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Is Josh Norman the next Richard Sherman?

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There's a good chunk of you who have no idea who Josh Norman is.

The numbers show that this relatively unknown commodity truly is an elite corner. We can argue semantics as to whether he's a top-5 guy or not but from a fantasy perspective there is no debate, Josh Norman is fantasy death; an elite defensive back who is more of a shutdown corner than Richard Sherman.

For those of you who read headlines and then mayyyybe nine words of an article, go ahead and skip the rest, go down to the bottom, hit that comment button and insert your obligatory, "This guy is a [expletive] [expletive] [expletive] [expletive] idiot. Don't listen to him, do the exact opposite of what he says" smack talk.

Feel better? Cool, let's move on.

If you've never heard the name, you're certainly not alone. The lockdown DB for Carolina is far from a household name. Maybe part of it is that Norman was a fifth-round pick. Maybe part of it is that he went to a small school in Coastal Carolina. Maybe part of it is that despite playing in his fourth year, Norman wasn't a full-time, cover-your-best-guy starter until halfway through last season.

I spoke to NFL Media's resident super scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks about Norman.

"He hasn't gotten nearly the attention he deserves," Jeremiah said. "But pretty soon Norman playing at this level won't be much of a secret anymore."

"He is underrated," Brooks said. "Team observers have seen his growth over the past year and many believe he is capable of thriving as a CB1."

It took Norman a while to get to get here, but now that he's grabbed the starting gig, he's kicking down the door, and putting a Scorpion Deathlock on number one receivers unfortunate enough to play the Panthers.

The tombstones of fantasy funerals under Norman's watch is long and frightening: Jeremy Maclin who had 1300-plus receiving yards last year had 38 yards versus Norman in week 10. Mike Evans could muster only 13 yards (albeit he added a touchdown). Josh Gordon, just 45 yards. And even the great Julio Jones was limited to 59 and 58 yards respectively in two separate match-ups against Norman and his Panther teammates. The touchdown to Evans was the only one Norman has individually allowed last season or this season.

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Speaking of, this year it's been largely the same; fantasy flames have been snuffed out by the suffocating defense of Norman. The comparison weeks for some of the league's top young receiving talents are telling.

In Week 1, the Jags' Allen Robinson was matched up against Norman and was held to one catch on six targets for 27 yards. In Week 2, Robinson exploded for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

In Week 2, #MarchTo1100 standout DeAndre Hopkins balled to the tune of 98 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 2 versus Carolina, Nuk caught just five of the 11 balls thrown his way for a disappointing 53 yards. Unsurprisingly, Hopkins in Week 3 bounced back for 101 yards and a score.

"He's able to get up on guys and put his hands on them and his two-hand jam is about as good as it gets," Jeremiah said. "There was one play in that Houston game where he just jolted DeAndre Hopkins."

And Norman has a growing sample size proving his defensive prowess. Going back to when Josh Norman reclaimed his starting job in Week 8, and if you include the postseason, Norman in 14 games has helped to limit opposing team's top wide receivers to 5.6 fantasy points per game.

As a point of reference during that same time period (but also including the Super Bowl) Richard Sherman and the Seahawks have allowed 6.9 fantasy points to opposing number one wideouts.

Perhaps more revealing is that if you take away the Dwayne Bowe and Kenny Britt types, elite receivers have actually done pretty well versus Sherman and the Legion. Kelvin Benjamin had a 94-yard game in their first meeting and then followed up with a 75-yard, two-touchdown performance during the playoffs. Odell Beckham Jr. was able to collect more than a 100 yards. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb amassed 71 and 116 yards in their respective games as No. 1 receivers versus Seattle. And Julian Edelman had a nine-catch, 109-yard, one-touchdown game in the Super Bowl.

Again, compare those numbers to what Norman and the Panthers have been doing to the top-flight receivers they've taken on. In regards to fantasy, it's not even close. And it's why today, right now, I'm wayyyyy more worried about my fantasy receiver seeing Carolina than seeing Seattle.

And if you're wondering why I see so much Sherman in Josh Norman, just watch Norman play. He has an angry edge and gets physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. And like the L.O.B's vocal leader in Sherman, the Carolina corner also has a penchant for talking trash.

The incessant jawing was so bad that back in his rookie year of 2012, there was speculation Norman could be cut from the Panthers for yapping too much.

The on-field smack was on display again in Week 1 when Norman made an incredible read on this play and picked off Blake Bortles for a return score. As he was heading into the end zone Norman did a quick wave goodbye to Bortles and then went full Happy Gilmore; doing the bull dance, feeling the flow, working it.

Norman was promptly fined $9,000 for his antics.

And to be 100 percent honest, the only reason I know so much about the guy now is because he somehow found me on Twitter and trash talked me a bit, eight hours after he found out I was live tweeting, not about him, but about DeAndre Hopkins.

The totally random interaction put him on my radar and as I started to piece together his story and background, his stats and game tape jumped out at me. Because trash talk aside, the skills on the field are for real.

"He's got such great eyes, being able to go from quarterback to receiver," Jeremiah said. "That's what good corners are able to do. And Josh has such quick feet. Very efficient in terms of his feet. When he drives on the ball, there's no wasted movement"

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"Norman has great instincts and ball skills; he also tackles well and has a versatile skill set for both man and zone," Brooks said. "He's always had the tools to be a good player but he has been more consistent the past year or so."

Neither Jeremiah or Brooks would go so far as to say Norman was a top-5 corner in this league, although Jeremiah did say "If he's not a top-5 guy, he's definitely knocking on the door."

"He's not as consistent or as polished as other elite corners," Brooks said. "He will give up a play here and there when he gambles and guesses."

"He doesn't necessarily have the ball production as the elite guys, but he's pretty darn good in every area," Jeremiah said.

But after looking at the numbers, and this ridiculous full-stretch, game-ending interception in week 3, I'm not so sure I agree.

Take a look at the side bar. It shows stats for passes defended, interceptions, return touchdowns and forced fumbles from 2014.

2014 CB stats
2014 CB stats (NFL.com)

As you can tell, the list is stacked with widely-recognized, highly-regarded corners in this league. The men on that list are at or near the top in those respective categories. Sherman and Peterson are a bit of an anomaly in terms of passes defended because quarterbacks famously avoid them at all costs. But regardless, the ball skills are obviously there for both men.

If you think those numbers are good, and they are, then you should be interested to know that Norman stacks up quite nicely against that group.

Norman, over his last 14 games previously noted, has 16 passes defensed, four interceptions (one returned for score) and two forced fumbles.

His numbers look A LOT like those possessed by Aqib Talib, Joe Haden and Vontae Davis. All had at least 16 passes defensed, at least three interceptions and at least one forced fumble. Pretty good company.

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At least according to the numbers, the guy is an elite corner, possibly a top-5 guy at his position. And from a fantasy perspective, you need to start viewing Norman as a terrifying matchup; giving him the kind of fantasy reverence we commonly give to corners like Sherman, Darrelle Revis and the rest of those guys on the list above.

Disagree? Well the beautiful thing is that Norman will prove himself one way or another over the next five games, as he is set to take on a series of top-end receivers. Norman will be squaring off against Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin, Jordan Mathews, T.Y. Hilton and Randall Cobb in consecutive weeks. As Bart Scott would say: can't wait.

Now you know about Josh Norman.

So Josh, please stop tweeting at me.


James Koh is an anchor/reporter for NFL Network and the host of NFL Fantasy LIVE & the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh

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