One of the toughest positions in the NFL is defensive back. Your failures are magnified and, barring the infrequent big play or big hit, your successes are forgotten.
The NFL is a star-driven league and those roles are usually preserved for the guys moving the ball down the field.
But if you're a wide receiver or a tight end in the NFL and you find yourself lining up across from one of these guys, you're in for a long day.
Receivers and tight ends are physical freaks. Monsters with nearly seven foot wingspans, incredible vertical leaps, and 40 times that would make a Ferrari blush. Defensive backs, not so much.
Usually small, sprite guys who rely more on fluid hips, great instincts, and the desire to put make the big play when called upon, corners have their work cut out for them.
Safeties pack a little more wallop, and they're included here, but make no mistake that when you're talking about stopping the most physically gifted guys in the league, it's the defensive backs who turn solid gains into game-changing plays.
These are the five who are the best at it, right now.
There are a few notable exclusions and there are a host of guys who are certainly close to entering this group, but these five, to my eyes, stand apart.
(Note: Just so we're clear, these are the five best defensive backs for 2009. Some guys have had bad years or have been injured and, subsequently, aren't on the list. Don't yell at me because your favorite player is the best safety on injured reserve.)