2021 Free Agent Positional Preview: Cornerback
I researched the available free agent lists in late-Feb./early March in order to get a feel for the marketplace and identify key players likely on the move; players that could shift teams fortunes under-the-radar if a team landed/grabbed a bunch of them. We have the obvious names, the under-the-radar, and the trap doors to look at.
Here’s my take on 2021 NFL free agency (a new position reviewed each day prior to free agency open)…the players I’m really watching for fantasy, handicapping, etc., on where they might land.
The Top 3 Available According To NFL Analysts (consensus):
1) William Jackson, CIN – he’s usually the top-rated free agent CB for most analysts. The only shutdown corner hopeful who is under 28 years old. A former 1st-round pick of Cincinnati buried in Cincy for years. Has some potential ‘attitude’ issues.
2) Desmond King, TEN – Maybe the most sound, young free agent CB/DB available…but at the lower cost/lower spotlight ‘slot’ position. Was really good with the Chargers early on, but Anthony Lynn is a literal NFL personnel cancer who wasted King to the end…then the Chargers traded King to the Titans at the trade deadline and he was really good for Tennessee.
King can play slot, regular corner or safety, and works in the return game. For the money, he may be the best free agent CB this season.
3) Richard Sherman, SF – Analysts still think it’s 2015 or 2019. Sherman is going to be 33+ years old this season and is coming off a rough 2020 of poor play and injury (which may have caused the poor play). Still, he is a presence on the field and in the locker room…so there’s hidden value here.
*Restricted top CB free agents Darious Williams, Levi Wallace, and J.C. Jackson will surely be retained by their current teams.
The Top 3 Talents Available/To Target If I Were an NFL GM:
1) Desmond King, TEN – King is the kind of no-name defender that helps teams win divisions, make title runs. He is a solid slot CB but can also offer cover corner, safety, and return game options. He is a quiet, dirty works player – and he’s only 26 years old and will be priced a little lower because his time with the Chargers seems so off, with them not starting him and then trading him. I believe that was an Anthony Lynn problem not one on King.
2) Xavier Rhodes, IND – Had a terrific rebound year in 2020. At age 31+, you can sign him to a short-term deal while you draft/groom younger CBs. Rhodes is an instant plug & play shutdown guy – perfect for a contender like Kansas City or teams of that title-run ilk.
3) William Jackson, CIN – There’s rarely a true shutdown corner ever available in the free market, so when one appears – you have to chase it if you need it. Jackson has held opposing WRs to under 59% completion rate for three straight years. He’s not perfect…he’s sloppy at times and has some attitude problems (allegedly) but the guy is a really good cover corner with upside – if you can get him right.
The concern is – you give him a bunch of money and he gets even sloppier.
The Top 3 Values/Sleepers According to FFM:
1) Chidobe Awuzie, DAL – I was a fan of his coming out of Colorado, and he has shown signs to be a potential/hopeful shutdown CB while in Dallas…but never got there fully. And he’s a physical/tough CB…could be a safety convert if needed. I think some smart team gets a steal here, potentially.
2) Jason Verrett, SF – I thought he was downright fantastic in 2020…the best corner the 49ers had, by a mile, and he was a shutdown guy. He’s had two ACLs in recent history, and he’s just getting back to full health. If Verrett stays healthy, he’s the short-term steal of the 2021 free agent CB class.
3) Kevin King, GB -- King will be a value grab for some team…a guy tainted for a bad moment against Tampa Bay in the playoffs, but he has great size/length/reach and was really good in 2018-2019. Recency bias/fans whining about his 2020-21 playoff performance will help some team get a potential bargain here. His injury-prone nature doesn’t help his vibe either, but that should keep his price down.
4) Quinton Dunbar, SEA – Risky on age/injury, off-field 2020 issues (cleared)…but when he’s fully healthy, he is a really good cover corner…who probably comes at a discount considering his choppy 2020. For a contender to take a one-year ‘prove it’ shot here, it’s smart.
The Top 3 Problems According to FFM:
1) Patrick Peterson, ARI – he hasn’t been good for the past two years, and he isn’t getting any better. He’s a name people gawk at from prior reputation, but his current reality is near-bust CB now.
2) Ronald Darby, WSH – Really solid 2020 season, and still just 27 years old (seems like he’s been around for 10+ years) but he’s a headache off the field that I’d not want to invest in. A short-term deal for a contender would be apropos. I’ve just never been a fan, but he had a big turnaround with Washington in 2020.
3) Mackensie Alexander, CIN – I’ve never liked him from my NFL Draft scouting on tape to our computer scouting model grades on him coming out of Clemson, and then thought it was stupid for Cincy to waste money on him in 2020…and here he is on the market again.
-- William Jackson will get the best contract/be in the most demand of this group. IF William Jackson lands in Jacksonville to pair with C.J. Henderson…watch out for the Jags defense making a sharp turnaround right away. The New York Jets are my nickel guess to sign him.
-- Desmond King re-signs with Tennessee.
-- Green Bay FA Chandon Sullivan has a little bit of buzz in the underground as a -on-the-come slot CB. Former GB D-C Mike Pettine would give inside info to people he is closest with – Seattle or maybe Detroit.
-- Richard Sherman is going to sign with the Jets because he is close with Robert Saleh.
-- Kevin King signs with Buffalo, a ‘prove it’ deal, as a throwaway prediction…and gets his career back on track.
-- Fabian Moreau (WSH) is another sleeper name I bet a few teams chase after. I predict he goes to Las Vegas because Mike Mayock is a fan.
-- Shaq Griffin/SEA is a decent name out there. He just didn’t fit in any of my categories above. He may ultimately stay with Seattle. Ditto Brian Poole with the Jets, a decent corner still in his mid-20s.
College Football Metrics (CFM) 2021 Season – For Dynasty Rookie Drafts, NFL Drafts, Handicapping, etc.
It’s going to be a scouting NFL Draft season like no other – some top prospects opting out of their final college season, a unique schedule for CFB teams to have played, a different type of bowl season…a whole new backdrop to scout against. An experienced, talented scouting eye is going to rule. I have 10+ years of successful CFM scouting and analytics to lean on – I’m ready for the challenge.
I know the mainstream football analysis is going to butcher this year’s class even worse than normal – because they are going to blindly favor big school prospects more than ever, because those schools will have the only names they are truly familiar with, and it’s just the ‘name’ they are familiar with not their ‘game’. They’ll ‘hive mind’ run with whatever names the collective seems to be buzzing about – because they don’t put in the work, they just echo things they’ve heard. I’m not saying that to be a jerk – it’s the open window of opportunity (their failure) that I was able to build my career/business upon.
I spend many hours each offseason day/week/month researching the current class of top 100+ prospects individually as well as all the smaller school and ‘lesser named’ prospects our computer models start to identify. I study and compare prospect’s tape, and I input the performance data (weighted with our secret, proprietary scouting formulas) to get a firsthand feel for it so I can analyze and test/challenge all our analytics. I get to know these prospects on the field, statistically, and do character background research as well -- so I can boil it down to reports so my private clients and subscribers (from serious fantasy players, to professional handicappers, to agents, to NFL war room personnel) can know these prospects by description and statistically – for NFL purposes, for Dynasty Rookie Draft purposes, for Fantasy Best Ball/Redraft purposes in the preseason, and for handicapping and prop betting purposes.
If you love Fantasy Football, if you love the NFL Draft process – I guarantee you’ll never look at the process the same way again with a CFM subscription.
As the regular season football ends, a whole new season of football discovery begins with our ‘CFM’ subscription and study or current and past rookies (offense and defense) – and material flows daily all offseason January to September (NFL season start), leading us to using the material to our advantage for the NFL regular season.
Go to our College Football Metrics or Fantasy Football Metrics subscription pages for more information.
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