Pro Football Focus released their top 10 players of 2014 yesterday and coming in at number four was Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Harris entered the 2014 season eight months removed from a torn ACL that he suffered against the San Diego Chargers during the 2013 postseason. Some believed that this would limit Harris initially, but he went on to have one of the best seasons a cornerback has ever had during the PFF era.
If the season Darrelle Revis has in 2009 was the single best year we have seen from a cornerback in the PFF era – and it was – then Harris in 2014 got as close to it as anybody has come, and did it despite tearing his ACL in the playoffs the previous year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Harris was thrown to 89 times during the season but did not allow a single touchdown. He did allow 46 receptions, but those receptions only averaged 7.7 yards. The receptions that he did allow did not end up going very far. Harris didn't give up a reception longer than 22 yards, and quarterbacks were held to a quarterback rating of 47.8 when targeting Harris.
This impressive production from Harris has earned him the honor of being the top cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He earned a plus 28.4 overall grade from PFF, nearly 7 points higher than any other CB. He allowed just 0.57 yards per coverage snap, which also ranked first.
Not only did Harris grade better than the rest of the cornerbacks in the league, he was ranked as the top cornerback in their top 101 players. This isn't new to Harris though. He says he has been playing at an elite level for awhile now.
"I’ve been playing at an elite level for more than just a year. I think I’ve graded in PFF's top 10 every year except my rookie season. A lot of guys don’t do the things that I do. I play the pass, I play the run, I can play multiple positions, and I move everywhere around on the field during the game. So, I think I’m just unique compared to all those other corners."
The stats back up Harris's claim.
Since entering the league as a undrafted free agent with the Broncos in 2011, Harris has allowed 6 touchdown passes (Didn't allow any in 2014), according to PFF. That number is fewer than Sherman (8), Revis (9), Brent Grimes (12), Davis (14), Haden (19), and Patrick Peterson (24). Again, Harris comes out on top against his competition at cornerback.
Mile High Report's own Bronco Mike compared Harris to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. He compiled all three cornerbacks target data against the #1 receiver, #2 receiver, slot receiver, tight ends and more. He used a simple grading system to track which corner was doing the best of the group. Once again, Harris came out on top, and it wasn't even close.
While I'm focusing on Harris being the top cornerback in the league, we cannot ignore that he's being recognized as one of the top players in the entire league. Only Houston Texan's defensive end J.J. Watt, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Kansas City Chiefs edge rusher Justin Houston were ranked ahead of Harris. That's it, only three players had a better 2014 season than Chris Harris according to Pro Football Focus.
General Manager John Elway rewarded Harris for his impressive production with a five-year, $42.5 million dollar contract extension this past December. Not only is Harris a great player on the field, he's a great team player off the field. He accepted a team-friendly, way "below market" deal to stay in Denver. That is something you just don't see from many star players in any league.
Heading into the 2015 season, Harris will look to continue his dominance on the field. Any wide receiver lining up across from him will be entering Denver's "No Fly Zone", and their chances of success are slim to none.