Where the NFL’s Starting Cornerbacks Were Drafted

On Monday we looked at every starting offensive linemen during the 2010 season and where they were selected in the draft. On Tuesday, we’re going to take a similar look at what is seen as the other biggest need heading into the offseason, cornerback. Even if Ike Taylor returns it’s a position that could use a bit of an upgrade. If Taylor, a member of the Steelers since 2003, leaves via free agency, it becomes the focal point of the offseason, whether it’s addressed with a veteran or an incoming rookie. Unless you’re feeling excited about Bryant McFadden and William Gay manning the outside.

We’ve already looked at the Steelers recent history of selecting cornerbacks in the draft (as well as a look at corners they didn’t select — breaking news! The Steelers generally know what they’re doing) and it’s a position they haven’t always addressed early in the draft, which seems to differ from the rest of the league. Since 1997 the only corner they’ve taken in the first round is Chad Scott (in ’97), while McFadden and Ricardo Colclough represent the only sections in the second round. A result of the Steelers defensive strategy under Dick LeBeau that doesn’t ask the corners to play a lot of man, but instead asks them to tackle well and not give up the big play? Perhaps.

As you’ll see in these two breakdowns, most of the starting cornerbacks across the NFL were selected in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s a position that isn’t quite as spread out throughout the draft like offensive linemen were.

2010 NFL Starting Cornerbacks By Round
1 15 10
2 9 10
3 1 5
4 4 1
5 0 2
6 0 0
7 0 2
Undrafted 3 2

And now the playoff teams…

2010 NFL Starting Cornerbacks By Round: Playoff Teams
1 4 3
2 3 4
3 0 2
4 2 0
5 0 1
6 0 0
7 0 0
Undrafted 3 2

The Steelers corners in 2010, Taylor and McFadden, were selected in the fourth and second rounds respectively, while the players coming off the bench were taken in the fifth (William Gay), sixth (Crezdon Butler) and third (Keenan Lewis) rounds, as well as an undrafted player (Anthony Madison).

My opinion here is the same as it is with the offensive linemen: don’t take a guy just so you can say you took a cornerback, especially when this class seems to be viewed as a deep one for defensive backs.

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  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Adam, this is interesting and kind of surprising to me.  Compared to OL, the distribution of picks for CB seems to much more closely resemble LT than the other OL positions. 69% of LT starters from r1-2 and only 22% of LTs came from r5-7and undrafted FAs.  For CBs, 58% came from r1-2 and 25% from r5-7 and UDFAs.  

    By contrast, the other OL positions seem more spread out by round.  RT has only 44% of starters from r1-2.  Only 32% of G and C come from r1-2, with 47% from r5-7 and UDFAs.

    The takeaway to me is: If you need a LT or CB, to get one who will be a starter, you’ll probably need to pick one in r1-2.  But if everyone else realizes this and rushes to pick these positions early, there may be more value in r1-2 at other positions.  So try to avoid having to make “need” picks.  The Steelers have generally done well at understanding all of this.

    • Mike L

      I agree with your finding but far more LTs are taken in rd 1 than rd 2. Corners are almost even between 1st and 2nd round. Thus showing CBs have a bit more depth, as is the case in this year’s draft. If a quality LT (by the steelers board) is available at 25 I think the steelers should make every effort to move up. If not then BPA should rule the day and a move up in the 2nd to grab their CB should be made. I would have no problem if they did both much like the Cowboys did last year to grab Bryant and Lee. Since negotiations for a new CBA have bogged down, the Steelers should be able to bring back most of their players and have few needs entering the draft. Why waste picks you will not be able to use? Last year’s draft brought the team many good young players and the luxury to move around this draft.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        Mike, I agree that LTs really skew to r1. Half of all starting LTs were first rounders.

        I used to more strongly think that trading away picks was a good strategy because they are over-valued, and I still think this to an extent (it is very likely that BMac has already contributed more than the pick we gave up to get him would have).

        I also thought that we tend to have few roster spots available for picks, but I’m now not so sure. In the two years between our Super Bowl appearances, more than half of our roster turned over, meaning we add around 12-20 new players every year. Even if it is low this year due to the CBA situation, we’re still likely to have more than 7 spots open. And if you are right that there will be fewer free agents changing teams, all or almost all of those spots will come from draft picks and UDFAs.

  • Randy Steele

    Again, thank you for your hard work, Mr. Gretz.

    What this study proves to me, as did the previous one, particularly for left tackles, is that you tend to get what you draft for. In other works, the higher the pick, the lower the risk, and the better chance the player will stick. Those late round hidden gems are surprisingly far and few between.

  • t1mmy10

    wow. nice compilation of info