Study: Using Analytics To Determine CB Cameron Sutton’s Market Value

As of a week ago Friday, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2023 NFL league year in March due to his contract officially voiding. That event was expected to happen and on the heels of it, we can now further speculate as to what his market value might be. Today, we will take a look at Sutton’s projected market value using some advanced analytics from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference

The first look advanced analytics look that I asked our own Clayton Eckert to do revolved around seeing where Sutton ranks collectively in PFF coverage and run defense grades over the course of the last three seasons when compared to other NFL cornerbacks currently earning a yearly average of $10 million more per season, per Over the Cap.

When looking at the chart of data above, the better the cornerback is in collective PFF pass coverage and run defense grades, the closer he is to the top right corner. To add definitive perspective to where Sutton is ranked, here are his last three seasons of PFF coverage grades: 70.4 (2020), 58.9 (2021), 73.9 (2022) along with his last three seasons of PFF run defense grades: 29.8 (2020), 71.6 (2021), 73.6 (2022). Not to cherry-pick, but Sutton’s 2020 run defense grade really dinged him here on this chart.

So, how the heck can we even rank these based on the plotting results? Well, we tried a crude method of ranking each player by their cumulative three-season coverage and run defense grades and then finding the average of those two rankings. Total snaps played was used to break any ranking ties. As you can see in the table of rankings below, Sutton ranks 19th overall on this list of 23 cornerbacks that revolves totally around PFF pass coverage and run defense grades.

The next advances analytics that we looked at with these 23 cornerbacks were weighted heavily toward pass coverage statistics from PFR. More specifically, total passer rating against and total yards per catch allowed over a three season span of 2020-2022. The size of the dot indicates the volume of times targeted.

This statistical look at these 23 total cornerbacks paints Sutton in a much better light as he is just inside the top-right quadrant. We crudely ranked these 23 cornerbacks once again, first by yards per completion allowed, then by passer rating allowed. Total targets was used to break any ties in rankings when it came to figuring an average ranking of the two statistical categories. Sutton ranks 11th overall on this chart based on how we slotted the 23 cornerbacks.

For fun, I averaged out the overall rankings from both data charts and Sutton finishes ranked 17th overall out of 23. If you were to slot him into the top 23 highest paid cornerbacks in the NFL right now based on that, his average yearly value would fall between $11,726,667 and $13,000,000. Quite honestly, that feels about right when it comes to a range for him.

In closing, this look at Sutton’s perspective/projected market value is just a crude and creative one that I came up with a few days ago, mainly because I was curious as to how he would match up over a three-year span compared to the other 22 NFL cornerbacks currently earning $10 million or more per year on average. That ending disclaimer out of the way, I still like Sutton’s chances of landing a new contract with the Steelers that averages somewhere around $13 million. With less than three weeks remaining until free agency officially begins, we should have our answer to Sutton’s future market value very soon.

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