By the numbers: Who's the ACC's best cornerback?

Earlier this week, we posted our midseason All-ACC team, and the resounding response from readers — particularly those in South Florida — was, where's Artie Burns?

Then ESPN posted its midseason All-America team, and the folks a little farther up the coast wanted to know why Jalen Ramsey and/or Mackensie Alexander had been left off the list.

And all of that leads to two big questions:

1.) Who is the best cornerback in the country?

2.) Is it even possible to know who the best corner is?

The answer to the latter question is probably no. From a performance perspective, it's incredibly difficult to separate out the impact of opposition quality, the work of the pass rush, the way a corner is told to cover a specific receiver during a specific play, etc. There are simply too many variables.

But let's set that aside for now and simply take Question 1 based on the information we have, understanding that, at the end of the day, we're not going to come to a consensus.

So, who's the best corner?

Our ESPN.com writers selected Michigan's Jourdan Lewis and Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III as All-Americans, and if we dig into the numbers, they look like pretty good choices compared with our All-ACC selections.

According to those numbers from STATS, LLC, Lewis has been spectacular, allowing just 28.3 percent completions and just 3.5 yards-per-target with no plays of more than 30 yards, all while being targeted significantly more than his counterparts (and more than all but three other DBs in the Power 5). Hargreaves' numbers aren't nearly as good (51.7 percent completions), but there's a caveat. Quarterbacks are 10-of-11 against Hargreaves on short throws (less than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage) but just 5-of-18 on anything longer. In other words, Hargreaves has given his receivers a little cushion, but he's avoided the big play downfield.

Alexander and Ramsey are both in the conversation though, and there's a good case that both are better. On throws beyond 10 yards, Ramsey's numbers are virtually identical to Hargreaves across the board, and Alexander's are arguably better. Alexander has allowed just one play of more than 20 yards on balls thrown 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, but he's also been targeted on those throws just nine times.

The argument for Alexander then is pretty simple: His targets are now because QBs don't want to test him. And given that he's faced off against Will Fuller, among the best deep threats in the nation, and came out on top, that's a reasonable assessment. Moreover, if we look at Alexander's targets in relation to the rest of his team, it does appear that QBs don't enjoy throwing his way, and opposing coaches and QBs may be the best judges of talent.

But before we anoint Alexander as an All-American, it's worth asking: Is he even the best corner in the ACC?

By completion percentage, he's not. NC State's Juston Burris actually leads the way, allowing just two completions on 16 targets, with none more than 20 yards. Of course, the only Power 5 QBs the Wolfpack have faced are true freshman Lamar Jackson and Virginia Tech backup Brenden Motley.

Miami fans certainly make a good case for Artie Burns, too. He has five interceptions this season, and one more ball thrown his way was picked by a teammate. But Burns is also allowing close to 50 percent of targets to be completed, and he's given up five plays of 20 yards or more. Only Georgia Tech's D.J. White has allowed more in the ACC (6).

But how about Hokies' corner Brandon Facyson? He's flown under the radar in a secondary that used to include Kendall Fuller, but the work he's done this season is pretty impressive, allowing just five completions — none more than 20 yards — and just 2.4 yards-per-attempt. He has yet to allow a touchdown despite a scheme that often puts corners on an island, and he's eight pass breakups, which leads the ACC. More interestingly, Frank Beamer thinks Facyson isn't playing close to his best ball after returning from a season-ending injury last year.

"There about a week ago, I said, I really think he's not quite back to his former self, but you know, he's made a couple big-time plays here lately," Beamer said. "I think he's getting closer all the time."

Of course, the Hokies' pass rush has been the best in the country (39.9 percent of dropbacks under pressure), and Facyson's teammate in the secondary, rookie Adonis Alexander, has been among the most picked-on DBs (13 of 15 targets completed, worst rate in the ACC). The opposite argument can actually be made in Ramsey's favor. FSU is fourth-worst in the Power 5 at pressuring the opposing QB, with a rate less than half Virginia Tech's. BC's Isaac Yiadom also belongs in the conversation based on his low YPA.

So, after reviewing the numbers, did we make the right calls?

It seems pretty clear that Michigan's Lewis has been tested and succeeded, so making him No. 1 seems reasonable. The group immediately after him is probably debatable depending on what stats you favor. We'd give a nod to Alexander, but Facyson, Ramsey, Hargreaves, Yiadom and Burns all have a good case. And, after all, we're just halfway through the season, and some of the best matchups are yet to come.