One of the most important roles of an NFL scout is the construction of his sequence list or a ranking of the players he's graded, from best to worst. It's easy to slot the players that carry different grades but it can become difficult when you have the same grade on several players at different positions. In order to put those players in the proper order, some consideration must be given to the importance of the position they play.
For many years, cornerbacks were valued much higher than safeties. However, I'm not so sure that's the case anymore. The NFL has changed with the proliferation of wide-open offenses. With that in mind, I polled five NFL personnel executives and asked them this question:
What's more valuable in today's NFL, a dominant safety or a dominant cornerback? Here's what they had to say:
Executive No. 1: Safety first
"I would rather have the dominant safety. They can impact both the run and the pass and it's a position that also provides leadership."
Executive No. 2: A close call
"Five years ago I wouldn't hesitate in saying cornerback. It's a closer call now because of the emergence of all of these athletic tight ends. However, I'd still prefer to have a dominant cornerback. It's very hard to find them."
Executive No. 3: CBs provide flexibility
"Cornerback. A dominant corner gives you so much flexibility. Look at the draft history -- great cornerbacks always go higher than safeties. You can hide a bad safety. It's tough to hide a poor cornerback."
Executive No. 4: Safety sets tone
"No doubt, I'd take the safety. That position can set the tone for your entire defense. Also, it's much easier to game plan against a top-notch cornerback."
Executive No. 5: Obvious choice
"I think it's obvious. Cornerback. A dominant cornerback is a huge advantage because so many teams have a big-time weapon at receiver. If the cornerback can handle him 1-on-1, it allows your defense to roll coverage to the other side. That is a huge plus."
Final Verdict: Three votes for cornerback, two for safety.
Conclusion: It was very interesting to see the arguments made on both sides. I do believe the safety position has closed the gap over the last few years. With more offenses spreading the field with three- and four-receiver sets, it has become more difficult for a single cornerback to dramatically affect the game. However, safeties can be very disruptive against the run and pass on every down. That being said, it's difficult to find big, athletic cover cornerbacks. The lack of supply at the position keeps the demand very high. This will be a fun topic to revisit at the end of the season.