The Top Five: Best Cornerbacks in the NFL Heading Into 2010 Season
Before last season I attempted to do a list of the top five players at every position, but their performance in '09 didn't exactly correlate with my rankings. But being the masochist all journalists are, I figured I'd give it another shot.
The rankings will simply consist of 2009 performance, expected performance in 2010, and my own personal feelings about the individual player's talent. Also, players will be judged as an individual, and not based on the caliber of team on which they play.
For instance, there very well could be players from teams like the Lions, Chiefs, Rams, and Raiders whereas a team like the Patriots, Jets, Colts, or Saints might not be included. Football is a team sport, but this is all about the player and where they rank in comparison to the others playing their position around the league.
Now that's out of the way, let's get on with the rankings.
5. Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph (Cincinnati Bengals)
Hall and Joseph play so similarly to one another that it's hard to pick just one of them, so I went with both.
The two of them create nightmares for opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators as they rarely give up the big play and are physical and athletic enough to frustrate any receiver out of the game.
Both could be higher, but I'm not exactly sure how one would fare without the other across from him. Joseph certainly wasn't the player before Hall that he is now, but he also was very young, so there's no way to know if he would have turned into the player he is now without Hall.
Then there's Hall himself who has always had the comfort of playing with Joseph since entering the league.
There's no denying both guys are very good, but right now there's no way to know exactly how good they truly are.
4. Asante Samuel (Philadelphia Eagles)
As far as reading a quarterback and baiting him into a throw, no one does it better than Asante Samuel. In fact, I might go so far as to say Samuel is the best at it since Night Train Lane perfected it back in 1952.
However, the gripe with Samuel is his tackling. Like Deion Sanders in the 90's, Samuel clearly sees tackling as nothing but a burden and avoids it at all costs.
Unless the ballcarrier physically runs into Samuel, good luck getting him to go and make a tackle.
But still, Samuel's incredible ability to play the ball and make plays cannot be ignored. He is one of the best doing it today, and could be the very best if he would simply be more willing to tackle.
3. Charles Woodson (Green Bay Packers)
For all the talking we all do about Asante Samuel's ability to make plays, Woodson is even better. Not only does he have a nose for the ball, but he's got a nose for the endzone as evidenced by his three touchdowns in 2009, and seven overall since 2006.
Woodson also has no problem tackling as he racked up 65 of them in '09, as well as four forced fumbles. Those are the types of numbers a free safety should have, not a cornerback.
Woodson will be 34 next season and can't play corner forever, but he looks like the perfect candidate to slide over to free safety and continue an All-Pro career.
A limited injury history and sound fundamentals could mean that Woodson will be playing at a high level well into his 30's.
2. Darrelle Revis (New York Jets)
That's right. Until further notice, Darrelle Revis is not the best cornerback in the NFL. He is, however, an astonishing talent who could, one day, be known as the best in the game and perhaps one of the best to ever play the position.
The only problem with proclaiming Revis as the best in the league is time. He's only been around for three years and hasn't done quite enough to unseat the guy at No. 1, a guy who has been doing it for much longer.
What's most impressive about Revis is that he truly does cover on an island. In the Jets' attacking defense, safeties are more often used as an extra blitzer rather than help over the top.
Because of that, Revis is man-up with his receiver every single time, and consistently shuts them down.
Just ask the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco to name a few.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders)
I think anyone paying close enough attention understands that it's Revis and Asomugha in the top two spots, but how they're arranged comes down to a lot of personal preference.
But for me, Asomugha is the hands-down favorite when making a list like this. He has shown that he's capable of being the interception guy when he came down with eight of them back in 2006, but it's difficult to rack up those kinds of numbers when quarterbacks refuse to throw the ball his way.
Revis, even for all the hype surrounding him last season, still wasn't feared to the point offensive coordinators would simply ignore his entire half of the field. With Asomugha, teams have been doing it for the past three seasons.
The type of respect opposing teams show him is enough to put him at the top of the rest.
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