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The reality: Chiefs CB Marcus Peters’s value is unmatched

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not here to discuss the validity of talking points based on idle speculation that started with even more idle speculation, which then blossomed into people citing speculation as some kind of “report.”

I’m also not here to discuss what the Chiefs “aren’t denying.” Seriously, can you think of a dumber talking point than what the team isn’t denying?

OR... maybe it’s genius? Can you imagine the number of stories we could write here daily if we wrote about what the Chiefs aren’t denying?

  • “CEO Clark Hunt not denying that they plan on trading Patrick Mahomes for Alex Smith.”
  • “Andy Reid not denying he’ll be installing the Power-I as his primary formation in 2018.”
  • “Chiefs not denying plan to relocate the team to Oakland and change their name to the Reborn Raiders after the Raiders move to Las Vegas.”
  • “MNchiefsfan not denying that he is secretly a member of the Chaste and is locked in an eternal struggle against the forces of evil.”

The possibilities are endless truly.

For me, though... guys, we need to talk about something.

For those of you who can’t read Twitter while at work, Arrowhead Pride made a poll about whether fans would “agree” with trading Marcus Peters. In response to that, more than a quarter of the votes were “yes.” As of this writing, that has risen to 30 percent.

As I said in the tweet, I can’t rule out the possibility that fans of other teams have messed with the polling results. However, even if that’s the case, the 30 percent number is borderline frightening for me from a football standpoint.

I’ll deal with the football reasons people give regarding Peters at the end of this article (claims that he doesn’t tackle “ever,” that he lacks effort, etc). But first, let’s talk about the value of Marcus Peters.

Kansas City Chiefs v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Since coming into the league in 2015, Marcus Peters has created 25 turnovers (or turnover opportunities) in the form of 19 interceptions and six forced fumbles (one of those, if you recall, was the play that actually won the game. But I digress).

There is no one in the league who is even close to creating turnovers at the rate Peters has since entering the league. Since 2015, the next-highest player to Peters in interceptions is Reggie Nelson, with 14. During that time, he’s forced two fumbles, placing his total “turnover opportunities” to 16. For those of you who, like me, hate math, that’s nine fewer than Peters.

You can look at any player you want throughout the league at any position, and no one is even close to Marcus Peters in terms of forcing turnovers. That’s a simple fact, and if you deny it, you are basically denying that gravity exists.

So what is that worth to a team? Well, in my endless search for more information, I stumbled across a wonderful article by Football Outsiders written way back in 2003. The website essentially used the averages of points obtained after being at a certain field position to try and extrapolate the value of a turnover from a points perspective (I’m wildly oversimplifying). Now, since this was done in 2003 and scoring has risen slightly since that time, this methodology should actually underestimate the value of a turnover a bit. But it’s the best math I could find on the subject, so we’ll use it.

They did a bunch of other math stuff as well, accounting for the value of turnovers depending on what down it was, as well as accounting for points taken away and points scored. In the end, a turnover is worth 3.8 points near midfield, 4 points at the 20-yard-line, and 4.25 points at the goal line.

In other words, a turnover is literally the most valuable play in the game besides a touchdown.

I haven’t completed an entire film review of Marcus Peters for this last season, charting wins/losses and that kind of thing. That should come later in the offseason. For right now, let’s deal with what we know.

We know that Peters creates more turnovers than anyone else in the league and that it’s not even close. We also know that quarterbacks are avoiding him (72 targets in 2017), which creates opportunities for the rest of the defense and makes everything else easier (or at least it should).

And finally, we know that quarterbacks targeting Peters do not perform well, with a quarterback rating of 66.0 when targeting Peters last year.

For some perspective, a quarterback with that rating would have ranked 67th in the league this last season—worse than Paxton Lynch, worse than Mike Glennon. To say it another way, Marcus Peters turns NFL starters and stars into Paxton Lynch statistically.

I hammer on all these points because it appears that somehow, some way, many Chiefs fans are pretending that Marcus Peters is not an elite impact player. That couldn’t be further from the truth from a statistical standpoint in terms of real impact on the scoreboard. No defender in the league does what he does.

Additionally, Peters has exponential worth due to his ability to make quarterbacks pay despite their avoidance of him. Because of his freakish field awareness and sense of what quarterbacks are doing (which Emmanuel Sanders discussed here when describing the five toughest corners he’s ever faced), Peters is able to create turnovers even when quarterbacks are trying to throw to another player’s assignment. We saw that in the playoff game.

Peters also nearly forced the game-winning fumble in the playoffs, but what got overlooked in the, “Dang, it wasn’t really a fumble” aftermath was the fact that Peters made an exceptional play to stuff the run on first down, which should have allowed the Chiefs to be in position to take one more shot at a comeback (had the rest of the defense not failed miserably the following play).

...which brings us to the “cons” of Peters as a football player people try to present.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I’ve had many people tell me that Peters is a weakness on defense because of a lack of effort. Generally speaking, there are two specific plays that people use for this, and the interesting thing to me is that people want to take these two plays and claim there is a consistent issue.

The reality is that literally, no one I have spoken to has been able to give more than two examples (one of which is highly arguable, but I digress) of Peters hurting the team with a lack of effort. Yet somehow, people accept it as truth.

Rather than arguing back and forth about these plays (the first is a first down run by C.J. Anderson and the second a Cowboys touchdown by Cole Beasley, if you’re interested in tracking them down), I’d like to point something out: if you can’t find more than a handful of examples of something over the course of more than 1,000 snaps (including the playoffs), you’re not talking about something that “happens.” You’re talking about something that happened a couple of times.

Let me give an example of why this reasoning is silly. If I were to go back and review every run by Kareem Hunt this offseason, I would find multiple snaps in which he was tackled by the first defender to arrive. In fact, I would find more examples of this than I would of Marcus Peters “quitting” on a play.

So if I were to use the same logic as those claiming Peters had an “effort” problem, I could claim Kareem Hunt has a “getting tackled by one defender” problem. Except that is absurd, and everyone knows it. Yet that’s precisely what we’re doing with Peters. Generally speaking, people only do something like that when they are proceeding from a formed conclusion, not searching for truth.

If you review the tape, you’ll find that Peters doesn’t “lay back” any more than many other cornerbacks throughout the league (it’s a simple truth, you can ignore it if you choose). The difference between him and them? He’s better in coverage and creates more turnovers.

Deion Sanders is now deified as one of the greatest corners ever. He was also inferior to Peters in a tackling sense. Know what else he was inferior to Peters in? Creating turnovers.

If your corner is generally passable in run defense, that should be enough. Peters is passable the vast majority of the time, and that’s enough. Go watch Darrelle Revis at his peak. Or Sanders. Or even Champ Bailey. Then talk to me about how necessary great tackling is.

Here is the reality:

Marcus Peters has an absurdly high value for the second-most important type of play in the NFL. He forces quarterbacks away from him, making things (in theory) schematically easier on the rest of the defense. And when he IS targeted, he turns starting quarterbacks into statistically worse than Paxton Lynch.

If you have concerns about Peters as a “locker room” guy, fine. I have no information (other than making assumptions when Chris Jones retweets a good stat about Peters, and stuff like that) to tell me one way or another what Peters is like in the locker room. For those who believe he’s a guy who can’t learn a lesson, I’d point out his play after being suspended this season as fairly strong evidence that he can.

My overall point, though, is that to act as though Marcus Peters is anything but an elite defensive playmaker is to ignore the results on the field. I would think very long and very hard before being willing to give away someone like that who has two years left on his rookie deal, regardless of return.

On a final note, I’ve had people ask me what it would take for me to part with Marcus Peters. No one is untouchable for the right price, naturally.

For me, the price would be something close to Myles Garrett and the Browns second first-round pick. That’s the level of esteem in which I hold Peters as an impact player.

There is, quite literally, no one else like him in the league.