The New Orleans Saints welcomed back Marshon Lattimore this week after a lengthy injury kept him away from the team for the last 10 games. Lattimore was out with an injury marked as "abdomen", but more specifically he had a lacerated kidney. A lacerated kidney doesn't have a defined timetable so the Saints were not quite sure how long Lattimore would be out, hence no IR designation, but they kept him out long enough for him to heal completely. In the time that Lattimore was out the Saints relied on rookie Alontae Taylor, who played admirably in the absence of Lattimore, and second year corner Paulson Adebo. Lattimore proved right away why his absence was so impactful to a defense that was supposed to be one of the best in the league this season. In the waning moments of the game with the Saints up 13-10 in the fourth quarter against the league's best team ,the Philadelphia Eagles, Lattimore jumped in front of pass intended for AJ Brown and took it in for a touchdown. Surprisingly, his interception was the only interception recorded by a Saints cornerback this season (Taylor had one called back earlier this season). Lattimore came into the game and immediately added an impactful element to the Saints defense.
That type of impact happens when you add an elite cornerback to a defense. The Saints are simply a different, more difficult matchup when Lattimore is on the field. That was realized after Lattimore was drafted by the Saints, and that same impact is playing out for the New York Jets as well. The Jets this year, while not making a complete turnaround, have improved significantly by adding an elite cornerback to their roster. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner was selected fourth overall by the Jets in the 2022 NFL Draft. As of early November, PFF gave him a coverage grade of 87.8, which led the NFL at the time, not just among rookies, but the entire NFL. Through the first 9 games of the season he broke Darrelle Revis' record of pass defenses with 14. This week, Sauce Gardner held one of the most dominant wide receivers in the league, D.K. Metcalf to 1 catch and 3 receiving yards on FIVE targets. Surely leaving a lot of fantasy football owners extremely bewildered. Though this type of production did not help the Jets to victory, it does highlight his extreme talent and that the Jets are headed in the right direction. When the Jets have had solid QB play this season they have scored some great wins (Miami week 5, Green Bay week 6, and Buffalo Week 9).
Gardner is having tremendous impact, as a rookie but a few other young cornerbacks are truly impactful as well. Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander made headlines this week for upsetting fantasy players everywhere by completely shutting down Justin Jefferson. Jefferson had been on a run this season, especially in the last 3 weeks of December averaging 159.7 yards and 11.6 catches per game. Thats nearly 27 points per game (PPR) before touchdowns, which he had against New York and Indianapolis. Alexander held Jefferson to 1 catch for 15 yards. Helping the Packers secure a playoff spot with a 41-17 win over the Vikings. This surely had a MAJOR impact on fantasy owners everywhere, and may have led to a lot of upsets in the championship games.
Jaycee Horn is another example of a cornerback who's impact was felt this week, but in a bit of negative way. Jaycee Horn's absence, coupled with Donte Jackson absence, opened the door for Tom Brady and Mike Evans to simply abuse the Panthers.
Mike Evans carried a lot of Daily Fantasy owners to the land of cash with 10 catches for 207 yards and 3 touchdowns. While Tom Brady went for 432 yards, three touchdowns, and a passer rating of 127.3. That passer rating was Tom Brady's highest of the season. As of this morning Horn was placed on IR with the Panthers out of playoff contention, due to yesterday's loss. The presence of Horn and Jackson would have truly helped the Panthers team and tons of fantasy owners.
Deion Sanders said that coming into the league he looked at the pay of cornerbacks in the NFL and saw how undervalued they were and decided to make up his "PrimeTime" persona. He brought a swag to the position that prior to him the league had never seen. He made the position sexy and popularized it among following generations, because so many kids wanted to be like Prime. While his influence can still be felt through the league, the rise of the passing game due to the league-wide protections offered to Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers has put an even greater emphasis on the value of the cornerback position. This week the impact of cornerbacks were truly felt around the NFL and the fantasy football world.
The Evolution of the Passing Game is a Good Read also : https://www.thephinsider.com/platform/amp/2012/1/10/2696454/the-evolution-of-passing-in-the-nfl