FanPost

NFL Draft Prospects That May SPARQ The Chiefs Interest: The Cornerbacks

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts -Joel

For those that have been following along with the series in Part One I explored the Chiefs Draft History, in Part Two I analyzed the Defensive Line and Edge Rush prospects, and in Part Three I took a look at the Offensive Line. Today, by popular demand, I'm going to take a look at the Defensive Backs. As always all of the SPARQ data is courtesy of 3SigmaAthlete.com.

This will be a little less in depth than the others in the series mainly because I'm working under a rather obvious deadline, a post analyzing draft prospects is a bit irrelevant after the the draft, but also because we're working with a more limited dataset and the SPARQ correlation is not overwhelming strong like it was for Offensive Line and Pass Rushers. I had to dig quite a bit deeper to try to piece together Dorsey's athletic prototype at defensive back, and it's still a work in progress.

Under John Dorsey the Chiefs have drafted 3 Cornerbacks with available SPARQ data: Marcus Peters (117.0 SPARQ), Steven Nelson (115.9 SPARQ), and Phillip Gaines (127.3 SPARQ). They've only drafted one Safety during Dorsey's tenure Sanders Commings (No Score Available) and brought in UDFA Daniel Sorensen (119.4).

Cornerback:

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While the Chiefs have taken some SPARQ freaks at cornerback (looking at you Phillip Gaines), they have also taken a number of much more average SPARQ-lete's. I see a couple possible explanations for this and it's like a combination of all three factors:

  1. Cornerback is a position where some of the most important traits can't be measured in drills. You need guys with a high football IQ and instincts. Cerebral players like Marcus Peters can set themselves apart by reading how the play is developing and reacting quicker than a more physically gifted player who doesn't have those same intangibles.
  2. Consider the comparison group. NFL cornerbacks are a really athletic position group throughout. You just need a very high baseline athleticism to even stick on a roster. Average is an accomplishment. As long as a prospect grades out as capable athletically, how good of a football player they are is going to be the major deciding factor (and a metric like SPARQ can't measure that).
  3. The SPARQ formula may not be optimized for the same athletic profile that John Dorsey is looking for. The position adjusted SPARQ formula is a secret but it is optimized for a Seahawks cornerback profile. While the Chiefs and Seahawks have had a lot crossover in defensive back talent (See Ron Parker and Kelcie McCray) they probably don't weigh every trait exactly the same. Dorsey seems to put more emphasis on 40 yard dash speed than the Seahawks do for a start. Also consider that SPARQ doesn't account for critically important traits like arm length that can move guys up or down team's boards.

So SPARQ alone really isn't the answer to identifying cornerbacks that fit the Chiefs and we're going to have to dig a little deeper. Using just the three drafted cornerbacks is a really limited data set so I had to get a bit creative to try and identify Dorsey's athletic prototype. I went back a reviewed our post-draft UDFA signings for 2013, 2014, and 2015 and included the measureables for those guys also. There is a good chance many of these guys were just camp bodies that the Chiefs weren't all that vested in developing long term but you work with what you've got.

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Looking at the Chief's cornerback selections we can see some trends in a couple of areas:

  1. Height: It's no secret that John Dorsey likes tall corners. It's fairly well known that Dorsey has a cutoff line at 5'10 for Cornerbacks and a strong preference for guys who are 6' or taller. It's not a hard rule, but it's readily apparent that the Chiefs are looking for height.
  2. Weight: 190-200 pounds appears to be the target. They will take lightweights though. If they're fast.
  3. Arm Length: It's well known that the Seattle Seahawks have a strict rule that Corners need to have 32" arms. The Chiefs don't appear to adhere to that as closely, but 31"+ arms seems to be their target. Longer arms arms are definite plus for corners.
  4. Short Shuttle: Every corner the Chiefs have drafted has a very impressive (Sub 4.10) Short Shuttle time. Their other acquisitions are no slouches in the short shuttle either. Agility is pretty critical for a Corner so it makes sense. They are willing to overlook it a bit for big boundary corners like Cooper who won't be covering the slot, but that's an exception to the rule.
  5. Three Cone: Another agility and balance drill, the Chief's seem to be looking for Sub-7 second times here.
  6. Speed: Dorsey likes fast corners. It appears the Chiefs want guys with sub-4.5 speed, unless you're Marcus Defensive Rookie of the Year Peters. Then they'll make an exception.
  7. Vertical: They Chiefs appear to be looking for at least a 35" vert from their corners.
  8. SPARQ Score: The Chiefs aren't necessarily looking for SPARQ superstars. They're happy to take guys who are right around average but they aren't taking significantly below average athletes. It makes sense for a position like Corner where instincts and football IQ are absolutely critical. Still though we can probably eliminate guys with well below average scores. Steven Nelson is the lowest rated athlete with a SPARQ score just 0.1 standard deviations below the mean. It appears the Chiefs are using the SPARQ average as a "you must be this tall to ride" baseline.
With those factors in mind I manually filtered for each of the Chiefs desired metrics and color coded the results into tiers. Blue is an elite performance. The continuum of greens represent passable scores (with darker greens signifying a better performance). Yellow is below the baseline but not by much. Orange and Red represent scores that are below what I believe the Chiefs are looking for. I then took the whole list and picked out the guys who I felt were the best all around fits for the Chief's desired athletic profile (mostly blues and greens across the board with an emphasis on certain key drills like the Short Shuttle). I then grouped the players into tiers based on how well I felt they fit the Chiefs prototype (with some consideration for the fact that the profile may be different for slot vs. boundary corners), the order within the tier is based on the prospects SPARQ score not their degree of fit.

Remember this tells you how well a prospect fits the Chiefs desired physical profile, but it tells you nothing about how good of a football player they are. Without further ado, here are the corners who fit the Kansas City Chiefs:

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For comparison purposes here are the cornerbacks that the Dorsey led Chiefs have acquired graded on the same scale:

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Let's all take a minute to appreciate Phillip Gaines, that folks is a physical specimen. He's got an amazing combination of ideal size, elite agility, elite speed, and very solid explosion. You can see why Dorsey was flat out giddy about landing Gaines in the third round, physically he's the perfect corner.

Now a bit surprisingly there is not a perfect fit for the Chiefs cornerback profile in the 2016 Draft Class (if we're using the sub-4.10 Short Shuttle requirement). There are a number of good fits, but we want perfection damn it.

Now this just so happens to be a safety class that is loaded with some freakish athletes, and some guys like Sean Davis and Jalen Mills are listed at Safety but also played cornerback in college. I ran the safety database through the same cornerback profile and found several good matches for the Chief's desired profile. And it's there we find our perfect match...
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The Prototype:

Sean Davis (6'1" 201lbs) Maryland

pSPARQ: 134.6 Z-Score: 1.5 Percentile: 93.3% Class Rank: 6 (Safety)

Draft Profile: CBS Highlights: YouTube Projected Round: 2nd

Physically Sean Davis, the hard hitting defensive back out of Maryland, is your perfect Chief's corner incarnate. Standing 6'1" and weighing at 201 pounds with 31.4" arms Davis has the size and length Dorsey covets. Davis has flat out elite agility with stellar times in both the Short Shuttle (3.97 sec) and Three Cone (6.64 sec) drills. He's also got impressive jumps and 4.46 speed. Finally Davis has the size and strength (21 reps) to be effective pressing WR's at the line of scrimmage. From a measureables perspective Davis has every trait you want to see in a Kansas City Chiefs cornerback.

Note: Jalen Mills (LSU) and Justin Simmons (Boston College) have also spent time at both cornerback and safety during their college careers. From an athletic perspective they fit nicely into the athletic profile the Chiefs look for in corners. In what I've watched of Simmons he seems more natural at safety. I haven't watched any Mills. I've got no idea on Junior Lee or Max Arnold but they were reasonably close to the profile so I included them for kicks.

The Underrated Athlete:

Eric Murray (5'10" 199lbs) Minnesota

pSPARQ: 128.9 Z-Score: 1.1 Percentile: 87.1% Class Rank: 9th

Draft Profile: CBS Highlights: YouTube Projected Round: 5th

Eric Murray has quietly put together a very solid career during his time at Minnesota. Murray is a team captain who's lauded by both his teammates and coaches. He shows excellent awareness and diagnoses plays quickly. Didn't given up a touchdown all season. Murray is about an inch or two shorter than the ideal, but has a very solid frame and looks the part. He's just a really solid football player. You know what else Eric Murray is? A really underrated athlete. The guy grades out over 1 standard deviation above the mean on SPARQ (87th Percentile). He's got the sub 4.10 short shuttle, a 39.5" vertical, and a sub 4.5 forty. There's also this:

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I mean, I'm just saying...

Murray looks like a guy who could in and compete right away (and he does have experience playing press coverage). He's not the ball hawk Peters is but he'll provide a solid level of play and is a plus athlete. This has sleeper pick potential written all over it.

Late Round Gem:

James Bradberry (6'1" 211lbs) Samford

pSPARQ: 132.2 Z-Score: 1.4 Percentile: 92.6% Class Rank: 9th

Draft Profile: CBS Highlights: YouTube Projected Round: 6th

Bradberry has a really impressive 132.2 SPARQ score (93rd Percentile). He's a SPARQ-lete whose imposing size at 6'1" 211lbs with freakish 33.4" arms give him the reach to cover more space and hold WR's at bay when pressing. And Bradberry can press. Louis Riddick described Bradberry as "a big, strong, physical corner who can really get up on the line and press you and play physical at the point of attack."

Bradberry fit's the Sean Smith mold of a big boundary corner. And he's got outstanding all round athleticism for a guy his size with a 4.5 forty, 4.21 Short Shuttle, 6.94 3-Cone, and 36" vertical jump. Bradberry will take some time coming out of a small school like Samford but he profiles as a nice fit for a boundary corner in the Chief's defense.

The Longshot:

Deandre Elliott (6'1" 181lbs) Colorado State

pSPARQ: 125.3 Z-Score: 0.8 Percentile: 78.3% Class Rank: 26th

Draft Profile: NFL.com Highlights: Projected Round: 7-FA

Elliott is lean but has really great length at 6'1" with long 32" arms. He clocks in at a 4.55 second forty, which is just a bit slower than the ideal but acceptable for bigger corner. What will really impress Dorsey though is Elliott's rather insane 3.94 second short shuttle time and monster 41 inch vertical. Elliott also logged with a sub 7 second three cone, that's really impressive agility and explosion for a tall corner. There's a lot of potential here, those numbers give off a bit of Richard Sherman vibe.

Note: Deiondre Hall (pSparq: 119.8 Z-Score: 0.2 Percentile: 59.8%) from the University of Northern Iowa also fits a very similar profile to Elliott. Hall has excellent length 6'1.5" with freakish 34.3" long arms and a 37" vertical. Hall makes the Sub-4.10 Short Shuttle mark and is just over the prefered Sub-7 second 3-Cone. Again he's got just ok 4.54 speed, while Dorsey prefers Sub-4.5 exceptions can be made for that incredible length.

Let's talk William Jackson III and Artie Burns...

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William Jackson and Artie Burns have both been popular picks for the Chiefs in mock drafts this offseason however SPARQ does raise some red flags about both player's all around athleticism. Jackson's 110.8 score grades out at just the 27th Percentile and Burns' 111.3 SPARQ score is only slightly better coming in at the 28th percentile among NFL corners. Let's take a deeper look at their athletic profiles to find out why.

Burns and Jackson both have solid frames coming in right around the 6 foot 190 pound mark, Burns has impressively long arms arms for his size and Jackson's are adequate. SPARQ doesn't account for arm length or height and they are pluses for both Jackson and Burns, it's important to acknowledge the limitations of the metric. Both guys also have the speed Dorsey likes, Jackson's 4.37 is particularly impressive.

So what is the issue? Both Burns and Jackson have very lackluster Short Shuttle times at 4.33 and 4.32 respectively. Recall the Phillip Gaines, Marcus Peters, and Steven Nelson all put up very impressive Sub-4.10 Short Shuttle times. It's a concern as it indicates a lack of agility and/or short area quickness. It's not a good sign, and they would be the slowest times of any Chiefs corner pickup except Marcus Cooper (4.42). Both do have passable 3-Cone times.

That's not the only issue with Jackson and Burns, both have lackluster jumps also indicating a lack of burst and explosion. As pure boundary players Dorsey may be willing to overlook these athletic shortcomings, particularly in Jackson's case with his elite top-end speed and solid tape. However, it is a red-flag that both profile as having just straight line speed without strong change of direction ability and limited explosion.

Bonus: 2016 Safety Prospects Preview

I'm not going to have time to dig to deep into the safety prospects unfortunately. There are some really impressive SPARQ-lete's in this class, and based on the limited data available the Chiefs do seem to have the tendency to go after higher SPARQ guys at Safety.

Safety Acquisitions by the Kansas City Chiefs under John Dorsey:

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2016 Prospects:

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Considering that it has thus far been very rare for Dorsey to draft a player with a significantly below average SPARQ score, with Ramik WIlson at -0.8 Standard Deviations from the mean being the lowest rated player drafted. It's probably a fairly safe bet any Chiefs selections at safety are on this list and there are some special talents there.

The Gem:

Justin Simmons (6'2" 207lbs) Boston College

pSPARQ: 138.7 Z-Score: 2.2 Percentile: 98.4% Class Rank: 1st

Draft Profile: CBS Highlights: YouTube Projected Round: 7-FA

Justin Simmons is a freak athlete and he's also pretty damn good football player. A 138.7 SPARQ score puts him at the 98.4 percentile more than two full standard deviations about the mean for NFL safeties. That is incredible. He has ridiculous Short Shuttle (3.85!) and 3-Cone (6.58) times indicating outstanding agility and quickness. His 40 inch vertical is equally impressive especially when coupled with his long 6'2" frame and 32.5" arms. As a player Simmons has outstanding fundamentals and is a wrap up tackler who missed just four tackles and allowed no broken tackles all last season. He has the natural ball skills and strong understanding of coverages to be a playmaking centerfielder. Simmons has experience as both a cornerback and safety and with his outstanding agility scores Simmons will be able to slide down from the free safety spot and play nickel corner as needed - something he was asked to do frequently at Boston College. Put together an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. Simmons also has added special teams value as a gunner.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.