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Fantasy Football 2012: The Elite Cornerback Effect

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The Elite Cornerback Effect

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In preparation for fantasy football championship week and as early research for 2013, we will take a look at the effects that shutdown cornerbacks have on the success of elite receivers. People always wonder who wins when good offense meets good defense. This study will help shed some light on the success rate of top receivers when they go head-to-head with equivalent talent assigned to guard them. We are very familiar with the elite receivers in the NFL based on the nature of fantasy football. The excitement and the flash of the position have a tendency to capture the attention of the media more than the cornerback position. We are a product of media agenda and bias but that’s a discussion for another day. What I’m trying to say is that wide receivers get a better reputation than cornerbacks because of how they’re portrayed.

If you were asked to name the top five wide receivers, you could easily spit out 10 names and then debate on the best of the best based on your extensive knowledge of the position. If you were asked to do the same thing for cornerbacks, you’d probably contemplate for a while before coming up with Darrelle Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha and three other names that you had to dig deep into the memory bank for. In reality, naming Asomugha as a top-five cornerback is basically the equivalent of calling the Philadelphia Eagles a top-five team. In translation, he’s actually become one of the worst cornerbacks in the league and it confirms our misconceptions about the position.

We are now going to clear up any misconceptions by looking at the top four cornerbacks in the league and the devastating effects that they have on the success of top eight receivers they've faced in 2012.

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Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Richard Sherman: four catches, 47 yards per game – zero TD

1. Calvin Johnson: three catches, 46 yards

2. Brandon Marshall: 10 catches, 165 yards

3. Larry Fitzgerald: one catch, two yards

4. Larry Fitzgerald: four catches, 63 yards

5. Dez Bryant: three catches, 17 yards

6. Percy Harvin: two catches, 10 yards

7. Greg Jennings: six catches, 35 yards

8. Steve Smith: four catches, 40 yards

Before we look the Week 16 matchup for Sherman (aka Optimus Prime), I must provide the disclaimer that this shutdown cornerback is facing a possible four game suspension starting next week. If I know the NFL like I think I do, they are not going to crush the season of a likeable team over an Adderall bust. I expect to see him out there next week tracking Michael Crabtree and crushing his fantasy value. Find a better option if you can.

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Ike Taylor, Pittsburgh Steelers

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Ike Taylor: three catches, 39 yards per game – one TD

1. AJ Green: one catch, eight yards

2. Demaryius Thomas: five catches, 110 yards, one TD

3. Hakeem Nicks: one catch, 10 yards

4. Desean Jackson: four catches, 58 yards

5. Dwayne Bowe: four catches, 55 yards

6. Torrey Smith: one catch, seven yards

7. Torrey Smith: three catches, 33 yards

8. Santonio Holmes: three catches, 28 yards

If you recall the divisional round of last year’s playoffs, you’ll see that Thomas is the only receiver that has had Taylor’s number over the past season. Lucky for A.J. Green, who Taylor dismissed earlier this season, the cornerback has already been declared inactive for Week 16. Number one receivers have had a ton of success in his three week absence so expect a big contribution from Green.

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Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Jennings: five catches, 76 yards per game – one TD

1. Calvin Johnson: three catches, 34 yards

2. Andre Johnson: four catches, 35 yards

3. Dez Bryant: eight catches, 105 yards

4. Jordy Nelson: six catches, 84 yards

5. Reggie Wayne: nine catches, 135 yards

6. Kenny Britt: five catches, 67 yards

7. Steve Smith: seven catches, 118 yards

8. Michael Crabtree: three catches, 31 yards, one TD

Jennings finally began to get recognition as a shutdown cornerback and an interception specialist but then he got hurt. Rough year for the health of top cornerbacks. Like the two players that have preceded Jennings in this slideshow, he may not play in Week 16. It might be in the Chicago Bears best interest to rush him back though because they have been lost without their top corner. Regardless, you should probably look elsewhere for a reliable receiver because Larry Fitzgerald has not contributed at all lately.

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Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Cromartie: two catches, 27 yards per game – zero TD

1. Andre Johnson: one catch, 15 yards

2. Larry Fitzgerald: one catch, 23 yards

3. Reggie Wayne: five catches, 87 yards

4. Kenny Britt: one catch, seven yards

5. Brandon Lloyd: one catch, six yards

6. Brandon Lloyd: three catches, 26 yards

7. Michael Crabtree: two catches, 15 yards

8. Brian Hartline: four catches, 41 yards

Finally, a cornerback primed for lockdown in Week 16. As we see in the data above, no receiver has topped 100 yards against Cromartie and none of the top names above have reached the end zone. This is bad news for Denario Alexander and his fantasy value for championship week. He can stay in lineups but can’t be expected to post numbers better than wide receiver three standards.

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Jonathan Joseph, Houston Texans

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Joseph: five catches, 61 yards per game – four TD

1. Brandon Marshall: eight catches, 107 yards

2. Demaryius Thomas: three catches, 34 yards

3. Jordy Nelson: nine catches, 131 yards, three TD

4. Reggie Wayne: three catches, 14 yards

5. Torrey Smith: four catches, 41 yards

6. Stevie Johnson: three catches, 29 yards

7. Brandon Lloyd: seven catches, 89 yards, TD

8. Brian Hartline: three catches, 50 yards

Bad games happen to everyone occasionally, even the best of the best. Joseph got torched by Jordy Nelson early in the season but other than that he’s done the job of a shutdown corner for the Houston Texans defense. Take out that one game and opponents would be averaging a meager 52 yards per game and one touchdown allowed on the season. Jerome Simpson was off the fantasy radar entering Week 16 but now with a matchup against Joseph, he doesn’t warrant any consideration.