)
My first question was: what did the teams shorter than the Browns do this offseason? Is any pattern apparent?
- Minnesota: Spielman drops Winfield (5-9), added X. Rhodes (6-2);
- Pats: dropped Patrick Chung (5-11), signed Adrian Wilson (6-2), drafted the two Rutgers d-backs Ryan (5-11) and Harmon (6-2);
- Oakland: Lost Michael Huff (6-0), drafted DJ Hayden (5-11), signed FAs Usama Young (kid you not) (5-11.5) and Mike Jenkins (5-10).
- Houston. Drafted a short-ish FS, Swearinger (5-10)… but signed Ed Reed to go with their Jonathan Joseph signing last year.
- St. Louis. Drafted 6-2 TJ McDonald, let 5-9.5 Quintin Mikell go.
- KC. Signed huge Sean Smith (6′ 3″/218), drafted huge Sanders Commings (6′ 0″/216). Said goodbye to 5’8″ Javier Arenas.
- CLE. Dropped Young, Brown (5-10); added McFadden (5-10). If we want to add 6th round pick Slaughter (5-11.5) to the mix, then we also add 5′ 9″ FA Chris Owen.
The net here? The Browns and Raiders are the only two teams in the set that got smaller.
This led me to wonder if the sample size really told the story. So I decided to look at the bottom half of the league. No need to look at the top half, after all the Seahawks already average a 74″ backfield, they don’t need to get bigger. It’s the teams in the bottom half that, logically, need to get bigger.
Sooo. Let’s go back to the bottom 16.
The numbers tell the story.
Teams in the bottom half of the league by d-backfield height who are not the Browns or did not sign Usama Young increased their height by 0.54″ this offseason.
But even the Raiders saw the problem at CB and spent a high first rounder addressing it.
The data is the data.
When you drill into it deeper, most all these teams made improving their d-backfield an emphasis:
- Saints: Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis;
- Titans: Pollard;
- Lions: Quin and Slay;
- Falcons: CBs in 1st and 2nd round (Trufant and Alford);
- Skins: Rambo, Amerson;
- Broncos: DRC;
- Colts: Landry, Toler.
And then there’s Mark Dominik’s experiment at Tampa. He adds Revis, Goldson and drafts 6-2 Banks. His investment nets out in proven talent for sure, but also bumps the average height by a full inch.
Now it could be that Banner really is smarter than everyone else. That having the shortest d-backfield in the league is the way to go; that adding another 5-9.5 CB will improve the ability to defend tall WRs.
I’m not ruling it out. Not butt-hurt.
I hope you all won’t be butt-hurt either for me pointing out that the Browns are on an island with their tack here.