Power Ranking the Best Shutdown Cornerbacks in the NFL

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2013

Power Ranking the Best Shutdown Cornerbacks in the NFL

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    True shutdown corners are rare in the NFL. And as offenses continue to develop and throw new wrinkles into the system every year, elite cornerbacks are becoming more and more valuable. 

    The following five cornerbacks are the few who have established themselves as the game's shutdown corners. They're the ones who can be left on an island and consistently handle the league's elite receivers. 

    All advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

Honorable Mentions

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    Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns

    Inconsistent play keeps Haden from cracking the top five, but he closed out the 2012 season strong and could be on the verge of making the leap into the elite category. After allowing over 200 yards in his first two games of the season, Haden finished with just 529 yards allowed on the year. 

    Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos

    Opponents are no longer scared to test Bailey, as they were early in his career, but he remains among the game's top corners even as his career winds down. Bailey was only beat for one touchdown during the 2012-13 regular season.

    Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

    Cromartie hasn't always been easy for the Jets to deal with off the field, but he gets the job done on the field. In each of his three seasons in New York, opponents have completed less than 50 percent of passes thrown in Cromartie's direction.

5. Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

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    Just two years into his career, Patrick Peterson has already established himself among the game's elite cornerbacks. 

    Peterson's shining moment of the 2012 season came in Week 16 against the Bears. The Cardinals gave Peterson the assignment of shutting down Brandon Marshall and he stepped up to the challenge.

    Jay Cutler targeted Marshall 10 times while covered by Peterson and Marshall hauled in just four receptions. 

    Peterson was also particularly strong against the division rival Seattle Seahawks, allowing Russell Wilson to complete just three passes in eight attempts for 32 yards. 

    With another year of development under his belt, Peterson could quickly join the conversation regarding the best shutdown cornerback in the league. 

4. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears

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    Even at the age of 32, Charles Tillman remains among the most dominant corners in the game. 

    Now that he's advanced in age, quarterbacks are starting to challenge Tillman more frequently in hopes that he's lost a step, but he continues to produce. 

    In 2012, among cornerbacks who were targeted at least 75 times, only Cortez Allen and Antonio Cromartie allowed fewer yards per target than Tillman's 5.93 average. 

    The emergence of Tim Jennings as a quality starter in Chicago has helped take some pressure off Tillman, but it's clear that he remains the Bears' shutdown corner. 

3. Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Brandon Flowers hasn't received much attention while playing for the lowly Chiefs, but he deserves to be recognized among the elite corners in the game. 

    In 2012, Flowers held opponents to under 20 yards on balls thrown his direction in five separate games, including one against the Broncos during which Peyton Manning completed just one pass in Flowers' direction. 

    On the year, opponents completed just 40 of 80 passes thrown at Flowers, setting a new career low. 

    With the offseason additions of Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson, Flowers may have the supporting cast he needs to take his game to another level in 2013.

2. Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Darrelle Revis would have been tops on this list a season ago, but after missing nearly an entire year due to injury, it's difficult to justify placing him at No. 1. 

    That said, a healthy Revis is still a dangerous weapon to have in the secondary. During his last full season in 2011, he graded out as Pro Football Focus' highest-rated cornerback in terms of coverage and overall skills. 

    Revis also hasn't allowed opponents to complete over 45 percent of their attempts thrown in his direction in any season since 2008. 

    In order to remain on this list, Revis needs to prove he is fully recovered from the knee injury which wiped out his final year with the Jets. Until proven otherwise, though, he must remain near the top of the list of shutdown corners.

1. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks

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    The debate between Richard Sherman and a healthy Revis is a good one, but until Revis gets back on the field and proves he can remain at an elite level, the top honor goes to Sherman. 

    Sherman's 2012 season was Revis-esque, as he allowed just 44 percent of passes to be completed in his direction and ranked among the league leaders with 18 passes defended. 

    In three separate games—against the Jets, Cardinals and Vikings—Sherman didn't allow a single reception, forcing quarterbacks to go 0-9 when throwing in his direction. 

    Still just 25 years old, the former fifth-round pick may only be scratching the surface of his potential and could continue to grow as he enters his third year in the league in 2013.