Vontae: All-Day, Shutdown Cornerback


Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (22) against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When the Colts signed Vontae Davis to a 4-year, $36MM contract in March of this past offseason, many Colts’ fans felt the team had overpaid a bit. Sure, Davis had flashed glimpses of being a shutdown cornerback in 2013, but he had yet to put it together for an entire 16-game season. He was set to be paid like a Top 10 cornerback in the NFL, but questions arose of whether he consistently was one on a week-to-week basis.

His critics argued that the team would’ve been better off signing a talented defensive back like the now Buccaneers’ cornerback, Alterraun Verner, who had signed a 4-year, $26.5MM bargain of a contract also this offseason.

The difference is, Verner is best utilized as a zone cornerback, which he is, in new Tampa Bay Coach Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 defensive scheme. Whereas, Davis is a rare breed, one of the few cornerbacks in the NFL, who can play man-to-man on the opposing team’s best wide receivers without needing safety help. A perfect fit for Colts’ defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s man coverage defensive schemes.

Flash forward to the end of 7 weeks in the 2014 season, and Davis is arguably not just a Top 10 cornerback in the NFL, but a Top 5 one. He has 20 tackles, 12 break-ups, and 2 interceptions so far, but most impressive, is his 35.2 opposing Quarterback Rating when targeted according to ProFootballFocus (PFF). The advanced stats provided by PFF indicate that Davis has yet to give up a touchdown this season in coverage.

Number one! According to the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus, the Indianapolis Colts’ Vontae Davis has been the highest graded cornerback in the NFL through 7 weeks. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, Davis has been targeted 32 times total through 7 games, the same amount as the Arizona Cardinals’ young superstar cornerback, Patrick Peterson. Of course, Peterson is universally regarded now as the best man-cornerback in the game, as well as being its highest paid, having just recently signed a 5-year, $83MM contract extension.

Davis’s 32 targets are just one more than the New England Patriots’ Darrelle Revis (31 targets), who is among the biggest named cornerbacks in the NFL and among its best, having been nicknamed “Revis Island” for legitimate reasons.

Digging even further, Davis is now graded as the top cornerback in the NFL according to PFF, as he has a +12.0 grade overall. Suddenly, that contract doesn’t look bad at all. In fact, you could make a strong case that Davis has been worth every penny so far in the 2014 season.

For comparison’s sake; however, we’ll take a look at the Top 10 highest paid cornerbacks in the NFL. Note: while total cash value is still important in a contract, it is much more of a figure-head and “headline grabber” as opposed to being the reality of NFL contracts. The fact is, a player can have an extremely high total cash value of a contract, but never see a penny of it. The important figure to look at is the guaranteed dollars in a contract because a player will receive that amount no matter what, whether he’s cut prematurely or plays out the entire length of the contract. See the NFL’s Top 10 highest paid cornerbacks below:

Cornerbacks like Aqib Talib ($25.5MM), Brandon Carr ($26.5MM), and Johnathan Joseph ($23.5MM) all have more total guaranteed money in their contract; however, it seems as though Davis has outperformed them all so far in the 2014 regular season. What initially seemed like a bit of an overpay, is now starting to look like a bargain for Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson.

The credit goes to Vontae Davis, who while always immensely talented, had taken his concentration and conditioning seriously this offseason, and we’re starting to see the impressive results. At age 26, Vontae Davis still has many great years of football ahead of him, and I’m glad it looks like it will be in Colts’ blue for the foreseeable future.