Power Ranking NFL's Best Cornerback Duos

Ian WhartonContributor IMay 21, 2015

Power Ranking NFL's Best Cornerback Duos

0 of 32

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    As one of the most important positions in football, NFL cornerbacks face a massive challenge every week. Their goal is to limit the production of elite athletes playing wide receiver, despite playing in an offensive-minded league. Teams that posses a top cornerback duo enhance their defensive effectiveness tremendously.

    Cornerbacks can prove their worth in numerous ways. Some cornerbacks are high variance, as they’ll force more turnovers but also allow touchdowns and big plays. Others deter targets by smothering receivers but lack the prowess to create turnovers.

    There isn’t a perfect method for measuring how well cornerbacks perform. Even quarterback rating against them isn’t perfect. Sometimes, the cornerback supplies great coverage, but the receiver or quarterback simply makes the better play. At other times, the receiver creates separation from the cornerback, but the quarterback misses the read or throw.

    This offseason, I started to chart every starting cornerback with more than 500 snaps. I’m not finished yet, but I’ve been posting the results on Twitter. The goal is simple: to figure out how consistent cornerbacks are in coverage.

    As I’ve worked through teams, I prefer cornerbacks with less variance. Cornerbacks who are consistently running routes as if they’re receivers appeal to me. The few “shutdown” cornerbacks across the league certainly ranked well for this list.

    Although every cornerback duo hasn’t been charted yet, I do have a preliminary set of data that I took during the season. I’m simply going back to get more thorough with it (see an example below). I consider a receiver open when there is more than three feet of space at the apex of the route.

    Using a mix of the film, my own charting, snap counts and advanced statistics from Pro Football Focus, we’ve ranked the two most talented cornerbacks on each team for 2015. In general, young players weren’t given the benefit of the doubt unless their film forced my hand. Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions to play, and most players take about three years to see their performance peak.

    But there are some exceptions, as you’ll see. Also, one star cornerback only helps so much. This list assumes these cornerbacks are all in the same environment and do not necessarily benefit from an elite pass rush.

    Let’s jump in. Make sure you share your favorite cornerback duos in the comments section below.

32. New England Patriots

1 of 32

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan

    The New England Patriots secondary took a massive hit this past offseason, losing All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, starter Brandon Browner and slot specialist Kyle Arrington. New England failed to add legitimate starting talent in free agency and the draft, leaving them with uninspiring options.

    The two most talented cornerbacks on the roster are Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Ryan allowed a team-high 33 receptions in 2014 and was often caught out of position to challenge at the catch point.

    Butler was a Super Bowl hero who showed some promise in the regular season. The jump from a rotational cornerback to potential starter is huge, though, and could be disastrous.

31. San Francisco 49ers

2 of 32

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson

    San Francisco’s defense underwent massive changes after 2014 ended. The cornerback position lost significant talent after Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox departed via free agency. Now, the two most talented cornerbacks are veteran Shareece Wright and second-year cornerback Dontae Johnson.

    Johnson was a project coming out of North Carolina State, and he had a roller-coaster season in 2014. He allowed five touchdowns and a 106.3 quarterback rating, per Pro Football Focus. His natural length, speed and athleticism are promising for him to improve, but this list does not factor in potential.

    Shareece Wright was average at best for San Diego. He did not log an interception while in coverage but allowed three touchdowns and 513 yards on 40 completions. If his role in San Francisco is to cover No. 1 receivers, 2015 will be a long season for the 49ers.

30. Oakland Raiders

3 of 32

    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    D.J. Hayden, T.J. Carrie

    Admittedly, I’m a little more bullish on this duo than this ranking may suggest. However, potential isn’t being factored in, only past performance. Thus, the Oakland Raiders’ D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie are one of the bottom three duos in the NFL.

    Hayden flashed brilliance at times, but the time he’s missed due to injuries has hampered his development. He scored poorly in my charting (one of the worst yet), and the advanced stats aren’t much better. Per PFF, he allowed six touchdowns and a 121.6 quarterback rating on 57 targets.

    Second-year cornerback T.J. Carrie played better than Hayden, albeit in less man-coverage snaps. He had one interception in man coverage and allowed only one touchdown. His quarterback rating against was just 86.1, which is respectable.

29. Washington Redskins

4 of 32

    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Chris Culliver, Bashaud Breeland

    If we were just ranking how well the Washington secondary performed in 2014, the Redskins would likely be last. Adding veteran Chris Culliver to the mix and getting DeAngelo Hall back from injury should help greatly.

    Due to injuries to Hall and his high-variance play, second-year cornerback Bashaud Breeland gets the nod as one of the Redskins’ best two cornerbacks. He allowed four touchdowns last year, which must improve. He did show growth throughout the season despite little help via the pass rush, which is encouraging.

    Culliver should assume the top cornerback role. He was impressive in 2014, allowing a quarterback rating of just 66.5 and intercepting four passes. He did give up four touchdowns, which is too high for a legitimate top cornerback.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

5 of 32

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    William Gay, Cortez Allen

    Out with the old guard and in with a new set of skills to the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary. The Steelers lost veterans Brice McCain and Ike Taylor and replaced them with rookies in the NFL draft. Unless Senquez Golson or Doran Grant breaks out in an unexpected way early on, William Gay and Cortez Allen are the two best cornerbacks on the roster at this time.

    Gay is a slot specialist who played admirably when injuries forced him into a boundary role in 2014. He was exposed a bit, allowing five touchdowns and a 93.1 quarterback rating. Those numbers aren’t awful, but they’re problematic when projecting Gay as the best of the group.

    Allen must improve his play in 2015. He also allowed five touchdowns but was less dependable than Gay. He had just two interceptions and allowed a 106.8 quarterback rating when targeted. He will be picked on often if he cannot be more effective in coverage.

27. Dallas Cowboys

6 of 32

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick

    The Dallas Cowboys secondary has been much maligned, and for good reason. Their best player is slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who was reliable in 2014. He didn’t allow a touchdown and logged two interceptions.

    Scandrick doesn’t strike fear into offenses, though. He cannot compensate for the rest of the unit’s struggles. 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones has major upside, but he is raw and will need time to refine his game before he can be counted on.

    Starter Brandon Carr is unspectacular and uninspiring at cornerback. He did not snatch an interception in man coverage but gave up six touchdown receptions. That’s unacceptable for a player who is capable of being more effective than that.

26. Chicago Bears

7 of 32

    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Kyle Fuller, Tim Jennings

    The Chicago Bears’ duo of Kyle Fuller and Tim Jennings suffered from a poor pass rush in 2014. Nonetheless, the pair allowed 10 touchdowns between them, and Fuller had all four interceptions. Those aren’t good numbers for any pairing.

    Fuller showed potential star qualities early in 2014. His pure coverage skills are great, and his 89.6 quarterback rating against help shows that. His next step is to become more consistent, as he struggled badly as the season progressed.

    The 31-year-old Jennings was often outmatched last season. He was targeted once every seven snaps, and quarterbacks had a 106.7 rating. He must step up in 2015 for the Bears secondary to be more formidable.

25. New Orleans Saints

8 of 32

    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Brandon Browner, Keenan Lewis

    The New Orleans Saints defense struggled to replicate their 2013 form last season, causing the secondary to be overwhelmed without a consistent pass rush. By adding cornerback Brandon Browner via free agency and getting safety Jairus Byrd back from injury, the Saints are hoping this position improves.

    Incumbent starter Keenan Lewis really declined in 2014. His speed in and out of breaks often cost him good positioning to play the ball. He was responsible for seven touchdowns and had just two interceptions, per PFF. That’s just not good enough for this defense.

    Browner will be an upgrade as the second cornerback, as long as Byrd is back to full effectiveness. Browner has always thrived across from an elite cornerback and gotten help from an elite free safety. The hope is he can get at least that same great safety play to help over the top on deep routes.

24. Carolina Panthers

9 of 32

    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Josh Norman, Bene Benwikere

    Carolina’s cornerback duo of Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere played well in 2014, allowing one touchdown between them. Norman especially stood out with two interceptions and a 53.2 quarterback rating when targeted. He had a solid season.

    Benwikere also impressed in his rookie campaign. He had one interception and gave up a 72.9 quarterback rating in 2014, which is good when considering he did not allow a touchdown.

    The duo greatly benefited from an elite front seven, though. Looking at each skill set, Norman and Benwikere are good but nothing special at this point. On another team with a lesser supporting cast, it is unlikely they would reproduce their 2014 season.

23. Philadelphia Eagles

10 of 32

    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Byron Maxwell, Eric Rowe

    After having one of the worst cornerback duos in the NFL last year, the Philadelphia Eagles invested heavily into the position this offseason. Their big free-agent acquisition of Byron Maxwell from the Seattle Seahawks is certainly intriguing. He is the latest cornerback to hit it big in free agency after playing for the Seahawks.

    Maxwell was a good cornerback for Seattle and will be a solid system fit for the Eagles. He wasn’t much of a playmaker, totaling three interceptions and seven passes defensed last year. For $63 million, he must play the ball better than he did for Seattle in 2014.

    The question is whether Maxwell can contain No. 1 receivers on a weekly basis. The NFC East will be much more challenging than the NFC West was.

    Rookie Eric Rowe was a steal in the second round of the 2015 draft. He can become a good press cornerback for the Eagles. With just one year playing cornerback exclusively, it might be too much to ask Rowe to play a vital role for the Eagles in 2015.

22. St. Louis Rams

11 of 32

    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    E.J. Gaines, Janoris Jenkins

    So far, cornerback E.J. Gaines has been a major steal for the St. Louis Rams. Selected in the sixth round in 2014, he was one of the best rookie cornerbacks last season. He allowed just one touchdown and a passer rating of 79 when targeted.

    Gaines was a plus starter last season. His two interceptions is the area we’d like to see improve next, as well as lowering the completion percentage against him. Quarterbacks completed 67.1 percent of throws against Gaines, which is too high.

    Across from Gaines is the inconsistent Janoris Jenkins. He flashes immense physical gifts but continues to be wild in his movements. He allowed five touchdowns and a 114.3 quarterback rating. Neither suggests that is anything more than an average player.

21. Tennessee Titans

12 of 32

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox

    When the Tennessee Titans added Perrish Cox this offseason, they knew upgrading the second cornerback spot was a must. Pairing Cox with starter Jason McCourty gives the Titans a decent enough tandem to compete on passing plays. There were far too many easy completions in 2014 with the group Tennessee was playing.

    McCourty has a great reputation, but the reality is he is average as a No. 1 cornerback. According to my charting, he struggles on sharp cuts due to his stiffness. He loses focus often, allowing the receiver to slip past while McCourty watches the quarterback.

    Cox is the better cornerback of the two. He logged five interceptions last season and only gave up three touchdowns. His ability to find and play the ball is a huge upgrade for Tennessee. He also gave up a passer rating of just 78 on 96 targets, per PFF.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

13 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the more abysmal pass rushes in 2014, and the secondary suffered greatly as a result. Head coach Lovie Smith’s defense was shredded due to the lack of pressure, which made the cornerbacks appear worse than they were.

    The one cornerback who still showed great talent was Johnthan Banks. The 2013 second-round pick notched four interceptions while allowing just two touchdowns. He was targeted 85 times and gave up a passer rating of 74.2, per PFF. Those are solid starter numbers, especially considering the situation.

    Across from Banks is Alterraun Verner. He struggled in a new scheme, but the talent is still there. He gave up five touchdowns and a 111.1 quarterback rating. If he can return to his pre-2014 production, this duo can rank a lot higher one year from now.

19. Jacksonville Jaguars

14 of 32

    Stephen Morton/Associated Press

    Demetrius McCray, Dwayne Gratz

    Jacksonville’s cornerback duo of Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz had to perform without the help of a good pass rush in 2014. That seemed to hurt Gratz more than McCray, as Gratz struggled to locate the ball. He gave up a whopping six touchdowns in 2014.

    My own charts for Gratz and PFF’s quarterback rating against both agree on his performance. He gave up a large volume of passes, giving up a quarterback rating of 111.8 and scoring average in my work. Gratz isn’t a bad cornerback but doesn’t do enough positively to offset his struggles.

    McCray is the potential stud in this group. The former seventh-round pick is big enough to cover anybody and remain physical. His ball skills are lacking, as he didn’t have an interception in man coverage in 2014. That’s where both of these players must improve.

18. Miami Dolphins

15 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor

    We’re at the point in this list where superstar cornerbacks can drag an unproven starter into the middle of these rankings. That’s what’s happening for the Miami Dolphins, as cornerback Brent Grimes is one of the best in the business. Across of Grimes could be third-year cornerback Jamar Taylor, who has struggled to stay healthy.

    Grimes had an excellent first half of 2014 after a tremendous 2013 season for Miami. Then, the defense collapsed as a whole, and Grimes allowed five touchdowns in the second half of the season. If that’s a sign of what Grimes will be as he gets older, his future will be closer to average than elite.

    Taylor is a real wild card. He played just 201 coverage snaps last year, which means his learning curve is still steep. His brief appearances had mostly good results, but relying on him to blossom at this critical juncture is risky.

17. Detroit Lions

16 of 32

    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Rashean Mathis, Darius Slay

    While the Detroit Lions lack a true lockdown cornerback, they have two solid, above-average corners in Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay. The duo combined to allow six touchdowns and over 555 yards each in 2014.

    Mathis has been an underrated performer for Detroit, as he is consistently good. He allowed a passer rating of 85.2 and had an interception in man coverage. That’s nothing special, but good enough to be a quality starter.

    Slay’s development into a low-end No. 1 cornerback is the thing to watch in Detroit. His athleticism is so good, and now the game is coming more natural for him. He had two interceptions and allowed an 81.1 passer rating in 2014. Those numbers are trending in the right direction for Slay’s ascent into potential stardom.

16. Green Bay Packers

17 of 32

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Sam Shields, Casey Hayward

    Green Bay’s cornerback depth chart took a hit when it lost Tramon Williams and Davon House this past offseason. The good news for the Packers is they retained their two best cornerbacks, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward.

    Hayward mostly plays in the slot, and he is a special player there. He intercepted three passes in 2014 while allowing only two touchdowns. His quarterback rating against was an impressive 70.5.

    On the boundary is Sam Shields. He allowed five touchdowns in 2014, which is a concern. The positive is he intercepted two passes and had an 89.9 passer rating against. Most opposing offenses are highly aggressive against the Packers to simply keep scoring in order to stay in the game. That puts huge pressure on Shields and Hayward, but they’ve responded well.

15. Arizona Cardinals

18 of 32

    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Patrick Peterson, Jerraud Powers

    Despite being known as a superstar cornerback, Arizona Cardinals’ No. 1 corner Patrick Peterson hasn’t been the lockdown defender his reputation seems to suggest. Although he deserves credit for shadowing opposing receivers, he isn’t dominant in coverage. His freaky athleticism is his biggest selling point.

    Peterson can overcome bad technique at times, but he still gets burned often. His eight touchdowns allowed in 2014 and 97 passer rating against are alarming. Compared to other top cornerbacks, Peterson is a step below.

    Across from him is Jerraud Powers. He was promising in 2014, intercepting three passes while giving up just two touchdowns. His 82.4 passer rating against is a solid number that is highly respectable for a second cornerback. Arizona needs him to continue that type of production as he gets more snaps.

14. Atlanta Falcons

19 of 32

    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford

    Another tandem that would greatly benefit from even an average pass rush is the Atlanta Falcons’ duo. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are an exciting young cornerback tandem that have great tape despite the lack of help around them.

    The star is Desmond Trufant. He is one of the best pure coverage cornerbacks in the league. He has the movement skill and physicality to match up with any receiver in the NFL. His next challenge will be to improve his interception numbers, which was only at three last year.

    Alford struggled a bit without good safety help or pass-rushers. He allowed six touchdowns and a 111.6 quarterback rating when targeted. His bad moments certainly skewed his numbers, though, as he wasn’t consistently bad. Expect him to play better now that the Falcons have added more defensive talent.

13. Cincinnati Bengals

20 of 32

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Adam Jones, Leon Hall

    2014 was the official changing of the guard in the Cincinnati Bengals secondary. The marquee talent was once slot specialist Leon Hall, but Adam Jones is really the star cornerback. Jones charted very well in my studies, showing he can defend any route effectively.

    Hall was forced to move to boundary on occasion due to injuries. He struggled greatly outside, with his lack of speed becoming a legitimate concern. In the slot, he is still quite effective. He allowed just two touchdowns from the slot, where he should return in 2015.

    At 31, Jones hit his playing peak a little later than most. He’s always been a good ball hawk, but his transition into a well-rounded cornerback was a major boost for the Bengals. He should have another two seasons of high-caliber play with his skill set.

12. Minnesota Vikings

21 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes

    The Minnesota Vikings have one of the better young tandems of cornerbacks across the NFL. Xavier Rhodes is an exciting player capable of dominating in press coverage with his physical mindset and ideal frame. He is now joined by first-round pick Trae Waynes.

    Rhodes is the standout talent in Minnesota right now. He allowed just two touchdowns and a 75.7 passer rating when targeted, per PFF. His natural feel for the game improved greatly last season, giving hope that he can now develop into a solid playmaker.

    Waynes has his issues at defending inside routes, but there are ways to scheme around his limitations. He excels as a straight-line runner, which allows safeties to play single high. The Vikings can use their athletic linebackers to help on slants and digs, which will only make Waynes that much more effective.

11. Cleveland Browns

22 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Joe Haden, Tramon Williams

    After signing cornerback Tramon Williams from the Green Bay Packers, the Cleveland Browns now have one of the highest-variance tandems in the NFL. The highs are extremely good for both Joe Haden and Williams. But when they are playing poorly, both Haden and Williams are found out of position often.

    Haden goes through bouts of brilliance, as reflected by his three interceptions and 75.9 quarterback rating against. In my charting, I found Haden lacking focus at times, which led to four touchdowns allowed. Most importantly, his speed is questionable, as he lost on a good amount of deeper routes.

    Williams allowed a whopping eight touchdowns in 2014. His 101.7 quarterback rating against is below-average but not bad. Like I said for the other Packers cornerbacks, Green Bay faced unusually aggressive offenses. Against a more regular schedule, Williams should get back on track and be a good second cornerback.

10. Indianapolis Colts

23 of 32

    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Vontae Davis, Darius Butler

    Looking back to when the Indianapolis Colts acquired cornerback Vontae Davis, his upside was clear. But it was not clear whether he’d ever reach it. He did in 2014 and proved to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

    Davis allowed a measly 38.8 quarterback rating on 71 targets. His ability to smother receivers helps deter targets from coming his way. He also did not allow a touchdown and intercepted four passes. He is one of the top playmakers at his position.

    Unfortunately for the Colts, the drop-off from Davis to their next cornerback is severe. Darius Butler, a slot cornerback, is their second best corner, but he is not very good. He struggles to stick with his man too often. He allowed three touchdowns and a poor 102.6 quarterback rating against.

9. Seattle Seahawks

24 of 32

    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Richard Sherman, Cary Williams

    Just how good is Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman? The star cornerback was targeted just 65 times in 2014, allowing one touchdown and an incredible 48.4 quarterback rating. He is as dominant as any cornerback in the NFL.

    On top of being a great coverage corner, Sherman has elite ball skills. His four interceptions in so few targets show how dangerous he is.

    Across from Sherman is a major decline, however. The loss of Byron Maxwell hurts, as now Cary Williams is arguably the top talent in the group. Williams was poor in Philadelphia, allowing 757 yards and five touchdowns.

8. New York Giants

25 of 32

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara

    When the New York Giants’ duo of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara are healthy, they are a fearsome tandem for offenses. In fact, if Amukamara had logged closer to his normal 900 snaps in 2014, they would be higher on this power rankings list.

    Rodgers-Cromartie played full-time in 2014, with an impressive 436 coverage snaps. He did allow five touchdowns but did well to snag two interceptions. His quarterback rating against was just 88.3, which is good for someone who played so much.

    Amukamara is the star of the two. Even in limited snaps, he did not allow a touchdown. More importantly, he is a playmaker, logging three interceptions and giving up a passer rating of 58.3. If healthy, these are two dynamic players for the Giants.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

26 of 32

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Sean Smith, Marcus Peters

    Physical cornerback play is a thing of beauty, as the most successful cornerbacks know how and when to prod receivers. Young players can take years to master this. But the Kansas City Chiefs have two cornerbacks in their prime with a great feel for when to be physical.

    Veteran Sean Smith has been great the last two seasons for the Chiefs. His immense length and speed help cover up any mistakes. He forces tight passing windows for quarterbacks. Most impressive is how he can smother the entire route tree.

    Normally, I’m not so bullish on rookies, but Marcus Peters is an exception. He was an elite prospect, combining length, ball skills and confidence like I have not seen in years. He will make an early impact for the Chiefs and eventually be a top-tier playmaker at cornerback.

6. Houston Texans

27 of 32

    Larry French/Getty Images

    Kareem Jackson, Johnathan Joseph

    Welcome to the top crop of cornerback tandems. The Houston Texans’ tandem comes in sixth, which is highly respectable for a team that had holes all around the defense in 2014. But Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph still excelled despite average help around them.

    Jackson broke out in a major way in 2014. Once considered a physical project, he saw the game slow down and became a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. He allowed three touchdowns but had three interceptions. His 74.1 passer rating allowed is impressive, considering he played 448 coverage snaps.

    Veteran Joseph played even more coverage snaps than Jackson, with 526. Still, he was productive, giving up just four touchdowns in 117 targets. His 83.8 passer rating when targeted was more than respectable considering his snap volume and poor safety play.

5. Buffalo Bills

28 of 32

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Stephon Gilmore, Corey Graham

    There is a budding star in Buffalo in cornerback Stephon Gilmore. He always had the talent, as his first-round status showed, but now he is mastering the timing and mental aspect of the game. Across from Gilmore in 2014 was Corey Graham, another unheralded stud in the Bills secondary.

    Going back to Gilmore, it’s easy to be excited about his talent. He did allow five touchdowns in 2014, but his ability to become a playmaker was on display, as he had three interceptions. His actual coverage talent was highly encouraging too. He was targeted only 69 times in 489 coverage snaps.

    Graham was actually better than Gilmore in 2014. He only gave up one touchdown and a passer rating of 57. Of course, Graham was not facing No. 1 receivers as often, but he is more than capable as a second cornerback. He’d start for almost every team in the NFL.

4. San Diego Chargers

29 of 32

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Brandon Flowers, Jason Verrett

    When Brandon Flowers signed with the San Diego Chargers last offseason, they could not have expected the experiment to go this well. After adding Jason Verrett in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, the Chargers have one of the top four tandems in the NFL.

    Flowers is a great slot cornerback but is more than capable of kicking outside when needed. In the slot, he allowed just a 45.1 quarterback rating and zero touchdowns. His play dipped slightly when outside, but he is still a No. 1 cornerback for the Chargers.

    If Verrett can stay healthy, he is another star. In six games, he charted better than any other rookie, continually showing elite footwork, speed and intelligence. He’s able to run routes better than many receivers. His only question moving forward is whether he can stay on the field.

3. Baltimore Ravens

30 of 32

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb

    There are times when a team selects a high-risk, high-reward player and those picks fail to work out. That has not been the case with Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith. The former first-round pick has had health issues, but he is one of the top three cornerbacks in the NFL when he plays.

    Smith mastered his physicality and coverage talent in 2014. He charted better than anyone I’ve looked at so far, showing incredible physical traits and mental aptitude. He knows where the receiver is going before the receiver, or so it seems. He allowed a passer rating of just 51.5 and zero touchdowns.

    Ravens slot specialist Lardarius Webb had to play outside due to injuries last season, which hurts his production. But he was still average outside. As he returns to the slot, he is a standout talent. Webb blends quickness, intelligence and ball skills to serve as one of the better slot defenders in the NFL.

2. Denver Broncos

31 of 32

    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib

    Few teams boast the cornerback depth chart that the Denver Broncos do. They have three legitimate solid or better cornerbacks in Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. Talib gets the nod since we are not projecting vast improvement for young players in 2015.

    Harris is one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He plays inside and out, showing dominance at each spot. He did not allow a touchdown in 2014 in 89 targets. His three interceptions and 47.8 quarterback rating against are elite numbers. Of course, he charted well too.

    Talib is not a shutdown cornerback, as he allowed four touchdowns in 2014. He is a playmaker who is consistent in coverage, though. He had four interceptions and limited quarterbacks to a 72.2 passer rating when targeted. He is a solid second cornerback for Denver.

1. New York Jets

32 of 32

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie

    The best cornerback duo in the NFL were reunited this past offseason. New York Jets cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie have earned this title after years of great play. Teams facing the Jets will have nightmares trying to consistently move the ball downfield.

    Revis is still the creme de la creme in the NFL. He did allow two touchdowns, but he shadowed the best receiver for the opponent on every single snap, even in the slot. No other cornerbacks can boast Revis’ production and versatility. His coverage production chart was incredible considering his amount of snaps.

    Cromartie returns to New York a little older, but his game has aged well. The speedster is still a great ball hawk who is capable of punishing quarterbacks for bad throws. He gave up just two touchdowns and an 80.3 quarterback rating in 594 snaps for Arizona last season.

     

    All stats used are from Pro Football Focus.

    Ian Wharton is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.