Is Vontae Davis an Elite Cornerback?


Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions on the football field to play.

You are essentially exposed in a one-on-one matchup and have no clue as to what is going to happen next. A simple misstep and its a touchdown. Players have to have an incredibly short memory.

Having an elite cornerback is a luxury and its why the Colts re-signed Vontae Davis to a longterm deal.

The Colts re-signed Davis to the tune of a four year $39 million dollar deal. That may sound like a lot, but after this summer its a bargain. The real elite corners in the league are averaging 12-plus million per year.

A number of top tier cornerbacks inked big deals in the offseason. Seattle got Richard Sherman to sign a four-year $56 million deal. The Cardinals Patrick Peterson one upped him with a five-year $70 million signing.

The Browns re-signed Joe Haden to a five-year $67 million contract and the Patriots decided to rent out Darrelle Revis for one-year and $12 million.

But is Davis an elite corner?

Not according to his coaches. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said it comes down to interceptions.

“If you’re going to say, ‘Okay, this guy’s an elite guy,’ it comes down to picks,” Manusky said. “Sometimes it’s an elite guy that they’re not going to throw to him. From that standpoint, I think that’s the way the majority of people in the United States judge it, so that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Last season, Davis had just one pick in 98 targets (passes thrown at his man). Despite that, only 54-percent of those passes were caught. He also gave up eight touchdowns in 2013 which is the third highest total by a cornerback.

Those numbers suggest that it comes down to an issue of consistency.

Cornerback Vontae Davis’ ratings by week. Credit:

The above chart, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, confirms that consistency is indeed an issue for Davis. Week seven, against the Denver Broncos, clearly stands out. Davis, for the most part, was able to shut down Demaryius Thomas and gave up just one of his four receptions while defending him.

What also stands out are those two red bars at the end of the graph. Those two games happen to be in the playoffs. Granted the second game was against Tom Brady, it still bears notice that in the most important games of the season, he played poorly. Other “elite” corners took their game to a higher level.

Per PFF’s ratings, Davis ranks as the eighth best corner in the NFL. At times I question how they grade players in the secondary, but one metric saying he is rated that highly is interesting.

Couple that with the fact that he has gotten better each season and 2014 could be a breakout year for Davis.

What is interesting with Davis is his lack of ego.

“I really don’t measure myself against anyone,” Davis said. “I just prepare and go out and be the best that I can be and that’s all I can do and all that I can control to be the best player I can be.”

This summer has featured a lot of loudmouth cornerbacks bragging about how they’re the best to ever play the position. If Davis can’t muster up a “I’m number one,” then how can he possibly be an elite CB?

Davis’ development will be important for the success of the Colts defense in 2014. Davis might be a top 10 cornerback in the NFL, but calling him elite would be premature.