For several seasons former Bills first round pick Leodis McKelvin never lived up to his draft position. McKelvin, a magnificent return man (All-Pro in 2008) with all the tools to be a shut down cornerback seemed destined to become an all too common bust in the National Football League. Something strange happened towards the end of the 2012 season, he began to find his game. McKelvin was overlooked and did not receive a lot of recognition for what was one of the best seasons by any cornerback in the National Football League in 2013. Much in the same way that some players are selected to the Pro Bowl based off reputation or past achievements, McKelvin was not selected because of his reputation of not being a very good cornerback.
The consensus is generally that there are four cornerbacks who could potentially be the best in the NFL, Richard Sherman, Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis. While I am not necessarily putting McKelvin on that level yet, his numbers speak for themselves. Haden had the lowest completion percentage on passes targeted in the NFL among cornerbacks at 45.8 percent, McKelvin ranked second allowing only 46.1 percent of passes to be completed against him, those numbers ranked ahead of Sherman, Peterson and Revis. On passes thrown in his direction McKelvin allowed a 66.3 passer rating which was better than Revis and Peterson.
McKelvin was the only constant in a Bills defensive secondary that finished fourth overall against the pass in the NFL last season, Jarius Byrd was injured, Stephon Gilmore was injured, Aaron Williams played well the majority of the season but he too was bit by the injury bug, Justin Rodgers had a game against the offensively challenged New York Jets where he allowed 32 catches for 359 yards (exaggeration, but get the point) and Nickell Robey played great for the most part all season, but was prone to some rookie mistakes at times. McKelvin set career highs in tackles and passes deflected but most importantly he played all 16 games at an all pro level.
McKelvin did not make the Pro Bowl last season despite coach Doug Marrone campaigning for him in several interviews late in the year, Marrone and the coaching staff knew the impact McKelvin was having. This season is the year for McKelvin to cement himself amongst the best cornerbacks in the league, a wise man once told me “Beat them with consistency.” McKelvin will have to have at least another season like 2013 to solidify his position amongst the best, but with an improved pass rush compared to early in his career and a defense that can potentially stop the run, I look forward to him having a even better season than last year.
The Bills have once and for all been cured of the “Byrd Flu” and despite losing a player that might be the second best Free Safety in all of football, the Bills secondary barring the continued development of Gilmore might be a “No Fly Zone” in 2014. Numbers never lie!! You heard it here first at Cover 32!
Lawren Hightower can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ell_aych