Philadelphia Eagles Draft: Jim Schwartz’s Cornerback Tendencies

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) reacts in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) reacts in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

How does Jim Schwartz like his cornerbacks? We took a deep dive into his history at the position to predict the Philadelphia Eagles’ possible draft choices later this month.

So, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to draft a cornerback in two weeks.

At least, we hope.

2007, 10 years ago, was the last season the dynamic duo of Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard started on the defensive boundaries for the Eagles. Since that time, recycled veterans and big-name free-agents have come and gone through the revolving door of the Philadelphia Eagles starting CB slots: Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Byron Maxwell–I could keep going, but I imagine you’re already weeping.

The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t invested a first round selection in a defensive back since 2002. They took Lito at 26 overall, only to turn around and draft safety mainstay Michael Lewis in Round 2, Sheldon Brown in Round 2, and some third-down, change-of-pace scatback called Brian Westbrook in Round 3.

That was a good draft.

Of course, in 2015, the Eagles traded with the Miami Dolphins to move up five spots and snag Eric Rowe, the promising corner out of Utah. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently, he was already traded away or something like that.

It was said that Rowe was shipped to Lombardi-hosting Foxborough because he “didn’t fit what Schwartz wanted in a cornerback.” He “wasn’t a scheme-fit.”

As a man who watched Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, and Jalen Mills start at corner for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, I found myself wondering what, on God’s green earth, did Jim Schwartz “want in a cornerback.” Clearly, ‘skill’ wasn’t high on the priority list.

So I went back, across Jim Schwartz’s career as an NFL defensive coordinator and head coach, in order to figure out what’s what. I took every cornerback he drafted and looked for physical trends–benchmarks for 2017 NFL Draft prospects to meet. I then compared all of his defenses’ stats, to determine which were the most productive defending against the pass, and I also gathered the physical data from those productive cornerbacks.

The goal of this exercise is to identify trends and benchmarks, determining those tendencies that will help us best predict the corners in which Schwartz could have interest. I don’t think all of the corners that don’t make the cut will be immediately blacklisted, nor do the corners who make the list all fit in Philly. This is just another lens, another context by which we can make evaluations.

Without further ado:

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates with cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) after intercepting pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates with cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) after intercepting pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Measurables Of Cornerbacks Drafted By Jim Schwartz

The link to all data sheets, including the master list of Schwartz corners, can be found here.

Jim Schwartz’s teams started drafting cornerbacks in 2001. Something to understand about 2001: I was roughly 4, YouTube was -4, and Tom Brady had just run his 40-yard dash in khaki shorts. For some prospects, we only have a height, weight, and 40 times. While he drafted 17 cornerbacks over the years, not one has every possible measurement.

But from what we can see from the corners, some trends are pretty clear:

  • Not a single CB is below 5’9″, and only 4 are above 6’0″
  • Only 2 CBs ran slower than 4.51s in the 40-Yard Dash
  • Out of 14 CBs, only 4 jumped less than a 34 1/2″ in the Vertical
  • Out of 13 CBs, only 2 jumped less than 119″ in the Broad
  • Out of 8 CBs, only 2 ran slower than 7s in the 3-Cone
  • Out of 12 CBs, only, 1 ran slower than 4.34s in the 20-Yard Shuttle


  • 5’9 – 6’0 
  • <4.52s 40-Yard Dash
  • >34 1/2″ Vertical
  • >119″ Broad
  • <7.00s 3-Cone
  • <4.34s 20-Yard Shuttle

A note: I don’t think Schwartz is bearish on corners above 6’0, I just don’t think it’s particularly valued. Ahkello Witherspoon and Kevin King likely don’t get any points for being 6’3″.

These trends form a nice lens already, and one we will certainly use. But I wasn’t just satisfied here. I wanted to see, not of those corners Schwartz drafted, but of those he played, which were successful, and if they had any trends in their measurables as well.

If I were a defensive coordinator, this is how I would go about my evaluations and setting my physical benchmarks. Not by what I had done previously, but by what had worked in my system.

Successful Cornerbacks Under Jim Schwartz: By Year

Schwartz’s first gig as a defensive coordinator came in Tennessee in 2001, where he coached the Titans defense for eight seasons. He was hired as the Lions’ head coach in 2009, after their illustrious 0-16 season, and was eventually released in 2013. He spent a very successful 2014 as DC in Buffalo before being ousted by Rex Ryan, took a year off, and then joined Doug Pederson in Philadelphia for the occasionally promising, occasionally maddening 2016 season.

I used the league rankings in yards allowed, touchdowns allowed, and interceptions as my metrics for the potency of Schwartz’s pass defenses. I weighed TDs Allowed and Yards Allowed slightly more heavily than I did INTs, as interceptions are more so a result of circumstance/fortune than allowing TDs or yards are. This is in no way meant to be a fine-tuned, accurate measurement–it’s simply intended to give us a good benchmark for comparing Schwartz’s defenses.

Here were the top 5 seasons, of the 15 available:

  1. 2014: 3rd in Yards Allowed, 1st in TDs Allowed, 6th in Interceptions
  2. 2008: 9th in Yards Allowed, 2nd in TDs Allowed, 6th in Interceptions
  3. 2007: 10th in Yards Allowed, 14th in TDs Allowed, 2nd in Interceptions
  4. 2003: 16th in Yards Allowed, 16th in TDs Allowed, 8th in Interceptions
  5. 2016. No really, 2016: 15th in Yards Allowed, 17th in TDs Allowed, 9th in Interceptions

If you’re like me, 2016 showing up on this list surprised you. Our pass defense wasn’t terrible last year. Huh.

That brings to light a good point, on which I won’t really touch here; but it still merits mention. Schwartz has always been a defensive coordinator focused on generating a pass rush, and through generating that pressure, improving his pass defense. Nobody would say that Philly had extraordinary cornerbacks last year, but their passing defense still played comparatively well.

Does this nullify our pursuit of understanding the corners Schwartz drafts? Not at all. Schwartz still needs to play cornerbacks, and we’re simply attempting to find his type, independent of the pass rush his defense generates.

So, the starting cornerbacks of these successful Schwartz years were:

  1. 2014: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin
  2. 2008: Nick Harper, Cortland Finnegan (All-Pro)
  3. 2007: Nick Harper, Cortland Finnegan
  4. 2003: Samari Rolle, Andre Dyson
  5. 2016: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin.

We could call these seven names the ‘successful’ cornerbacks, but because of the aforementioned correlation between Schwartz’s pass rush and pass defense, this wasn’t enough. I wanted to look at the numbers from a different angle, to make sure I had Schwartz’s most effective cornerbacks.

Jul 15, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Kevin King poses during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 15, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Kevin King poses during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Productive Cornerbacks Under Jim Schwartz: By Career

So, for each starting corner in a Schwartz defense, I added the total Interceptions and Passes Defended (PD) that player accumulated under his time with Schwartz. In this instance, I weighed INTs slightly more heavily than PDs, as they are higher quality plays.

This look at the stats certainly favors corners with ball skills and fails to account for effective defenders (the best corners simply get targeted less). However, as stats like QB rating when targeted, or total target share, were not available for many of Schwartz’s older corners, this is the best makeshift metric we have.

The 5 most productive Schwartz-career corners, out of 16 possible corners (all stats per year):

  1. Eric Wright: 4 INT, 17 PD
  2. Andre Dyson: 4 INT, 14.75 PD
  3. Will Peterson: 2 INT, 14 PD
  4. Leodis McKelvin: 3 INT, 12 PD
  5. Nick Harper: 2 INT, 12.5 PD

Immediately we see three players from the previous list (Dyson, McKelvin, Harper), but the first and third most productive Schwartz corners were Eric Wright and Will Peterson. Both of them only had a year of work under Schwartz, so their numbers may have nose-dived a bit if we had a multi-year data set. That being said, I’m very interested in what their physical toolkit enabled them to do immediately in Schwartz’s system.

As such, let’s check out our combined list of ‘productive and successful’ Schwartz cornerbacks.

  • Eric Wright
  • Stephon Gilmore
  • Leodis McKelvin
  • Nick Harper
  • Cortland Finnegan
  • Andre Dyson
  • Will Peterson
  • Samari Rolle
  • Nolan Carroll

So, we already have the primary lens established by Schwartz’s draft history. As a reminder, here those numbers are:

  • 5’10 – 6’0 
  • <4.52s 40-Yard Dash
  • >34 1/2″ Vertical
  • >119″ Broad
  • <7.00s 3-Cone
  • <4.34s 20-Yard Shuttle

The question is, are these parameters in any way adjusted when only considering Schwartz’s productive and successful corners? Quick answer, yes.

Measurables Of Productive and Successful Schwartz Cornerbacks

Checking out the same numbers (save for height) in which we noticed trends earlier, we see some slightly more stringent benchmarks. Before we go through the data, two things to consider:

Firstly, of our nine corners in this more elite section, we have no numbers for Samari Rolle or Nick Harper, so there were only seven data points to consider total.

Secondly, Andre Dyson, who was drafted in 2001, proved to be an outlier for the 40, the Vertical, and the Broad. Given the increasing importance of size and athleticism analysis in the NFL today, it isn’t difficult to imagine that Dyson’s numbers aren’t as indicative of Schwartz’s preferences as say, Darius Slay, who Schwartz brought in with a 2nd round pick only 4 years ago.

With these things considered, the trends:

  • 5 out of 7 had 40-Yard Dashes below 4.43s (W. Peterson and A. Dyson as exceptions)
  • 5 out of 7 had Vertical Jumps above 35 1/2″ (L. McKelvin and A. Dyson)
  • 6 out of 7 had Broad Jumps above 119″ (A. Dyson)
  • All with a 3-Cone Drill below 6.95s (only 3 data points)
  • All with a 20-Yard Shuttle below 4.34s (only 4 data points)


  • 40-Yard Dash <4.43s
  • Vertical Jump >35.5″
  • Broad Jump >119″
  • 3-Cone <6.95s
  • 20-Yard Shuttle <4.34s

The Broad Jump and 20-Yard Shuttle benchmarks didn’t move at all, and we only saw a .05s difference in the 3-Cone and a 1″ improvement in the Vertical Jump. Those numbers will barely narrow the field. The 1.00s improvement in the 40-yard dash, however, is the big one. Long speed seems to be the defining factor regarding success in Schwartz’s scheme.

It took us a lot of reaching, and working with incomplete data sets, to arrive at these new numbers–I in no way think they’re comprehensive. As such, we will use these parameters as just a secondary filter, another lens through which we can, perhaps, more accurately predict Schwartz’s targets later this month.

2017 NFL Draft Targets:

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Again, all of this data can be found right here.

First: The cornerbacks that fit all of Schwartz’s parameters and are likely his premiere targets on draft day (as I have them ranked by my Big Board):

  • Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State (R1 Grade)
  • Marlon Humphrey, Alabama (R1)
  • Adoree’ Jackson, USC (R2)
  • Fabian Moreau, UCLA (R3)
  • Shaquill Griffin, UCF (R4)

Next up: The cornerbacks that fit only the first lens, the one established by Schwartz’s drafted corners, and were eliminated by the second lens (note: every single one of these were eliminated by the 40-Yard Dash, for what it’s worth):

  • Gareon Conley, Ohio State (R1)
  • Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado (R2)
  • Kevin King, Washington (R2)
  • Ahkello Witherspoon, Colorado (R3)
  • Cameron Sutton, Tennessee (R3)
  • Ezra Robinson, Tennessee State (R6)
  • Nate Hairston, Temple (R7) (the Broad Jump also eliminated him)

A lot to like about these lists, but let’s remember what the lenses are: narrowing tools. They help us whittle down our focus. Because–here’s the kicker–Eric Rowe would fit within this second group as well. With a 4.45 40, he would have just missed the cut-off, by .03s. Conley, Awuzie, Witherspoon, and King all were .03s or less off as well.

The other consideration that must be had is scheme-fit: the Eagles run a solid blend of man and zone concepts, and their corners must be able to do both. That’s where Eric Rowe struggled last year, and part of the reason why he fell out of Schwartz’s favor: while he found success in press-man, he lacked the acceleration down the field to really win in pure man-coverage, and his quick-twitch was less than ideal for zone. If he didn’t jam, he didn’t win, and while that has a spot in the NFL, it just wouldn’t work for Philly.

So, how does scheme-fit check in against our groupings of prospects?

Looking at the premiere target list, that’s a 5/5 win on scheme-versatility, if you ask me. I’m particularly bullish on Marlon Humphrey (at 14?) and Adoree’ Jackson (at 43?) from that group. It was also very interesting to see Shaq Griffin hanging out there–he’s an intriguing prospect who just became the priority Day three target for Philadelphia if you ask me.

On that second list, all of those ‘just-missed’ prospects, Conley and King both have the scheme-versatility we’re looking for. Taking a trip to Colorado, I worry about Awuzie in man, and Ahkello concerns me in short zones. Hairston and Robinson? Developmental prospects, maybe, but I’m not excited about either of them, as far as talent translating to the NFL goes.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles Draft Preview: Linebackers

I’ll leave you with a few big-name corners who, though you might see them mocked to Philly, won’t likely cut the mustard for Schwartz:

  • Sidney Jones: 4.47s 40-Yard Dash, 33.5″ Vertical, 7.02s 3-Cone
  • Quincy Wilson: 4.54s 40-Yard Dash, 32″ Vertical
  • Tre’Davious White: 4.47s 40-Yard Dash, 32″ Vertical, 119″ Broad
  • Cordrea Tankersley: 29.5″ Vertical, 7.00s 3-Cone
  • Howard Wilson: 4.57s 40-Yard Dash, 33.5″ Vertical, 119″ Broad

While some of these guys have the scheme-versatility we’re looking for, their undesirable measurables preclude them from Philadelphia Eagle draft consideration.