If you’re going to bet on Super Bowl XLVIII, you’ll eventually need to decide who has the inside track in the battle of Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman. It’s hard to tear yourself away from the hyperbole created by the mouth of Richard Sherman because he’s much, much smarter than you might think. I’m not just saying that because he’s a Stanford graduate (because let’s be honest – he didn’t get in to Stanford based on his academic merits alone), but deciphering who has the advantage at Super Bowl XLVIII might create some more wiggle room when you go to lay your money down this weekend. Let’s break this down.
TALE OF THE TAPE
If this was an actual fight pitting Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman, then it would be dead even. Thomas is 6’3 and 229 pounds of man, who is also 26 years of age. Though the longstanding belief is that corners are short, part of why Sherman is so deadly is his height. Sherman also stands at 6’3 but gives up about thirty-five pounds of bodyweight.
They’re both incredible athletes, but the edge here goes to Thomas simply because he’s impossible to bring down. Sherman is an incredibly gifted football player, but Thomas is bigger and could very well be faster. Sherman’s combine time in the 40-yard dash was 4.54 seconds, and Thomas ran in the 4.3 range. Game speed is different than straight line pace, but we’re talking about “on paper” here. So…
REGULAR SEASON PRODUCTION
This is hard to gauge in some respects because there are so many more ways to measure a wide-receivers production. Thomas pretty much ended the season as the second best receiver in the league. He led all receivers with 14 touchdowns, ranked fourth in terms of yards with 1,430 and had the 9th most receptions with 92 on the year. He was also the tenth best receiver in terms of target percentage, catching 64% of the balls thrown in his direction (surprisingly, Julian Edelman led this stat category with a 70% catch rate amongst receivers who were targeting at least 110 times). One of the best qualities about Thomas is how physical he is, and he was the best receiver in this regard in gaining 633 yards-after-catch (YAC). The only reason he would be the second best receiver in the league is because of Calvin Johnson’s mere existence, and the fact that he had Peyton Manning throwing to him.
Sherman is a tougher study from the numbers perspective because coverage sacks (i.e. when a quarterback doesn’t throw to a receiver because he’s being blanketed by his defender) aren’t recorded that precisely. To get a better idea of Sherman’s overall production you have to visit the box scores when he’s matched up against elite receivers and that might tell you who’s better in the Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman debate.
Week 2 – vs. Anquan Boldin (SF) – 1 catch, 7 yards, 0 TD
Week 4 – vs. Andrew Johnson (HOU) – 9 catches, 110 yards, 0 TD
Week 7 – vs. Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – 2 catches, 17 yards, 0 TD
Week 9 – vs. Vincent Jackson (TB) – 2 catches, 11 yards, 0 TD
Week 10 – vs. Roddy White (ATL) – 1 catch, 20 yards, 0 TD
Week 13 – vs. Marques Colston (NO) – 4 catches 27 yards, 0 TD
Week 14 – vs. Michael Crabtree (SF) – 4 catches, 40 yards, 0 TD
Week 16 – vs. Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – 3 catches, 18 yards, 0 TD
I mean that specific sample should tell you a lot. It’s a tough call because Sherman is called off man-coverage more than you might believe and instead has to play a zone. But nobody that you’d consider elite receiver scored touchdowns on Richard Sherman. Andre Johnson had the biggest game of anyone that went up against the Stanford graduate, but it’s important to remember that Sherman had the last laugh in that game by returning a pick-six to push the game in to overtime.
Let’s just call it even, shall we? Both players are at the apex of their position and both routinely produced at excessively high levels. Sherman may not have all the glorious numbers that Thomas does, but his opponents suffered whenever they were lined up against him.
Let’s start with Sherman because his playoff numbers are again pretty void. He doesn’t have a pick, but he was directly responsible for Seattle winning the NFC Championship on a deflected pass to Crabtree. Before that, however, Marques Colston blew him up in the wild card round. That’s important because – guess what – Colston is 6’4 and one of the most precise route runners in the league. Beyond that, Colston doesn’t have the bevy of talent that
Wild Card – vs. Marques Colston (NO) – 11 catches, 144 yards, 1 TD
Divisional – vs. Michael Crabtree (SF) – 4 catches, 52 yards, 0 TD
By contrast, Thomas has totaled 15 catches, 188 yards and 2 touchdowns so far in the playoffs. The guy’s freaking unstoppable. The difference, of course, is that Sherman has been involved in two slugfests while Thomas was helping Denver along in two relative blowouts. So while we can debate the Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman playoff impact all day long, I’m going with the cornerback here.
SUPER BOWL XLVIII PREDICTION
The problem with looking at Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman in a vacuum is that they’re both amazing. But beyond that, Thomas plays within the best receiving corps in the entire league and is catching passes from the most prolific quarterback of this generation. Half of Thomas’s job will be to make sure that Sherman stays the hell away from the ball, and that just means that Eric Decker and Julius Thomas will be enjoying more man-on-man coverage.
And if Thomas gets his hands on the ball, Sherman’s going to have a lot of trouble taking him down because everyone has trouble taking him down. It’s not impossible for Thomas to get involved in the action at Super Bowl XLVIII and if the Broncos want to pile up the points, they’ll need the ball in the hands of their best offensive weapon outside of Peyton Manning.
If Marques and Drew Brees can get under Sherman’s skin, then Thomas and Manning can definitely do the job. And in the end, a perfect pass will beat the corner ten times out of ten. That’s how the saying goes anyways, which is why the Demaryius Thomas vs. Richard Sherman discussion has an actual, definitive winner.
Final Edge: Demaryius Thomas