As if Richard Sherman needed another excuse to have a chip on his shoulder.
It’s no secret the Seahawks’ 2011 fifth-round Stanford selection revels in perceived disrespect to fuel his play on the field. And although that disrespect is clearly diminishing the more he plays, Thursday night proved it still exists.
On Thursday night’s unveiling of the “NFL: Top 100 Players of 2013,” Sherman checked in at No. 50. At No. 50, Sherman will be the third-ranked cornerback of 2013. As far as cornerbacks go and where they fit on the Top 100 scale, that seems about right considering Denver’s Champ Bailey checked in at No. 46 a season ago as the third-rated cornerback in the NFL.
But are there really two cornerbacks in the NFL better than Sherman right now? According to a poll immediately following the rankings, 79 percent disagreed. And of all ten players revealed on Thursday night, Sherman is currently the second-most underrated — behind only New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at No. 43 — according to fan rankings on NFL.com.
So what about the tangible evidence? Without knowing definitively yet who will be ahead of Sherman, let’s look at the competition and see where Sherman stacks up.
Sherman tallied eight interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, while defending 24 passes, forcing three fumbles, notching one sack and returning a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown. According to profootballreference.com, Sherman’s approximate value was 19 — tied with Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson for second in the NFL. His eight interceptions were also tied for second in the NFL and at the end of the season he was named first-team All-Pro.
Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman was the other All-Pro selection and therefore would seem to have the edge over anybody else worth considering better than Sherman. Tillman didn’t exactly intercept a ton of passes in 2012 (3), but he returned all three for touchdowns and forced a staggering 10 fumbles. Still, his approximate value was only 16.
Arizona’s Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro cornerback in 2011, but took a step backward in 2012. Peterson picked off seven passes, but returned none for touchdowns, made no sacks, forced no fumbles and defended 17 passes. Without the four punt returns for touchdowns he had in 2011, his approximate value dropped from 21 to 13.
Antonio Cromartie is seemingly the last challenger. Cromartie took on an even larger role with the New York Jets a season ago with the injury of Darrelle Revis, and ended up with a Pro Bowl selection for his efforts. Like Tillman, Cromartie managed three picks, but none were returned for touchdowns and unlike Tillman, he didn’t have a slew of forced fumbles. In fact, he didn’t even have one. His approximate value was 10.
Obviously, these are all extremely talented cornerbacks that bring a lot to their respective teams. And it’s obviously subjective when deciding how to weight statistics. For me, the tiebreaker comes in Sherman’s ability to back up his notoriously loud mouth. This is a guy who chased down and taunted Tom Brady after the Seahawks defeated the Patriots, told a Redskins’ receiver he sucked before waving the fans goodbye after Seattle won at Washington in the playoffs and challenged Roddy White’s toughness by essentially saying the Atlanta wide receiver was too afraid to play on the outside. When you flap your gums as much as Sherman does, there’s even more pressure to perform. Every receiver wants to be the guy to shut you up and laugh in your face. The fact that Sherman was able to talk as much as he did, put as much pressure on himself as he did, and still come out of it with eight picks and an All-Pro selection to his name, elevates him to a level above his competition.