Ranking the 10 Best NFL Cornerbacks Not Named Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha
Cornerbacks are easy to admire due to an incredibly difficult job on virtually every play. They are often left on an island—isolated—and one slip-up or momentary loss of concentration usually results in a huge play for the offense.
It's not as if cornerbacks can hide from their mistakes either; those big plays are remembered by every person in the stadium and show up in every highlight reel.
In recent seasons, it has become even easier to appreciate the job cornerbacks have to do. First, there are the blitzkrieg tendencies that have taken over the majority of defensive philosophies.
With all of the the pressure packages, fire zones and overload blitzes being dialed up around the league, the burden on cornerbacks has only increased.
Then there is the tremendous difference in size between cornerbacks and prototypical wide receivers in the NFL today.
In the 21st century, the common standard for an NFL flanker has been in excess of 6'2" in height, and 220 pounds in weight. There are not many starting corners who stand as tall as 6'2" however, and any defensive back weighing in the 220-plus range usually faces a conversion to safety or a role as a hybrid nickel and dime package linebacker.
Whenever there is talk of the finest cornerbacks in the game, the discussion usually centers on the ultra-aggressive Darelle Revis of the New York Jets, and the Philadelphia Eagles' Nnamdi Asomugha.
The conversation usually begins and ends with these two names, but there are a number of other cornerbacks who excel on a weekly basis. These unheralded cover men could hold their own in any era.
Here are the 10 best corners not named Revis or Asomugha.
Charles Tillman and Others Who Didn't Make the Cut
Getting the list down to 10 was not easy, and sadly meant that several capable performers just missed the cut. Headlining those who just missed the list is the Chicago Bears Tampa 2 veteran Charles Tillman.
Although Tillman continues to be an excellent player and his knack for the turnover is second to none, the fact that he has remained in the confines of one particular system ruled him out.
There was also no place for young Green Bay Packers duo Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. They were beaten out by corners who operate without the assistance of a front seven as ferocious as the Packers';.
Greybeard ball hawks Antoine Winfield and Ronde Barber also missed out, as their respective every-down skills have diminished more than others with age.
And impressive Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson narrowly missed out on a spot on the list. He is certainly a player who can climb up the ladder as his career progresses.
10. Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos
The list just wouldn't have felt complete without the inclusion of the evergreen Champ Bailey.
The 13-year-veteran is still as smooth a cover man as any other corner in the game.
The 33-year-old could teach many of today's corners a thing or two about the lost art of bump-and-run coverage.
Bailey's combination of intelligence, instincts and physicality provides a coverage scheme with enormous flexibility.
The poor Broncos defense and their recent shellacking at the hands of the Detroit Lions means the classy veteran has to be content with propping up this list.
He might be beginning to slow, but Bailey is still feared by opposing quarterbacks; not bad for a player who entered the league in the last millennium.
9. Leon Hall, Cincinnati Bengals
Leon Hall has taken advantage of Jonathan Joseph's defection to the Houston Texans to establish himself as a linchpin of the Cincinnati Bengals' underrated defense.
The Bengals are one of the few teams still willing to gamble with man coverage on a regular basis.
The aggressive, plastering techniques utilised by Hall are big reason why defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is prepared to take the risk.
The 26-year-old has received a lot of attention from opposing quarterbacks in recent seasons, but in 2011, most passers are well advised to steer clear of Hall.
8. Carlos Rogers, San Francisco 49ers
Notorious for letting interceptions slip out of his hands in his time with the Washington Redskins, Carlos Rogers has snared three passes in seven games since signing with the San Francisco 49ers.
Blessed with exceptional instincts, the 6'0", 192-pounder is a corner who likes to make early contact with receivers and then use his balance and athleticism to shadow their movement down field.
Rogers returns to DC in the Niners' Week 9 matchup with the Redskins, and opposing quarterback John Beck should resist the urge to test this former teammate.
7. Corey Webster, New York Giants
Temperamental and inconsistent cornerback Corey Webster is enjoying one of his finest seasons with the New York Giants.
The 29-year-old former LSU product is reminding everyone that, when in form, he is a considerable defensive talent.
The blitz packages and multiple looks favoured by Big Blue defensive coordinator Perry Fewell put a lot of pressure on the Giants corners.
Aided by an extremely physical approach, Webster is comfortably handling that pressure. He has three interceptions and nine pass breakups already this season.
Opposing receivers don't have an easy time getting off the line and running neat pass routes against this tenacious seven-year pro.
6. Drayton Florence, Buffalo Bills
Criminally underrated veteran Drayton Florence continues to be as technically sound and astute as any corner in the game.
Florence has snared two picks for the Buffalo Bills' opportunistic defense. The addition of Dave Wannstedt to the Bills defensive coaching staff has meant the inclusion of more press coverage looks.
This has suited Florence, who is an expert at bump-and-run techniques, using his long arms and range to disrupt receivers before they can get into their break.
If he continues to play at this same level, a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod surely beckons for Florence.
5. Asante Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles
Criticised for his aversion to the more physical aspects of the game, Asante Samuel is still one of the deadliest ball hawks in the game.
After spending years in the zone-based coverage schemes of the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, Samuel soon adapted to the demands of playing in the blitz-happy system of the Philadelphia Eagles' late defensive guru, Jim Johnson.
Samuel has struggled in recent seasons, while the Eagles have struggled to find even a remotely adequate successor to Johnson.
A master of the off-coverage technique, Samuel remains almost a guarantee to take at least one interception to the house each season.
4. Jonathan Joseph, Houston Texans
Wade Phillips' heavy attack defense puts a lot of pressure on cornerbacks and can only ever really succeed with the presence of at least one top-notch cover ace.
Thankfully for Phillips, he has Jonathan Joseph, and the former Cincinnati Bengal has been exceptional this season.
Joseph's ability to quickly change direction and deceptive closing speed allow Phillips to routinely leave him isolated on the opposition's best receiver and cover up any holes in the rest of the secondary with some safe zones.
3. Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers
Ageless wonder Charles Woodson continues to defy Father Time to remain perhaps the most complete cornerback in the league.
The 35-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner out of Michigan already has five interceptions, eight pass breakups, one sack and one fumble recovery so far this season.
An outstanding blitzer, Woodson is the real jewel in Dom Capers' swarming defense. The 14-year-veteran is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage and can still break on the ball as quick as anyone.
2. Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs
Outstanding cover man Brandon Flowers is the true cornerstone of Romeo Crennel's effective 3-4 defense.
Despite only being 5'9" and 187 pounds, Flowers is possibly the finest champion of man coverage in the game.
He combines intelligence with uncanny instincts and awareness to foil receivers—his performance in the red zone is the only reason Flowers does not top this list.
1. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
Second-year coverage ace Joe Haden may be the NFL's best kept secret. The 22-year-old is quietly becoming one of the most skilled and accomplished cornerbacks in the game.
Haden utilises smart technique and has a naturally fluid athleticism that allows him to lock on and stay with any receiver in the league.
His speed on the turn is phenomenal, as are his balance and footwork. Gaining separation from Haden is fast becoming a nightmare for opposing flankers.
The young Cleveland Browns defensive stud already has 10 pass breakups this season and is on the verge of becoming the type of corner who virtually shuts down his side of the field.
The majority of players on this list don't receive the media attention or hype of Revis and Asomugha, but these cornerbacks are proficient stars in their own right.
Their impressive performances demand recognition and respect.