Study: What Pittsburgh Looks For In Drafting Cornerbacks

We are continuing our series on examining the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft history to try and predict who might meet their measurable and athletic criteria for 2016. We’ve covered receivers and both line groups. Today, we’ll move onto cornerbacks. To be upfront, we are not going to be able to make guesses about this safety class because the team has only drafted three – Gerod Holliman, Shamarko Thomas, and Ryan Mundy – since 2007. The sample size is just too small to say anything with a modicum of confidence.

But the team has drafted 11 corners, giving us a sample to examine and learn from. As always, the year-by-year selections with all the data I can reliably find on them.

2015: Senquez Golson

Height: 5’8/5
Weight: 176
Arm Length: 29 3/4
Hand Size: 9 3/8
40 Time: 4.46
Vertical: 33.5
Broad Jump: 10’0″
Short Shuttle: 4.20
Three Cone: 6.81

Doran Grant

Height: 5’10/2
Weight: 200
Arm Length: 30 1/4
Hand Size: 9 3/8
40 Time: 4.44
Vertical: 35.5
Broad Jump: 10’5″
Short Shuttle: 4.33
Three Cone: N/A

2014: Shaq Richardson

Height: 6’0/1
Weight: 194
Arm Length: 32
Hand Size: N/A
40 Time: N/A
Vertical: 38.5
Broad Jump: 10’7″
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A

2013: Terry Hawthorne

Height: 5’11/6
Weight: 195
Arm Length: 31 1/4
Hand Size: 8 7/8
40 Time: 4.44
Vertical: 35.5
Broad Jump: 9’8″
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A

2012: Terence Frederick

Height: 5’10
Weight: 187
Arm Length: 31 1/8
Hand Size: 9 1/8
40 Time: 4.54
Vertical: 35
Broad Jump: 10’1″
Short Shuttle: 4.03
Three Cone: 6.59

2011: Curtis Brown

Height: 5’11/5
Weight: 185
Arm Length: 32 1/4
Hand Size: 9 1/2
40 Time: 4.54
Vertical: 39.5
Broad Jump: 10’6″
Short Shuttle: 4.00
Three Cone: 6.59

Cortez Allen

Height: 6’1/2
Weight: 197
Arm Length: 32 1/4
Hand Size: 8 5/8
40 Time: 4.53
Vertical: 37.5
Broad Jump: 10’9″
Short Shuttle: 4.01
Three Cone: 6.76

2010: Crezdon Butler

Height: 5’11/6
Weight: 191
Arm Length: 32
Hand Size: 8 3/4
40 Time: 4.49
Vertical: 39.5
Broad Jump: 10’1″
Short Shuttle: 4.23
Three Cone: 7.08

2009: Keenan Lewis

Height: 6’0/7
Weight: 208
Arm Length: 32 3/4
Hand Size: 9 3/4
40 Time: 4.55
Vertical: 38.5
Broad Jump: 10’10”
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A

Joe Burnett

Height: 5’9/3
Weight: 192
Arm Length: N/A
Hand Size: N/A
40 Time: 4.62
Vertical: 35.5
Broad Jump: 9’10”
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Three Cone: 6.68

2007: William Gay

Height: 5’10/1
Weight: 187
Arm Length: 31
Hand Size: 9 1/2
40 Time: N/A
Vertical: 38.5
Broad Jump: 9’10”
Short Shuttle: N/A
Three Cone: N/A

Here are the trends I came up with.

– Eight of the 11 corners weighed between 185 and 199 pounds.

– Eight of the ten (Burnett’s wasn’t available) had at least 31 inch arms.

– Eight of the nine ran a 40 at 4.55 or below.

– Ten of the 11 had verticals of at least 35 inches.

– Eight of the 11 had a broad jump of at least 10 feet.

– Five of the six had short shuttles of 4.25 or better.

So here is my criteria. Cornerbacks who are…

Between 185 and 199 pounds
Arm length of at least 31 inches
4.55 40 or lower
35+ inch vertical
10’0″+ inch broad
Sub 4.25 short shuttle

And here are the four cornerbacks who check every box.

Name Weight Arm Length 40 Time Vertical Broad Short Shuttle
Eric Murray 199 31 1/2 4.49 39.5 10’4″ 4.05
Briean Boddy-Calhoun 193 31 4.47 35 10’4″ 4.22
Maurice Canady 193 31 5/8 4.49 38 10’4″ 4.09
DeAndre Elliott 188 32 4.55 41 10’5″ 3.94

We have both Minnesota cornerbacks. Murray is bigger and overall tested better but both should be interesting. Canady is the biggest corner with length who put on an overall fine showing at the Senior Bowl. Elliott is someone the team has shown interest in so it’s no surprise to see him pop up on this list. Athletically, he’s up there with the best vert, broad, and shuttle, while offering the most length of the quartet. 

I did struggle with the height parameters. Six corners were between 5’10 to 5’11, but two were under 5’10 while three were at least six foot. Knowing that the average corner falls in that 5’10 to 5’11 range, it’s not surprising to see the most come from that pool, but there is not an overwhelming majority. 

Having said that, if a corner weighing more than 200 pounds can show the same athletic traits, then they should be at least considered as well. The only reason to knock heavier corners is that intuitively, they aren’t as athletic. But if the numbers match, they should be on the radar. Make sense? 

So let’s apply the same criteria to any corner weighing at least 200 pounds. We come up with three. 

Name Weight Arm Length 40 Time Vertical Broad Short Shuttle
James Bradberry 211 33 4.50 36 10’4″ 4.21
Jalen Ramsey 209 33 3/8 4.41 41.5 11’3″ 4.18
LeShaun Sims 203 31 5/8 4.53 37 10’0″ 4.19

Ramsey is a top five pick, maybe first overall, and while it’s no surprise to see him on this list, he will not be in consideration for Pittsburgh. Sims and Bradberry are two FCS kids, from Samford and Southern Utah, and while you can retort with Cortez Allen, the team rarely dips into the FCS level.

Only four players since Kevin Colbert’s arrival have been drafted there. So while they fit and are interesting, Bradberry also got exposure at the Senior Bowl which gives him a slightly better chance, they aren’t rather likely.

If you’re protesting, wondering where the sub 185 pounders are at, none fit the criteria.

Let’s keep the three 200+ pounders with the four originals. That gives us seven cornerbacks to monitor and in total, giving us 31 across all positions to take a hard look at.

Just for fun, because we don’t have enough of a sample size at safety, let’s make a very large assumption the athletic measurements carry over to them. Just to see who would fit.

Name 40 Time Vertical Broad Jump Short Shuttle
Sean Davis 4.46 37.5 10’6″ 3.97

Players like Tyvis Powell and Derrick Kindred were very close but only Davis could meet every requirement. He has experience at corner so it doesn’t surprise he passes the scrutiny. I imagine, and want to be clear, this is just a hypothetical and I am sure the criteria for safeties is a little lower, given their often bigger nature.

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