Anybody in the audience tonight a big gambler? I am. But I don't go crazy with it. After all, my father always told me, "Don't bet with money you can't afford to lose."
What a dad thing to say, right?
I grew up with a casino within driving distance, so I know my way around a variety of different gambling tables. I can say roulette is probably the game where I have made the most money — off absolutely ignorant bets, I'm sure — but the game I have played the most has to be poker, specifically Texas hold 'em.
Hold 'em is one of the most popular styles of poker. It involves a number of rounds where cards are dealt in phases, and at the end of it all, the player who has the best combination of five cards wins.
But the real gambling element comes between the rounds. Unaware of what the other players may have, each round of betting involves psychological warfare with you and anyone who is left at the table. Some can't hide when they have something good, getting aggressive with their bets. Others try to bluff the rest of the table into folding, hoping to scare them away when they really don't have anything. It is not always the player with the best cards who wins. It's often the player who takes the correct risks.
Cornerback Marcus Peters is a risk-taker and a high rolling one, at that.
Since he came into the league in 2015, Peters has been one of the most aggressive cornerbacks in the NFL. In what was one hell of a statement year, he opened his career with eight interceptions, 26 passes defended and two touchdowns in his rookie season. Instead of being content with just making a play on the ball and maybe knocking it away, Peters went for the biggest payout every time he could.
It has been his style ever since.
As a Pro Bowl player in 2015, 2016 and again here in 2019, Peters has become one of the most notable names amongst defensive backs. He has certainly talked the talk but Peters has also walked the walk. But his high payouts have also yielded some low moments. He has pushed his chips all in on plays and been burned for it, and he has done it on more than one occasion — some would even argue a weekly basis. That's why a player with as many takeaways as Peters has is also on his third team in three years.
But in today's game of football with points on offense being scored at an incredible rate, worrying about defending yards of grass is less important than building a defensive game plan and roster around increasing the chance at a takeaway — forcing an offense to have one or two fewer possessions per game is monumental when it comes to gaining victories. This is where a player like Peters, who can be labeled as a roll of the dice, not only comes in handy but should be sought after.
Peters is set to hit free agency in 2020 after just over half a season with the Baltimore Ravens. But there's no guarantee he'll be back there next year. With unrestricted free agency on the horizon, let's get into the good and bad to see if the pot can be worth the risk for any team.
Play No. 1: Starts With A Good Hand(s)
As a poker player, even if you play the best mind games in the world, success on the table revolves around getting good hands. In the same sense, when aggression is your style of play, as a cornerback, you have to have good hands to grab takeaways.
They say that cornerbacks are just wide receivers who couldn't catch in high school or college. If that's true, no one told Peters. He really does have some of the best hands in the league for a defensive back, safeties included. Since his rookie season, no player has as many interceptions as Peters. In fact, Peters' 27 takeaways are nine more than the next closest player, Stephon Gilmore (18).
As is the case for every good, aggressive poker player, being aggressive in the secondary start with good hands.
Play No. 2: Burned on the River
Peters has some of the best eyes to go with a pair of dandies for hands. He is constantly watching the quarterback's eyes like a hawk, waiting for his moment to strike.
We Peters plucks an interception out of the air with ease, it's like having king, five for cards, getting only a five on the flop, but then hitting back-to-back kings on the turn and river. But what happens when those two kings don't hit and you're stuck with half your chip in the pot with only a pair of fives? Well, in the football sense, it's the same as an embarrassing play like the one above.
Peters' go-to style is a Cover 3 coverage shell where he can play off coverage and read a quarterback's eyes. But when he plays this style, staring at quarterbacks means he sometimes loses track of receivers. Because of this, Peters often gets caught pot committed and getting burn on the river.
Play No. 3: Reckless On The Fold
Sometimes in poker, you have to know when to fold.
Peters has a folding problem.
He struggles to cut his losses when it comes to tackling. Instead of being sound, Peters recklessly whiffs on ball carriers often, hanging his teammates out to dry in the process. This is the biggest drawback of Peters' game. There aren't many top cornerbacks of his size who love to tackle. But for Peters, his tackling is sometimes so bad he doesn't give his defense the chance to fight another down — he doesn't know when to fold.
Play No. 4: Slow Play, Big Pay
There is an art to bluffing. If done right, it causes other players to panic and that plays right into your strategy.
Peters loves to bait quarterbacks. When playing zone coverage, Peters positions himself just on the edge of his zone to make it look like you can get the ball by him, but in reality, he is on his toes and ready to break the second a QB winds up to pass.
He is great at bluffing. He has built his game around it, and when you are the best at it, you can have your opponents guessing and pulling their hair out all game.
Play No. 5: All-In Gambler
We’ve come to the big payout because, in the end, that’s what matters.
Peters will be looking to sign the first non-rookie deal of his career when he enters free agency this offseason. He has an easy case for a top-10 cornerback contract at just 27 years old with an interception for every year he's been alive. Right now the top two paid CBs are Xavien Howard and Josh Norman, who both make about $15 million per year.
Could Peters fetch that much? I wouldn't bet on him becoming the highest-paid corner in the game, but I do think he will be close.
In an age where offense is king, it has never been more important to have a player who can cause turnovers. No corner does that more than Peters has and continues to do, no matter what team he is on.