As I mentioned in yesterday’s breakdown of Brandon Carr, I think yards-per-snap is the best metric we have to grade cornerbacks. The reason is that it’s the only stat to reward a cornerback for good coverage. If a cornerback mirrors a receiver all game and gets targeted just once, his yards-per-snap will be low, whereas the yards-per-attempt he allows could still be high.
In terms of yards-per-snap, Morris Claiborne actually ranked pretty highly in his rookie season, finishing in the top 36 in the league. He yielded 1.21 yards-per-snap—just below Carr’s 1.17 yards-per-snap. Claiborne was actually targeted just 69 times all year. That’s one of the primary reasons people believe his rookie campaign was worse than it was; he gave up a 69.6 percent completion rate, but he still allowed fewer receptions and yards than Carr.
There are all kinds of reasons to believe that Claiborne will improve in 2013. First, we tend to forget that this was the consensus top defensive player available in the 2012 NFL Draft. When we compare Claiborne to other second-year cornerbacks, it’s important to remember that he was graded ahead of all of them. Plus, Monte Kiffin’s scheme should benefit the cornerbacks, both of whom will play closer to the line and in more zones, giving them the ability to make plays.
Because of that, you’ll likely see superior bulk numbers from Claiborne this year. Barring injury, he should play in the neighborhood of 1,000 snaps. The cornerback will probably get targeted more often—we’ll say 75 times—because of Kiffin’s scheme. At a 66.7 percent completion rate allowed, Claiborne would give up 50 receptions.
Even getting targeted more frequently, Claiborne should improve on a per-snap basis. Last year, he allowed 1.21 yards-per-snap. The second-year cornerback could easily see that number fall to 1.10 yards-per-snap in 2013. If that’s the case and Claiborne participates in 550 pass snaps, he would allow 605 yards on the year. That’s more than in his rookie year, but I’m also projecting Claiborne to get targeted more often and play more snaps. If he’s targeted 75 times, Claiborne would allow 8.07 YPA.
Playing near the line, Claiborne should be able to improve his total tackles and interceptions. His 6.1 percent tackle rate in 2012 was good for 55 total tackles; if it jumps to 6.5 percent this year, Claiborne would record 65 tackles on 1,000 snaps.
Final 2013 Projection: 50 receptions on 75 targets (66.7 percent) for 605 yards (8.07 YPA), 1.10 yards-per-snap, 65 tackles, four interceptions
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.