B/R NFL 1000: Top 100 Cornerbacks
Editor's note: This is the 14th installment in Bleacher Report's NFL 1000 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through April 24, with NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the NFL 1000 page for more rankings.
Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis? You might think you know the answer, but what if you truly broke down every play of the 2013 season to see which player was better? Are Sherman and Revis the best, or does Patrick Peterson or Desmond Trufant belong in the conversation?
So who is the best of the best at cornerback?
That’s what the NFL 1000 aims to identify. Throw out the narratives and the fantasy football stats, and dig into the film. Then we’ll see who is the best.
The B/R 1000 metric is based on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance on a 100-point scale.
Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.
Cornerbacks are judged on coverage (80 points), run defense (10), tackling (10) and all of the technique, athletic ability and football intelligence needed to play the position.
In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.
Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.
100-96: Milliner, Carr, Banks, Porter, Cromartie
100. Dee Milliner, Jets61/100
Drafted with the No. 9 overall pick, Dee Milliner (6’0”, 201 lbs, one season) was brought in to replace Darrelle Revis. His first season was a struggle, though, as he has to learn route-running concepts and build an awareness of what the offense is doing. Milliner has all the athletic gifts, but he was limited by the extra time it took him to analyze a play before acting on it. As a tackler and run defender, he has good size but must work to come off NFL-level blocks. If based on upside, Milliner would be ranked much higher. But graded on his 2013 performance, he comes in at the bottom of this list.
99. Brandon Carr, Cowboys61/100
Brandon Carr’s (6’0”, 206 lbs, six seasons) career has swiftly fallen off course since he signed with the Dallas Cowboys two seasons ago. Carr excelled as a press-man cover cornerback with the Kansas City Chiefs, but now he plays in a scheme that doesn’t seem to fit him. Regardless of scheme, Carr must also take a large portion of the responsibility for his poor play. In coverage he is too slow to locate the football. He also consistently struggled to bring his man down as a tackler in run defense.
98. Johnthan Banks, Buccaneers61/100
The rookie learning curve in Greg Schiano’s defense was tough for Johnthan Banks (6’2”, 195 lbs, one season), and that showed on film. Playing opposite Darrelle Revis, Banks was the target of NFL quarterbacks. He shows good press ability at the line of scrimmage and has the long arms to swat away passes. But he must be quicker in his transitions on breaking routes. Missed tackles were an issue for Banks, especially as the season reached its midway point. But he has the size to improve. In coverage, he has good hands and ball-hawking skills, but he has to improve his awareness and reaction time in coverage.
97. Tracy Porter, Raiders61/100
Tracy Porter’s (5’11”, 188 lbs, six seasons) career has been on a downhill slide since coming up huge for the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. In 16 starts this past season for the Oakland Raiders, Porter was abused on the outside and continually taken advantage of. He lacks the size and speed to be a consistent defender outside the hash marks. He is much more effective working in the slot. Porter signed a two-year contract with the Washington Redskins this offseason and should step in as the nickel cornerback for the Redskins next season.
96. Antonio Cromartie, Jets61/100
Now with the Cardinals, Antonio Cromartie (6’2”, 210 lbs, eight seasons) has the size and speed to match up with about every wide receiver in the NFL. He has some of the best hands at the cornerback position and isn’t afraid to take chances at making something happen. Which is why he allows far too many big plays, leading to him giving up seven touchdowns in 2013, ranking near the bottom of the league. Cromartie relies on safety help over the top to cover up for a lot of his mistakes.
95-91: Hayden, Taylor, Finnegan, Sherels, House
95. D.J. Hayden, Raiders62/100
D.J. Hayden (5’11”, 190 lbs, one season) went nearly a full year without playing football after losing much of his last season in college after a serious heart injury. He was healthy enough for the Raiders to invest a first-round pick. The rust showed, though, as Hayden struggled to find his footing in the NFL. He’s built for man coverage and has quickness and playmaking skills. But he wasn’t able to show those in eight games before injury cost him the rest of the season. Hayden is quick in space but had problems turning with receivers.
94. Ike Taylor, Steelers62/100
It appears as if Ike Taylor (6’2”, 195 lbs, 11 seasons) is getting close to the end of his career. His skills have been decreasing over the past few seasons, and this past season he took a major step backward in production. He doesn’t have the speed to keep up with faster receivers in the league. He has to rely on his physicality to beat up guys at the line and not let them get into their routes. Taylor hasn’t ever been the ball-hawking type of corner, but he uses his great timing to separate the ball from the receiver with thunderous hits.
93. Cortland Finnegan, Rams62/100
It’s hard to believe that Cortland Finnegan (5’10”, 179 lbs, eight seasons) was just 29 years old last season. He was still the feisty, versatile defensive back he has been throughout his career, but his athleticism appears to be completely gone. Finnegan ended up on injured reserve after just seven games, so it’s possible he was playing hurt and that cost him his speed. If he has simply slowed down quicker than most defensive backs typically do, he will be fortunate to make the Miami Dolphins roster.
92. Marcus Sherels, Vikings62/100
Marcus Sherels (5’10”, 175 lbs, four seasons) is a timid cornerback. He doesn’t play aggressive man coverage and he isn’t physical with contact in any aspect of the game. Sherels has good footwork and balance, but that doesn’t translate to speed running down the sideline. He is best suited to playing in a zone-heavy scheme that could consistently give him help.
91. Davon House, Packers62/100
A five-game starter in 2013, Davon House (6’0”, 195 lbs, three seasons) was asked to provide depth and be a versatile player for the Green Bay secondary. A solid tackler, House performed well in that regard during the regular season before struggling against the 49ers in the Wild Card Round. In coverage, he has the size you want and can play well in zone coverage. But he will struggle with closing speed and hasn’t shown much talent as a ball hawk.
90-86: Houston, Powers, Cook, Rogers, Bentley
90. Chris Houston, Lions62/100
After an excellent year in 2012, Chris Houston (5’11”, 178 lbs, seven seasons) struggled to find that same form in 2013. He was slowed most of the season by lingering injuries and was even benched for a period of time due to his poor play. Houston is a supreme athlete who can run with anyone, but he will flounder at times on underneath routes. The Detroit Lions hope Houston rebounds next year and starts to earn his $25 million contract that he signed in 2013.
89. Jerraud Powers, Cardinals62/100
Jerraud Powers (5’10”, 187 lbs, five seasons) saw more targets than anyone else in the NFL last season. When you play across from Patrick Peterson, with Tyrann Mathieu also moving around, that’s not a surprise. Powers is a smaller cornerback who aggressively fights for the football. He has decent quickness and good ball skills, but he was too often overwhelmed by stronger receivers, and his concentration was inconsistent. His size also makes him susceptible as a run defender.
88. Chris Cook, Vikings62/100
Chris Cook (6’2”, 212 lbs, four seasons) is a big, physical cornerback who has shown a lot of potential. The problem is that his potential has never been realized. Cook is still just an athlete who doesn’t understand how to mirror receivers in space or locate the football when it comes his way. The 49ers signed him in the offseason hoping that he could be a successful reclamation project.
87. Carlos Rogers, 49ers62/100
Carlos Rogers (6’0”, 192 lbs, nine seasons) is primarily an inside cornerback. He has played both outside and inside for the 49ers since he signed there. Rogers is a decent coverage player, but he has one fatal flaw. When covering receivers inside, Rogers doesn’t have the sideline to work with and his agility is badly exposed by good route-runners. He was most effective when he could play underneath in Cover 2. But even then, he wasn’t consistent. Rogers, who signed with the Raiders this offseason, is an average run defender and tackler.
86. Dwight Bentley, Lions63/100
Dwight Bentley (5’10”, 176 lbs, two seasons) is a slot cornerback who relies on his athleticism to make plays. He easily flips his hips and has decent acceleration to break forward over the first couple of yards, but he lacks the ideal size to play physical coverage. Bentley has decent length and can turn to run with receivers down the field. His primary problem in coverage is his awareness. Bentley doesn’t adjust to what he sees and doesn’t react well with the football in the air.
85-81: Robinson, Johnson, Toler, Wilson, Hall
85. Josh Robinson, Vikings63/100
Josh Robinson (5’10”, 199 lbs, two seasons) is faster than he is quick and has average ball skills. He should be playing in a zone-heavy scheme to hide his poor footwork and body control when running with receivers in space. Robinson doesn’t have the presence to reroute or disrupt receivers when they run routes, and he cannot compete at the catch point because of his size. He is a better run defender than he is in coverage, yet he’s not an exceptional run defender. That is not a combination of skills that says “NFL starter.”
84. Trumaine Johnson, Rams63/100
Trumaine Johnson (6’2”, 208 lbs, two seasons) stepped into a starting role for the Rams across from Janoris Jenkins in 2013. Johnson is a different kind of cornerback than Jenkins because he offers more size and discipline than his teammate. However, while Johnson has the bulk and length to fight bigger receivers for the football, he lacks the fluidity and awareness to cover receivers in space consistently. He needs to develop a greater all-around game if he is to continue as a starter.
83. Greg Toler, Colts63/100
Greg Toler (6’0”, 190 lbs, four seasons) is a limited-cover cornerback. He primarily relies on his physicality to knock receivers out of rhythm and battle them for position on the football. However, he doesn’t have exceptionally quick feet, isn’t very fluid and is too short to consistently win against bigger receivers. If Toler had better awareness and body control, he would be a strong candidate to switch to strong safety. With his physicality, it’s no surprise that he is a reliable tackler and effective run defender.
82. Josh Wilson, Redskins64/100
Josh Wilson (5’9”, 188 lbs, seven seasons) is a good cornerback who was playing in a role that stretched his skill set in 2013. Wilson should be a slot cornerback for someone, but he was a starter and full-time player for the Washington defense instead. His size is an issue, even though he attempts to play aggressive coverage to compensate for it. Wilson needs more strength and a greater burst of speed to compensate for his size. More strength would allow him to reroute receivers early on with greater effect, and greater speed would highlight his ball skills.
81. DeAngelo Hall, Redskins64/100
DeAngelo Hall (5’10”, 193 lbs, 10 seasons) is an aggressive corner who is always a threat to make a big play. He has the speed to run with anyone in the league and will try to bait quarterbacks into thinking that the receiver Hall is guarding is open. Unfortunately for Hall, more often than not he isn’t able to recover in time and will allow too many uncontested catches. He possesses the physical tools to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but he takes too many chances and makes too many mental mistakes to be considered a top-tier corner.
80-76: Flowers, Cooper, Smith, Johnson, Jennings
80. Brandon Flowers, Chiefs64/100
With new defensive coordinator Bob Sutton in town, Brandon Flowers’ (5’9”, 187 lbs, six seasons) role expanded in 2013. Flowers had previously been a shutdown cornerback for the Chiefs, but a cornerback who didn’t venture from the left side of the field. In 2013, Sutton asked him to move into the slot and follow receivers to the other side of the field. This put him in different situations and asked him to cover better receivers. That exposed him more throughout the season. The veteran cornerback has outstanding footwork and impressive ball skills, but he doesn’t have the physicality to fight bigger receivers for position. Flowers is a talented player, but he may be overextended under the new regime in Kansas City.
79. Marcus Cooper, Chiefs64/100
Considering how he arrived in Kansas City as a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, Marcus Cooper (6’1”, 192 lbs, one season) should feel proud of his first season in the NFL—despite a very rough stretch during the middle of the season. Cooper is an impressive athlete with the length and range to play man coverage in space. The Chiefs asked him to do that, and he was effective against lesser receivers. But his poor technique was exposed on too many occasions, as he gave up a number of huge plays. He isn’t a good run defender, but he is a reliable tackler and should be better in coverage as his career develops.
78. Jimmy Smith, Ravens64/100
Jimmy Smith (6’2”, 200 lbs, three seasons) has the size and speed to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but he lacks the awareness and technique to be higher on this list. He has length and timing to challenge receivers in jump-ball situations but isn’t able to pull down interceptions on a consistent basis. Smith showed some improvement in his first year as a regular starter and should continue to grow and develop into a more reliable defender.
77. Leonard Johnson, Buccaneers64/100
After a surprising rookie season in 2012, Leonard Johnson (5’10”, 202 lbs, two seasons) showed why he was undrafted coming out of Iowa State in his second season. He doesn’t have either the speed to keep up with the superior athletes on the outside or the size to knock receivers off their routes while in press coverage. Although Johnson isn’t an elite-level athlete, he does have great body control and playmaking ability. He has scored two touchdowns on his four career interceptions. Johnson also does a good job of keeping receivers in front of him and not allowing a ton of big plays. He should compete for a starting role opposite newly acquired Alterraun Verner next season.
76. Tim Jennings, Bears64/100
Tim Jennings (5’8” 184 lbs, eight seasons) has been a turnover-producing machine the past two seasons. He has racked up 13 interceptions and forced three fumbles during that span. Jennings has a small frame and will struggle against big, physical wide receivers who can beat him off the line. Having Charles Tillman on the other side means Jennings is rarely matched with an offense’s No. 1 wide receiver. As a result, he is able to take advantage of playing against less talented opponents.
75-71: Claiborne, Gilmore, Jenkins, Wilson, Jackson
75. Morris Claiborne, Cowboys65/100
After starting 15 games as a rookie, Morris Claiborne (5’11”, 190 lbs, two seasons) only started in seven games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2013. Claiborne hasn’t progressed since being drafted sixth overall in the 2012 draft, and talks of him being a bust are starting to surface. He has been hampered by multiple injuries since entering the league, so a healthy offseason could help him out quite a bit. While he has adequate speed, Claiborne isn’t a burner and can struggle keeping up with the elite-level runners in the game. He also isn’t a ball hawk and shows less-than-stellar ball skills on passes thrown his way.
74. Stephon Gilmore, Bills65/100
A feisty cornerback who isn’t afraid to mix it up at the line of scrimmage, Stephon Gilmore (6’1”, 190 lbs, two seasons) has the size to compete with most wide receivers at the point of attack. Gilmore has explosive speed but will struggle in coverage if receivers get a free release. He relies too much on his athletic ability out in space instead of perfecting his technique and can get taken advantage of on double moves. Gilmore missed some time in 2013 with a wrist injury, and it took him a couple of weeks to get back into the flow of the game. Near the end of the season, he started playing up to his potential. Along with Leodis McKelvin, he helped give the Buffalo Bills a great one-two punch in the defensive backfield.
73. Mike Jenkins, Raiders65/100
Mike Jenkins (5’10”, 197 lbs, six seasons) hasn’t ever lived up to the hype of being a first-round pick in 2008, and he will start the 2014 season on his third team in three years. Jenkins is a great athlete with excellent speed and burst. He is at his best when in the slot, where he can use his quickness and lateral agility. Jenkins has issues trying to match up on the outside with bigger, physical wide receivers. He has above-average hands but doesn’t show great timing in jump-ball situations, which allows opponents to come down with huge chunks of yards. Jenkins will try to bring some leadership to a fairly young secondary in Tampa Bay while competing for playing time as the nickel corner.
72. Kyle Wilson, Jets65/100
A little underrated as a corner, Kyle Wilson (5’10”, 190 lbs, four seasons) is the type of player who keeps everything in front of him and rarely allows receivers to get behind him. He is at his best when playing off coverage. He will get pushed around at the line of scrimmage when in press coverage. Wilson has good straight-line speed but isn’t extremely fluid in the hips, which causes him to be slow in and out of his breaks. Rex Ryan loves Wilson’s versatility and will line him up all over the field, including some plays at safety.
71. Kareem Jackson, Texans65/100
It has been an inconsistent career so far for Kareem Jackson (5’10”, 188 lbs, four seasons) of the Texans. Jackson has all the physical tools to be a good starting cornerback, but his decision-making and reactions in coverage have always been unreliable. Jackson has decent length, impressive quickness and the long speed to run with most receivers. He too often gives up too much separation working through breaks because of poor foot placement. Part of Jackson’s struggles could have been the absence of good safety play in 2013, so the Texans will be hoping Chris Clemons can rectify that.
70-66: Dennard, Slay, Webster, Jenkins, White
70. Alfonzo Dennard, Patriots66/100
Alfonzo Dennard (5’10”, 200 lbs, two seasons) played the best game of his young career in the 2013 playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts. He hauled in two interceptions and only allowed two catches on 10 targets. He shows good timing when breaking on the ball and doesn’t get called for many penalties. Dennard is a tough and physical corner, but he lacks the strength to push around the bigger, more powerful receivers. Dennard and the rest of the young Patriots cornerbacks should continue to progress under the mentorship of newly acquired Darrelle Revis.
69. Darius Slay, Lions66/100
A four-game starter in 2013, Darius Slay (6’0”, 192 lbs) had a hard time in his first NFL season. The young cornerback struggled with route recognition and overall awareness, and opposing quarterbacks went at him early and often. Slay surrendered a quarterback rating of 118.1, which is one of the worst numbers you’ll see from any cornerback in the game. As a tackler and run defender he made plays, but his coverage skills need refinement heading into year two.
68. Kayvon Webster, Broncos66/100
A surprise pick by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2013 draft, Kayvon Webster (5’11”, 198 lbs, one season) played well from the get-go. As a situational cover man, Webster was able to play in the slot or boundary and showed his versatility with good quickness, size and deep speed. Webster was replaced often as the Broncos made their Super Bowl run, as too many missed tackles and his lack of awareness and recognition kept him down on the team’s depth chart.
67. Janoris Jenkins, Rams66/100
After bursting onto the scene in his rookie year, Janoris Jenkins (5’10”, 198 lbs, two seasons) came back to reality during his sophomore campaign. He is an aggressive corner who isn’t afraid to take chances and gamble on plays. That often leaves him out of position, which allows big plays to go the other way. This resulted in him giving up seven touchdowns, the fourth-most among cornerbacks. He possesses all the skills you look for in a shutdown corner, but he needs to learn when to go for a big play and when to play it safe and live for another down.
66. Melvin White, Panthers66/100
A starter over the second half of the season, Melvin White (6’1”, 205 lbs, one season) was a surprise contributor for the Carolina Panthers at right cornerback. White shows solid man-coverage skills and has the length and height to be a factor on contested routes. He’s not a great tackler but did show up with power and force off the edge. With only five missed tackles, White was a high-percentage player when taking on ball-carriers. Upside is definitely something to consider for White, who went from being an undrafted free agent to 10-game starter for a playoff defense.
65-61: Smith, Kirkpatrick, Alford, Bowman, Butler
65. Sean Smith, Chiefs66/100
A big corner who loves to be physical at the line of scrimmage, Sean Smith (6’3”, 218 lbs, five seasons) uses his size to bully receivers in press coverage. He has the length to match up with the taller wide receivers and can compete for every jump ball thrown his way. Smith is a little stiff in the hips and isn’t as fluid as you would like to see at the cornerback position. He lacks the top-end speed and lateral quickness to keep up with smaller, more agile receivers. Smith is a good tackler who consistently wraps up. But he doesn’t always bring the same physicality to stopping the run that he shows in the passing game.
64. Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengals67/100
After one-and-a-half disappointing years, Dre Kirkpatrick (6’2”, 185 lbs, two seasons) finally started to show some promise at the end of the 2013 season. Kirkpatrick was able to get healthy and show what he could do. He has the size and athletic ability to match up with any receiver in the league. Kirkpatrick will struggle against double moves or when he is asked to change directions. He was never the most agile cornerback, and knee issues have hurt his mobility. An offseason of being healthy should do a lot for Kirkpatrick, and we should see a lot of improvement in his game over the next couple of years.
63. Robert Alford, Falcons67/100
After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Robert Alford (5’10”, 186 lbs, one season) is being asked by the Atlanta Falcons to step up his game and compete for a starting job opposite Desmond Trufant. Alford had a few games where he looked like one of the elite cornerbacks in the league, but others where teams took advantage of his aggressiveness. He has electrifying speed and great hands for his position. If he is able to build on this past season and continue to improve, the Falcons could have one of the most dynamic cornerback combos in the NFL for years to come.
62. Zackary Bowman, Bears68/100
Zackary Bowman (6’1”, 196 lbs, six seasons) doesn’t possess the physical skills to be a reliable starter in the NFL and should only be used in sub-packages. He is slow out of his stance and getting into his pedal. Bowman will play the wrong coverage at times and allow big plays by the offense. He does have good closing speed and body control, which allow him to make plays on the ball. Bowman, who signed with the Giants this offseason, also has good length and can challenge opposing wide receivers in jump-ball situations. He can be an effective role player in the correct system, but don’t count on him to be a shutdown cornerback or a game-changer.
61. Darius Butler, Colts68/100
Darius Butler (5’10”, 186 lbs, five seasons) has a knack for creating big plays. He has three defensive touchdowns in the past two seasons to go along with eight interceptions. That is excellent production, especially given that he isn’t a full-time player. Butler is excellent at reading the eyes of the quarterback and anticipating a throw. He shows good burst when he has to plant his foot in the ground and work back to the ball. A little short, Butler lacks the size to be an effective every-down player on the outside, but he is extremely adept at playing in the slot.
60-56: Frey, Samuel, Vaughn, McClain, Arrington
60. Isaiah Frey, Bears68/100
Isaiah Frey (6’0”, 190 lbs, one season) was thrown into the Chicago Bears' rotation due to injuries sustained by their starting cornerbacks. Frey was surprisingly impressive coming in as the nickel corner. He showed good awareness at reading and diagnosing plays. He attacked receivers once they caught the ball and did not allow them to turn small gains into big plays. Frey shows good lateral quickness and quick feet, which helps him keep up with the smaller, more agile slot receivers. He plays smart and doesn’t take unneeded risks that might take him out of a play. If he keeps improving, he could become another productive cornerback in the Bears' defensive scheme.
59. Asante Samuel, Falcons68/100
Asante Samuel (5’10”, 185 lbs, 11 seasons) has made a career out of making big plays and giving up big plays. The 2013 season was one full of the latter event. Like most of his Falcons teammates, he was hampered by injuries throughout the season, making it difficult for him to get in a solid groove. There were times on film where he looked old and sluggish, unable to explode out of his breaks and make the plays on the ball that we are accustomed to seeing from him. His poor play and huge salary forced the Falcons to cut the 33-year-old veteran this offseason and go in another direction.
58. Cassius Vaughn, Colts68/100
After a rough year in 2012, Cassius Vaughn (5’11”, 199 lbs, four seasons) followed it with another less-than-stellar performance in 2013. He didn’t see the field as much, but when he did he was immediately the focus of opposing offenses. Vaughn is a little tight in the hips and will struggle keeping up on multiple cut routes. He can be a liability against the run and is a reluctant tackler. Vaughn should only be in the starting lineup in an emergency and requires safety help on most passing situations.
57. Robert McClain, Falcons69/100
After a surprisingly good season in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons were hoping Robert McClain (5’9”, 195 lbs, three seasons) would have been able to continue to improve and give Asante Samuel and Desmond Trufant some competition for their starting roles. That was not the case, as McClain took a major step back, allowing more than 75 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed. He lacks the size and speed to be matched up alone on the outside. He is more at home in the slot, where he can use his short-area quickness to his advantage. With the Falcons cutting Samuel, McClain should see the field a lot in 2014, which could be a make-or-break year for him in Atlanta.
56. Kyle Arrington, Patriots69/100
Kyle Arrington’s (5’10”, 190 lbs, five seasons) play was sporadic in 2013. He would put together a few good games but then follow them up with a couple of bad games. Arrington tries to play aggressive and has a tendency to bite on double moves, allowing big plays downfield. He has above-average straight-line speed and is fluid enough in his hips to turn and run downfield. Arrington isn’t the biggest or strongest corner, but he is a willing tackler and will wrap up with good form.
55-51: Greer, Newman, Ryan, Carroll, Bailey
55. Jabari Greer, Saints69/100
Jabari Greer (5’11”, 180 lbs, 10 seasons) is a physical corner who can disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage. He is at his best in the short-to-intermediate range, where his lack of elite speed isn’t as noticeable, and he can use his strength to take receivers off course. While he likes to play physical, he doesn’t have the size to be a major factor against the run. He will sometimes struggle bringing down bigger wide receivers once they catch the ball. At this stage in his career, Greer can be a liability on the outside and should be strictly a slot corner in nickel or dime formations.
54. Terence Newman, Bengals70/100
Even at age 35, Terence Newman (5’10”, 192 lbs, 11 seasons) showed he can still be an effective cornerback in the NFL. He has always been able to fly, and even though he has lost a step, he can still keep up with most of his opposition. Newman makes seamless transitions in and out of his cuts and can accelerate in a hurry. A “bend but don’t break” type of corner, Newman will allow a lot of catches but rarely let receivers get behind him on deep throws. He has played a major role in turning around the Bengals defense over the past two seasons. But he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.
53. Logan Ryan, Patriots70/100
Rookie Logan Ryan (5’11”, 195 lbs, one season) fit well into the framework of the New England Patriots defense. His quickness, awareness and impressive ball skills allowed him to be effective playing underneath zones and covering receivers in man coverage with safety help. When left alone with the deep sideline to cover, Ryan’s quality of coverage dropped off somewhat. He is a good tackler and a decent run defender relative to his size, and he should excel next season if the Patriots flood the coverage away from Darrelle Revis.
52. Nolan Carroll, Dolphins70/100
Nolan Carroll (6’1”, 205 lbs, four seasons) was one of the best cornerbacks in the league in catch percentage, only allowing an impressive 47.8 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed. He has the size and speed to compete with most of the opponents he lines up against. While Carroll has great length, he lacks the hands to consistently pull down interceptions. The Philadelphia Eagles signed Carroll to a two-year contract this offseason. He should bring much-needed depth to their secondary and special teams.
51. Champ Bailey, Broncos71/100
Father Time may have finally caught up with Champ Bailey (6’0”, 192 lbs, 15 seasons), but then he has much further to fall than most players, given his All-Pro background. He struggled mightily this past season when he was healthy enough to even be on the field. Bailey missed most of the season with a foot injury, and when he played he was continually beaten. He didn’t show the initial burst coming out of his cuts or the ability to plant and break on the ball like he has been able to do in the past. After getting cut by the Broncos, Bailey is looking for a new team. He could still be a key piece for a playoff team if he can come in as a nickelback or dimeback.
50. Dwayne Gratz, Jacksonville Jaguars
A third-round pick out of UConn, Dwayne Gratz (5’11”, 201 lbs, one season) played well in his first season. As an eight-game starter, he was asked to play on the boundary, which is where his aggressive style of play paid off. Gratz is tough at the line of scrimmage and does well to jam, flip his hips and run downfield. He must improve his awareness, especially in a trail position, before he can be counted on as a top-tier cover man.
Gratz made a good initial impact against the run, showing the willingness to take on the ball and attack the runner. He is agile enough to change direction in space but must work on strength and technique to take on blockers.
As an open-field tackler, Gratz impressed. He does a good job of breaking down and taking on runners heads-up and doesn’t often get caught guessing or lunging for the ball.
Gratz’s first season was a good one, as the Jaguars cornerback developed and acclimated to the NFL. He has a bright future as a press- or zone-coverage cornerback.
49. Terrell Thomas, New York Giants
After two torn-ACL injuries, Terrell Thomas’ (6’0”, 191 lbs, four seasons) coverage skills have diminished. He is no longer a full-time starter. Instead, he is best suited to play a limited role as a slot cornerback. For an inside cornerback, Thomas is long. He measures over 6’0” and is willing to be aggressive with receivers early in their routes. Thomas easily turns and runs with receivers down the seam, and his ball skills are good enough to locate the football early. He is a smart cornerback who understands where to position himself in zone coverage, even if his initial burst is not as good as it once was.
Thomas is very quick to read the run and close toward the football. He works through blocks well against smaller receivers and is smart enough with his quickness to get around bigger tight ends and offensive linemen.
Thomas missed 11 tackles in 2013. His quickness and ability to establish a base before making contact with his length was a notable concern.
The 2013 season may have shown us what Thomas is now. However, it’s also possible that he will continue to improve the further away he gets from his second major knee surgery. Much like Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers a few years back, it’s tough to project Thomas' future output at this point.
48. Chris Owens, Cleveland Browns
Behind Buster Skrine and Joe Haden on the depth chart in Cleveland, Chris Owens (5’9”, 180 lbs, five seasons) had the opportunity to establish himself as a quality slot cornerback. In Ray Horton’s defense, he had plenty of opportunities, but he never lived up to expectations. Owens has a skill set that is typical of slot cornerbacks. He is undersized and quick with decent ball skills. But because he lacks elite physical traits and his awareness and technique aren’t exceptional, he is a limited-cover cornerback.
Owens gives good effort against the run and uses his quickness to knife between blockers. He has good awareness and doesn’t get stuck focusing on his coverage assignment too often.
With the toughness and aggression of a bigger player, Owens was able to be an effective run defender for the Browns in 2013.
The Browns released Owens during the regular season. He hadn’t lived up to expectations, but the Browns may have been too quick to pull the plug on him. There were flashes of ability there that could benefit his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs.
47. Bradley Fletcher, Philaelphia Eagles
Veteran cornerback Bradley Fletcher (6’0”, 200 lbs, five seasons) is a well-rounded player who lacks the elite physical traits to be one of the best starters in the NFL. He has decent agility and good ball skills, but he struggles to maintain his position when he tries to play aggressive man coverage. Fletcher is best suited to play in zone, where his positioning and concentration allow him to be effective.
There are times when it appears that Fletcher is too willing to give up on a play if it goes to the other side of the field, but his main issue against the run is his inability to fight through blockers. While not being dramatically undersized for a cornerback, he doesn’t have the bulk or strength to get past bigger receivers or tight ends.
An effective and versatile tackler, Fletcher will make tackles all over the field when he locates the ball-carrier.
Fletcher isn’t an ideal starter. Even though he was fairly consistent in 2013, he is a limited player who would be better suited to playing a less taxing role.
46. Coty Sensabaugh, Tennessee Titans
A solid slot cornerback, Coty Sensabaugh (5’11”, 187 lbs, two seasons) has the short-area quickness and lateral agility needed to survive underneath in coverage. He’s able to slide through traffic but will struggle with pressing at the line of scrimmage. His footwork when moving in space is nimble, but he can get too narrow in his base off the jump and struggle to recover. When asked to high-point the ball, Sensabaugh’s athleticism shows. He impressed with his ability to flip and run when needed.
Sensabaugh was basically nonexistent against the run, a bad quality for a slot cornerback. He has to be more aggressive when the ball comes to his side.
Sensabaugh doesn’t show the physicality to be an impact player when taking on the ball. He can be timid and lacks the strength to take down runners on his own.
Sensabaugh is a young cornerback with potential, but his second season was rough. He has to improve against the run and when taking on the ball. His coverage skills were good, but his all-around game needs work.
45. Will Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars
Will Blackmon (6’0”, 210 lbs, seven seasons) bounced around the NFL, playing for two teams in his first five seasons before finding a home in Jacksonville. The Jaguars will gladly keep him. His size, length and stout frame are exactly what Gus Bradley wants at cornerback. He’s versatile enough to play on the boundary or come inside to the slot and use his size to take away underneath routes. He has the length to get to the ball and disrupt it, but he doesn’t show the hands to convert those batted passes into interceptions. His poor timing is often saved by the length of his arms.
Blackmon has the size to be effective against the run. Even if he’s not coming downhill to make tackles, he does a good job anchoring and forcing the play back inside. Defending the boundary and taking away long sideline runs are his strengths.
Nine missed tackles were a big concern on film. He has to learn to attack the ball with his eyes and remain heads-up and aware.
Blackmon is a solid starting cornerback with some upside in the Jaguars’ system. He has the length, physicality and attitude the team wants. He just has to improve some timing and awareness issues.
44. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears
In recent seasons, Charles Tillman (6’2”, 198 lbs, 11 seasons) has been one of the most intimidating cover cornerbacks in the NFL. Even though many wrote him off as just another zone player in the Bears’ scheme, Tillman actually routinely excelled in both man and zone coverage. Tillman’s strength has always been his aggressiveness, physicality and impressive ball skills. Those ball skills were still there in 2013, but his body appeared to be in decline. No longer could he break on the ball in front of receivers or quickly flip his hips to turn with them through routes. His strength wasn’t overwhelming bigger receivers like it had in previous seasons.
Still a ferocious tackler at times, Tillman shows no hesitation when attacking bigger-bodied blockers at the line of scrimmage. Tillman is quick to read running plays and carries a lot of value in this facet of the game.
As he slows, Tillman needs to be less aggressive with his tackling. In the past he was able to knock down receivers in space or stop running backs without being knocked onto his back. Whether because of age or injury in 2013, Tillman was a step slower to initiate contact with opposing players, which hurt his tackling efficiency.
There aren’t many effective 33-year-old starting cornerbacks in the NFL today. It’s definitely a young man’s position. Tillman should provide the Bears with quality play next year if he is healthy, but don’t expect him to be a star or maybe even a starter.
43. Cortez Allen, Pittsburgh Steelers
A former fourth-round pick, Cortez Allen (6’1”, 196 lbs, three seasons) was expected to ascend to the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013. However, an injury before the year started and the performance of William Gay affected his usage. Allen is a versatile player who can be effective inside or outside. He has impressive athleticism. He can play aggressive coverage while still being aware of the flight of the football. His fluidity, body control and length allow him to consistently disrupt receivers when his footwork is clean.
Allen is inconsistent at reading running plays. He has the physical talent to close quickly to the line of scrimmage, but he needs to take his eyes off his first assignment quicker.
Reliable tackling is a necessity for any Dick LeBeau-coached cornerback. Allen was a reliable tackler when moving forward in 2013, but he missed a few tackles in coverage. His length, strength and quickness allow him to be effective in tight and in space.
Allen is still relatively young and has battled injuries for stretches of his career. He came out of college as a raw prospect but has developed well to this point. The Steelers will be looking to him to replace Ike Taylor as their No. 1 cornerback next season.
42. Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota Vikings
A first-rounder from Florida State, Xavier Rhodes (6’1”, 210 lbs, one season) was thrown into the fire in 2013. He responded well, showing the pure athleticism needed to hang with Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in the NFC North. Rhodes has the length you want at the position, and those long arms allow him to make a play on the ball where others could not. He’ll break up more passes as his timing and route awareness improve. What immediately jumps off the screen was Rhodes’ ability to get his hand in between the ball and the receiver.
In his first season, Rhodes struggled to see and react to the run. He was often late to the ball and saw his read-and-reaction skills lag behind some of his more natural gifts.
Rhodes was a productive tackler when healthy, but he also missed seven tackles. That number is on the high side, but he showed good aggressiveness and improvement before missing time with injury to end the season.
Rhodes’ rookie year showed ups and downs, but he improved over the course of the season. His length, speed and vision are that of a top-tier cornerback if his awareness and reaction time improve.
41. Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
The sixth-round pick of the 2005 draft may not have lived up to expectations entering the league, but Adam Jones (5’10”, 180 lbs, seven seasons) has proven to be an impressive player for the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones isn’t a big cornerback, but he has an aggressive approach to contact and is agile working down the sideline or inside. His footwork is impressive, and his ability to recognize the flight of the football allows him to quickly and consistently get his hands on the ball in spite of his size.
In a Mike Zimmer defense, Jones had no choice but to be aggressive closing on opposing running backs. He was aggressive fighting through contact and used his quickness to break into running lanes.
Jones made a lot of tackles in 2013 but also missed too many due to reckless technique. Jones is a below-average tackler who has the ability to improve.
With Leon Hall’s long-term injury and Terence Newman’s short-term absence, Jones was forced into a bigger role than he would have expected in 2013. That didn’t affect his performance, as he continued to be one of the more consistent role players in the NFL.
40. Tarell Brown, San Francisco 49ers
New Raiders cornerback Tarell Brown (5’10”, 193 lbs, seven seasons) is relatively short, but he is not a small player. Brown is a physical player who can press receivers and run with them down the field. He has difficulty locating the football early and catching it, but he is able to punch it away from receivers with quick reactions because of his aggressive coverage style. Brown won’t dominate opposing receivers with his physical style. But his quick feet and awareness allow him to play with great balance and body control, so he doesn’t give up cheap penalties.
Brown is a willing run defender who quickly closes to the line of scrimmage. He uses his quickness to slip past bigger tight ends and offensive linemen, and he is able to fight through blocks from receivers in space.
In spite of his listed size, Brown has enough power to punish receivers with big hits at times and is consistent with his technique.
Brown is the kind of player who will never be considered a star, but he is reliable, consistent and well-rounded. In today’s league, that is tough to find in the secondary.
39. Walter Thurmond, Seattle Seahawks
Although Walter Thurmond (5’11”, 190 lbs, four seasons) doesn’t stretch far horizontally or vertically, he is an aggressive cover cornerback. Thurmond’s approach to playing man coverage is similar to that of Richard Sherman. He obviously doesn’t blanket receivers in the same way, but Thurmond is able to hold his own against bigger receivers. His footwork keeps him balanced in tight coverage, while his ball skills are impressive. Thurmond isn’t exceptionally fluid or fast, but he is enough of both.
Thurmond gives good effort against running plays and tries to fight through blockers, but his size limits what he can do.
He isn’t a liability as a tackler, but Thurmond won’t be able to take down bigger tight ends or running backs without help. He is effective enough as a tackler in space.
A suspension came at the worst time for Thurmond last season, but it didn’t stop him landing with the Giants in free agency. Now on a one-year deal, he will be hoping to earn a long-term contract by proving himself in a more prominent role.
38. Brandon Browner, Seattle Seahawks
Brandon Browner (6’4”, 221 lbs, three seasons) is a long, athletic cornerback with the ability to fight receivers for the football. He excelled in Seattle during previous seasons because he could use his size and strength to bully receivers down the sideline. However, when asked to move laterally, he struggled to adjust. In 2013, teams were able to highlight Browner’s weaknesses in coverage more. Even before his season-ending suspension, Browner was destined to lose his starting spot thanks to his performance.
Despite being physical in coverage against receivers and being such an impressive athlete, Browner wasn’t an impressive run defender. He didn’t show the intensity to get off blocks, and his height worked against him when trying to find his way to the ball through traffic.
Browner didn’t miss a single tackle in 2013, but a limited sample size affects his rating.
Although he has proven himself to be a talented player in previous seasons, Browner’s performances in 2013 suggested that his reputation is greater than his ability at this stage. Look for him to try to change that with the New England Patriots.
37. Jimmy Wilson, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins’ third cornerback, Jimmy Wilson (5’11”, 205 lbs, three seasons) played well in the slot in 2013. He was asked to take away guys like Julian Edelman and Marquise Goodwin in a loaded AFC East, and neither is easy to cover in space. Wilson has good short-area quickness and can be physical at the line of scrimmage. He has the long arms and thick lower body you want from a player who will be working in press coverage and also running over the middle. He has to work on recognizing routes earlier in the play, as too often he guessed wrong on cuts and breaks and was left standing alone in coverage.
An effective player when the ball comes his way, Wilson will fight through blocks and go for the ball. He’s stout enough to make a few plays in the backfield and shows good pursuit on weak-side runs.
Seven missed tackles is a high number for a non-starting cornerback, but Wilson actually showed good open-field ability outside of those misses.
A good third cornerback, Wilson’s ability to help against the run and pull down ball-carriers moves him ahead of many players with better raw coverage skills.
36. Orlando Scandrick, Dallas Cowboys
A superb athlete, Orlando Scandrick (5’10”, 195 lbs, six seasons) has the speed and agility that teams look for in a cornerback. He shows flexibility and can flip his hips and turn to run with any receiver in the league. Scandrick allows a lot of catches underneath due to poor technique, but he attacks receivers once they catch the ball and minimizes yards after the catch. He will be beaten routinely off the line in press coverage and is much more effective playing off in zone coverage.
Scandrick isn’t afraid to step up in run support. He doesn’t have the size to take runners down head-on but uses his speed to track down ball-carriers. Scandrick has to get as low as possible to take them down and will get bowled over if he comes in too high.
Not a reliable tackler, Scandrick aims low and tackles with his shoulder but will rarely wrap up. He misses far too many tackles against runners in space but takes good angles and has the speed to track runners down from behind.
Scandrick started a career-high 15 games in 2013. In most of those games, he played effectively, giving up more than 100 receiving yards only one time. Scandrick was one of the few players on the Dallas Cowboys defense to post a positive PFF rating. He will look to build on that heading into next season.
35. Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers
Sam Shields (5’11”, 184 lbs, four seasons) is a celebrated cornerback who received a hefty contract extension from the Green Bay Packers this year. Shields is a former wide receiver who should be coming into his prime at this stage. He has exceptional ball skills and impressive straight-line speed, so it’s easy to understand how he had four interceptions. The Packers paid Shields because they are betting on his development. He initially took some strides after entering the league in 2010, but he appeared to regress in 2013. In particular, Shields’ footwork was a major concern because he was exposed too often by double moves. Shields didn’t show the quickness and awareness needed to make him a high-quality starter.
Standing at roughly 5’11” and 184 pounds with a very slender frame, it’s no surprise that Shields isn’t an impressive run defender. He can’t come down and set the edge against tight formations. He struggles to locate the ball-carrier at times and takes too many bad routes to the football.
The biggest issue with Shields’ tackling isn’t his efficiency, it’s where and how he misses tackles. Shields missed way too many tackles in the open field during the 2013 season. There were times when he didn’t even touch the receiver because he was hesitant or didn’t keep his eyes up while moving forward. As a slighter cornerback, Shields wouldn’t be expected to consistently take down running backs, but he needs to be able to stop wide receivers in the open field.
Shields is the kind of cornerback who would thrive as a second option across from an elite cover cornerback. In that situation, his aggressive style would reap more rewards without giving up so many big plays, because he would have more safety help over the top. Unfortunately, the Packers have paid him to be a No. 1 cornerback, and he didn’t play like one in 2013.
34. Lardarius Webb, Baltimore Ravens
In his return from his second torn ACL, Lardarius Webb (5’10”, 182 lbs, five seasons) proved to be his old self in coverage. He was less consistent, but that’s to be expected from a player coming off a major injury. After Darrelle Revis, Webb may be the most fluid cornerback in the NFL. He seamlessly switches from playing outside to playing inside and has the talent to cover all kinds of receivers. Webb could have been more physical against bigger receivers on the outside, but he isn’t the biggest of players himself, so that’s a tall task.
In spite of his slight frame, Webb aggressively takes on blocks. He quickly reads running plays and screens to gain position on blockers early. That allows him to hold his position or shoot into the backfield for a tough tackle.
Webb has always been an aggressive tackler who quickly closes on the ball-carrier. His body control and technique have allowed him to excel against running backs or receivers in space, but that control was absent in 2013. Webb missed 16 tackles on 997 snaps.
This wasn’t Webb’s best season. He did shut down Wes Welker in Week 1, but the inconsistency in his game prevented him from being one of the best starters in the NFL.
33. Mike Harris, Jacksonville Jaguars
Mike Harris (5’10”, 188 lbs, two seasons) may not fit the physical mold teams have for the press cornerback position, but he plays well up on the line of scrimmage in an attacking scheme. Harris, who played in all 16 games and started two, showed good quickness in and out of breaks. He’ll close on the ball but needs to develop better route awareness and anticipation. He doesn’t take away routes at the top of the route stem and must work on his hand and foot technique to improve his balance, decision-making and impact.
A strong player coming off the edge, Harris can affect the run game with his speed and strength. Coming down from the slot cornerback position, he knifes into the backfield and can make tackles on the runner or squeeze the play inside.
Harris had a small number of attempted tackles, but in those attempts he pulled down a high percentage of ball-carriers and limited his misses. He breaks down well in space and has clean technique.
Harris has solid potential, and in 2013 we saw him improve his coverage skills and run defense even as his numbers decreased. He’s a depth player with good ability to work in the slot or outside in the Jaguars’ system.
32. Trumaine McBride, New York Giants
Trumaine McBride (5’9”, 185 lbs, six seasons) enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2013. He emerged as a good cover man with the hands and closing speed to make a play on the ball in his first season with the New York Giants. That allowed him to pick off balls and break up passes. McBride has to work on route awareness, as he gambled too often or got turned around in transitions.
McBride makes a small contribution against the run. He doesn’t show the size or strength to comfortably make plays on the ball.
Missed tackles were an issue in McBride’s game film, and one wonders if he’ll ever be able to consistently make a play on the ball in space.
The Giants needed a playmaking cornerback, and they got that in McBride this season. During his 10 starts, he was a reliable No. 2 corner and showed improvement in coverage.
31. Alan Ball, Jacksonville Jaguars
A big, strong cornerback, Alan Ball (6’2”, 197 lbs, six seasons) is a perfect fit for Gus Bradley’s defense. Ball is a strong cover man with the length and upper-body power to play in press coverage and attack the line of scrimmage. His flexibility is average, as can be the case with a taller cornerback, but he shows good recovery speed and length to swat away passes. Ball limits targets and completions underneath but must show better awareness if receivers take him deep. His best trait by far is his length, allowing him to bat the ball away before it gets to the receiver.
Ball’s ability to play the run isn’t as developed as his coverage skills. He can get turned around in traffic and will struggle to beat blockers to the ball.
A solid open-field tackler against the pass, Ball can make a play on runners but will struggle with missed tackles in space. Better technique—keeping his head up and eyes on the ball—will help him progress.
Ball impressed in coverage during his best season yet. He’s long, physical and has the perfect cornerback profile for the Jaguars’ defense.
30. Johnathan Joseph, Houston Texans
It was a disappointing season for the Houston Texans' defense as a whole and Johnathan Joseph (5’11”, 188 lbs, eight seasons) in particular. He was still a good starting cornerback due to his incredible physical talent, but Joseph appeared to play with much less intensity. He was slow to react on too many occasions as a zone defender and wasn’t able to mirror receivers through routes as well as he had previously done.
Joseph isn’t a big player. He lacks the ideal bulk to fight through blockers and take down backs behind the line of scrimmage, but he does have an exceptional burst that allows him to quickly get in position.
He’s a solid, but not outstanding tackler who has the strength to punish smaller receivers.
It wasn’t a bad season for Joseph, but it was underwhelming considering his physical talents and what he did in previous years.
29. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots
Former New England Patriots and new Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (6’1”, 205 lbs, six seasons) had an inconsistent season in 2013. His long arms and physicality allowed him to be effective against bigger receivers such as Jimmy Graham when given help from the defense around him. However, Talib struggled later in the season against quicker receivers in space. His feet can be too heavy at times, and he loses some of his composure when asked to turn and sprint with receivers.
Effort is a concern with Talib when defending the run. Because of his stout build and aggressive nature in coverage, you would expect him to be stronger than he actually is against the blocks of receivers and tight ends.
Talib isn’t a bad tackler. He uses his arms well and has the strength to knock receivers backward or to the ground. His technique can be sloppy, but his physical prowess compensates for those reckless plays more often than not.
Talib was a decent starter for the Patriots last season, but he couldn't offer what Darrelle Revis does to the defense. If he can stay healthy, he will be a valuable contributor for the Broncos, but he needs to face the right type of receivers to be consistently effective.
28. Nickell Robey, Buffalo Bills
Because of his height, Nickell Robey (5’7”, 165 lbs, one season) is limited to being just a slot cornerback. However, slot cornerbacks play big roles in today’s NFL. Robey played more than 600 snaps last season as the Bills’ inside cornerback. To make up for his lack of size, Robey relies on his quickness and aggressive ball skills. His aggressiveness can’t overcome bigger receivers or tight ends, but he proved to be effective against receivers who rely on their quickness to succeed.
A willing and aggressive run defender. Robey uses his speed to close on the line of scrimmage in space, but he has trouble disengaging from blocks in tight situations.
Robey missed too many tackles during his rookie season. His size is always going to be a hinderance, but he needs to compensate for that with more consistent technique and balance in the open field. He will be 22 years old before the start of next season, so he should still be able to get stronger.
Robey won’t be mistaken for Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman anytime soon, but he could establish himself as one of the best slot cornerbacks if he continues to develop. Size is only a major problem for cornerbacks if their style of play can’t overcome it. Robey is small, so he needs to max out his ability everywhere else. It was a promising first season.
27. Chris Crocker, Cincinnati Bengals
Generally used as a safety, Chris Crocker (5’11”, 197 lbs, 11 seasons) played the majority of his snaps at cornerback in 2013. In that role he played well, putting together his best season in years as a partial starter and sub-package contributor. His versatility is valuable, as Crocker saw time at free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback and boundary cornerback. His quickness in space allows him to turn and run with backs, tight ends or wide receivers. Where Crocker struggles is with deep speed routes that take him out of his comfort zone. At safety, he’s used to seeing the ball in front of him, and at cornerback that role is often reversed.
Crocker’s experience at safety works well in the run game. He understands angles and alleys and works his way to the ball cleanly. He can get overwhelmed by blockers at the cornerback position—especially on the boundary.
A solid tackler, Crocker will miss on the ball at times and can too easily let a runner break his grasp. He was productive when on the field but needs to clean up his missed tackles.
If graded on potential, Crocker wouldn’t be ranked this high. But taking only the 2013 season into account, his performance in coverage and as a tackler stands out.
26. Corey White, New Orleans Saints
Corey White (6’1”, 205 lbs, two seasons) is best suited to be a slot cornerback in the NFL, but he was forced to do more for the Saints last season due to injuries. White performed relatively well in coverage. He is somewhat inconsistent with his all-around performance, but he showed off impressive feet, good awareness and an ability to use his length to locate the football at the catch point. White has a slender build and is relatively tall, so he isn’t able to play very physical coverage. Instead, he looks to mirror receivers before attacking the football when it arrives.
White isn’t physically built to run through blockers, but his quickness and effort allow him to get into good positions against the run.
White’s long arms and quickness allow him to be an effective tackler in space. He won’t consistently punish receivers, but he does relish contact and doesn’t just settle for bringing the receiver to the ground.
Although he will likely revert to a lesser role during his third season in the NFL, White proved that he has some starter potential for the Saints.
25. Rashean Mathis, Detroit Lions
Rashean Mathis (6’1”, 195 lbs, 11 seasons) signing with the Detroit Lions didn’t make many waves around the NFL, but by season’s end it was clear his presence paid off greatly for them. With exceptional length and timing, Mathis is able to make plays matched up in man coverage against the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver. He can be a bit stiff in his transitions through space, but deep speed and leaping ability are among his strengths.
Mathis is not great against the run but provides edge support and can help funnel the rushing game back to his interior defenders. He uses his length well to stab at the ball and try to create turnover opportunities.
Mathis ranks as a solid tackler with good technique and closing speed to attack the ball. He will miss tackles here and there, but that's due more to a lack of strength than effort.
A smart veteran, Mathis played well for Detroit in 2013 after being written off by Jacksonville. The Lions have flexibility at the position thanks to his solid play.
24. Micah Hyde, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers’ grabbed Micah Hyde (6’0”, 197 lbs, one season) with the No. 159 pick in the 2013 draft class. One season in, it’s clear he was a steal. Hyde showed up immediately as a solid nickel- and dime-package cover man. He’s fluid in space and excels in zone coverage. Quarterbacks did jump on him early and were able to fool him with their eyes, but Hyde improved in that regard over the course of the season. His play in the slot allowed Green Bay to remain competitive, especially down the stretch when the rest of the defense seemed to disappear or head to IR.
One of the NFL’s best cornerbacks against the run in 2013, Hyde has the body type, mentality and skills to attack the run from the edge. He plays fast coming downhill and rarely runs himself out of position.
Hyde is already an elite tackler in his first season. He’ll put a hit on the ball-carrier and does so with both the impact and great technique that lead to few missed tackles.
Hyde could be moved to safety at some point, but the entire Packers organization has to be thrilled with his impact and productivity as a rookie in 2013.
23. Corey Graham, Baltimore Ravens
Corey Graham (6’0”, 196 lbs, seven seasons) is a versatile defensive back but has limited physical ability as a cover cornerback. Graham isn’t big or long and doesn’t have any real burst or long speed. His agility and relatively good ball skills are what allow him to be successful in space. Graham had an impressive 2013 season as he wasn’t overly stressed by his assignments.
While Graham is an adequate talent in coverage who enjoyed an impressive season, his real value comes against the run. He is a compact player who uses his hands and aggressively fights contact to breach running lanes.
Graham is technically consistent as a tackler and attacks ball-carriers low to offset any physical advantages he surrenders.
The 2013 season may have seen Graham at his best, and his performances earned him a deal with the Buffalo Bills. His physical limitations weren’t exposed thanks to how he was used and his refined technical skills.
22. William Gay, Pittsburgh Steelers
By some distance, William Gay (5’10”, 190 lbs, seven seasons) enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013. The diminutive defensive back has always had impressive physical talent and the versatility to play inside and outside, but his awareness and footwork left a lot to be desired. In 2013, his footwork was better, allowing him to consistently locate the football earlier. Gay never had the size or ball skills to be a shutdown cornerback, but his quickness and improved technique made him effective for the Steelers.
Gay is quick to read running plays and closes to the line of scrimmage with good effort. He’s not a strong player but has a high motor and doesn’t shy away from fighting through contact.
Gay showed good discipline as a tackler in 2013, but his lack of length and strength sometimes made him overcompensate with aggression. Gay missed nine tackles on 931 snaps.
For most of his career, Gay has ideally been a third- or fourth-choice cornerback. He was technically a third option for the Steelers in 2013 but was clearly their best performer at the position.
21. Jason McCourty, Tennessee Titans
Jason McCourty (6’0”, 193 lbs, five seasons) isn’t an exceptionally big cornerback, but he does play physical coverage that gets the most out of his bulk. At 6’0”, McCourty is rarely knocked off balance or pushed out of position by receivers. He has quick feet and understands how to locate the football while in man coverage. Although he is not one of the most fluid players in the league, his quickness and awareness are both above average. That makes him a well-rounded cover cornerback.
McCourty needs to play lower when he tries to take on blockers. He has the physical ability to fight through traffic but doesn’t consistently do it to get to the ball. McCourty is much more effective in space.
With his strong frame and consistent technique, McCourty is an efficient tackler. He missed just seven tackles on more than 1,000 snaps in 2013.
For a while now, McCourty has lived in the shadow of Alterraun Verner and even his brother Devin. However, he shouldn’t be overlooked. He is a young, high-quality starter.
20. Tramon Williams, Green Bay Packers
As one of the few Packers defenders to stay healthy all season, Tramon Williams (5’11”, 191 lbs, seven seasons) was asked to carry a heavy load in the secondary. Williams saw a dip in his passes defensed and interceptions but was still a factor on passing downs thanks to his quickness, strength and ability to challenge jump balls. Williams is good at using his hands to redirect a route-runner, but he allows a high number of easy completions on underneath routes.
A physical defender, Williams is able to come up and make stops on his own. He’s quick and uses his hands well to disengage blocks and fire up into rushing lanes.
A solid tackler, Williams can get caught with his eyes down and head dipped when approaching a ball-carrier. That will lead to missed tackles, of which he had 10 in 2013.
Williams was one of the Packers’ best defenders in 2013 and did it without much support behind him at safety or in front of him in a pass rush. His awareness and physical play keep him among the game’s better cornerbacks.
19. Drayton Florence, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers secondary needed a strong veteran influence, and it got that and more from Drayton Florence (6’0”, 200 lbs, 11 seasons). Working mostly as a boundary cornerback, Florence did well to limit targets and keep quarterbacks from coming his way with the ball. He may not show up huge with interceptions, but Florence wins with batted passes and the type of coverage that eliminates his man.
Florence doesn’t have the functional strength to be a major player against the run, but he does have the smarts to read and react well and gets himself in position to make plays.
You won’t see many missed tackles on his game film, but Florence does miss on some opportunities due to poor angles and a lack of pursuit.
A sub-package cornerback for most of 2013, Florence will be asked to play a bigger role if the cornerback position isn’t addressed in the draft. He showed in his 11th season that he’s still able to hold up in coverage over the long haul.
18. Captain Munnerlyn, Carolina Panthers
Captain Munnerlyn (5’8”, 195 lbs, five seasons) enjoyed his best year in 2013, providing the man coverage the Panthers needed behind their potent pass rush. Munnerlyn showed versatility in his coverage skills, lining up at left, right and slot cornerback. He’s ideally suited for the third corner spot, lined up inside, due to his smaller size and quick feet underneath. When bigger receivers take him off the line, he’s not strong enough to press or redirect their routes. Munnerlyn has good speed but not great speed, and when combined with his small stature, he can be a liability on deep routes.
When coming out of the slot or busting off the edge, Munnerlyn does a good job getting into the backfield. Where he’ll struggle is if he’s ever met by a blocker, as he doesn’t bring the shed skills needed to come off those blocks.
An all-around playmaker, Munnerlyn is a master at blitzing off the corner. He added 3.5 sacks in 2013 and is a heads-up tackler in space.
Munnerlyn’s solid play for the Panthers paid off, as the Minnesota Vikings handed him a big contract in free agency. If the Vikings are looking for the next Antoine Winfield, they may have found him.
17. Alterraun Verner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Alterraun Verner (5’10”, 187 lbs, four seasons) and Jason McCourty were one of the best cornerback pairings in the NFL last season. Verner typically received more attention from the media, but he is also the player the Titans let walk in free agency. Verner and McCourty primarily played sides instead of following receivers around the field. This meant that Verner faced few of the better starting receivers in the NFL. He was able to be effective against lower-level competition and showed off the talent to play aggressive man coverage, as well as the intelligence and quickness to be an outstanding zone cornerback. His fluidity, footwork and ball skills are all impressive.
Despite being limited by a relatively small frame, which diminishes the impact of his hits, Verner is able to occasionally slip by blockers and attack runners at the line of scrimmage. He is a technique tackler who focuses on bringing ball-carriers down instead of trying to land big hits.
Efficiency is exactly what the Titans got from Verner as a tackler in 2013. He missed just eight tackles on 1,023 snaps. That number highlights his discipline and consistent commitment to his technique.
Verner was definitely underpaid by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. He may not be a star, but considering the other contracts that were handed out, he should have made much more money. His all-around coverage ability is rare; it’s even rarer when you combine it with his reliability in the run game.
16. Keenan Lewis, New Orleans Saints
Keenan Lewis (6’1”, 208 lbs, five seasons) proved to be an excellent addition to the New Orleans Saints secondary. He continued his development after establishing himself as a starter with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lewis has impressive length that he uses to disrupt receivers consistently, but his ability to mirror movement and adjust with his footwork shouldn’t be overlooked. Many cornerbacks with his size and speed are only effective when working with the sideline, but Lewis has the agility and awareness to adjust to quicker receivers inside and underneath.
Although he is a good tackler, Lewis’ lanky frame and his tendency to play high against the run limit how effective he is as a run defender. He is slow to take his eyes off his coverage assignment and close the space to the line of scrimmage, and he is too easily blocked out of plays.
Because of his lean build, Lewis doesn’t deliver much punishment to receivers or running backs. His long arms and consistent technique make that a minor flaw, though, because he is able to take opponents to the ground consistently when he gets in position.
There was no hiding for Lewis in Rob Ryan’s defense. He was a No. 1 cornerback for the first time in his career, and he proved that he was worthy of being one moving forward.
15. Tramaine Brock, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers needed a big year from Tramaine Brock (5’10”, 197 lbs, four seasons), and they got one. Brock showed good hands and closing speed, turning in five interceptions and nine pass breakups. Brock needs to improve his route awareness to limit targets, as opposing quarterbacks did look his way early and often. Brock did turn those challenges into opportunities, and as the season progressed, his confidence in jumping routes and attacking the ball in the air improved. By the playoffs, he was a true No. 1 cornerback.
Brock’s biggest weakness is his inability to make impact plays against the run. With a strong front seven in front of him, Brock needs only to set and hold the edge, but he struggled to break free from stalk blocks.
In the open field, you will see Brock putting ball-carriers on the ground. He’s much better matched up against receivers than tight ends or running backs.
Brock looks to be the 49ers’ go-to cornerback in 2014. The team has bet on his potential with a contract extension late in the ‘13 season that keeps him a 49er for four more years.
14. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6’2”, 193 lbs, six seasons) played for his third team since being drafted in 2008 and turned in what might be his best season to date. In Denver, he emerged as a top-tier boundary cornerback, able to match up well with No. 1 wide receivers and provide blanket coverage. He’s long, lean and athletic, three top qualities for a cover man. Rodgers-Cromartie limited how often opposing quarterbacks came his way with his trademark length, speed and route awareness. That led to an allowed completion percentage of just 47.1 percent over the course of the regular season and playoffs.
You won’t get stellar run support from Rodgers-Cromartie, but he does support the edge well and can make some plays in the backfield.
In the open field, Rodgers-Cromartie can pull down receivers, but he lacks punch as a tackler. When a ball-carrier meets him head up, he’s likely to get out of the way.
After an up-and-down time in Philadelphia, Rodgers-Cromartie stood out in Denver’s defensive schemes. His range and length were keys to the Broncos’ run to the Super Bowl. Now, he’ll look to do the same for the New York Giants.
13. Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins
Brent Grimes (5’10”, 190 lbs, seven seasons) made his return to the NFL in 2013 with a renewed vigor. After landing with the Miami Dolphins in free agency, he reminded everyone why he was regarded as a top-tier cornerback during the 2011 season in Atlanta. Grimes is ineffective at the line of scrimmage, but he does a good job with foot speed and technique to stay with wide receivers. He shows the hands to cause turnovers and will get physical in press situations.
Grimes doesn’t do much for you against the run. He’s small and can be timid in attacking the ball. Even the smallest of chores, like turning the run in, are too much for him.
Open-field tackles aren’t a weakness for Grimes, but he does make most of his solo tackles against the passing game. He’s not big enough to come into the box and stuff the run or take away the edge.
Injured in 2012, Grimes makes his way back on the list after a great first season in Miami. He’s not the biggest guy, but his tenacious man-coverage skills stand out.
12. Prince Amukamara, New York Giants
A great number to sum up Prince Amukamara’s (6’0”, 207 lbs, three seasons) 2013 season is two. That’s how many touchdowns he allowed. The big, rangy cornerback enjoyed an impressive rise during his third season, showing better awareness and finally staying healthy for a complete season. He’s not the most fluid corner in transitions but is physical and can win at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t produce many interceptions (one last season) but excels at getting to the ball and knocking it away in time to limit receptions.
Playing the run, Amukamara is able to crash the backfield and even beat blockers to the ball-carrier. He does a great job holding that corner and using his strength to force the ball back inside.
With 76 tackles in 2013, Amukamara showed up as a big edge-setter and open-field menace. He’s big enough to be an extra defender setting the edge and uses his lower body well to fuel hits. He’s also a high-percentage tackler with few misses.
In his third season, the light went on for Amukamara, and he produced his best season yet. As a top-tier cover man, he’s showing why the Giants spent a first-round pick on him in 2011.
11. Brandon Boykin, Philadelphia Eagles
If you love slot cornerbacks, Brandon Boykin (5’10”, 185 lbs, two seasons) will be one of your favorites. He is smart, aggressive and able to put himself in position to create turnovers. He did that in 2013 with six interceptions as a part-time player. Boykin needs to improve his use of leverage and alignment technique (inside or outside the receiver), but he stood out on film due to his quickness, route recognition and hands.
Boykin needs to learn how to better attack the run and hold the edge. As a slot cornerback, he has to almost play like an outside linebacker—crashing the edge and turning the running back inside. He’s not doing that yet.
While Boykin doesn’t flash against the run, he does stand out for his ability to make tackles in space. He’s physical, and that aggressiveness turns into tackles and impact plays when the receiver does get the ball.
Another young stud in the slot, Boykin stands out thanks to his ability to accelerate and attack routes. He’s an up-and-comer on the move up the rankings.
10. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
Joe Haden (5’11”, 190 lbs, four seasons) could top this list in the future given his raw abilities and upside. That said, grading his 2013 season, you might be surprised to see some inconsistent coverage. Match Haden up against a top-tier wide receiver—like A.J. Green—and he’ll blow you away. But against a second-tier receiver, he’s likely to fall off and struggle. The key for Haden’s rise will be leveling out his awareness and competitiveness each week.
Haden isn’t elite as a run defender, but he does come off the ball and can beat a stalk block. He turns the run inside but will also struggle to make tackles in the backfield if he gets a clean shot on the back.
Eight missed tackles on the year stand out on Haden’s stat sheet and his film. At times, he looks locked in and impressive, but the inconsistencies are notable.
Haden can be great, elite even, but he can also be inconsistent. Once he learns to play at the same level all the time, he could be in the top three on this list.
9. Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Peterson (6’1”, 219 lbs, three seasons) is actually one of the few NFL cornerbacks to line up opposite the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver on every play. For that, we commend him. It’s noted and factors into his ranking, which is why Peterson shows up as one of the best coverage corners. He’s long, exceptionally fast and fluid in his movements. In man or zone coverage, he shows the footwork, flexible hips and eyes to attack the ball. There are some inconsistencies (see Week 15 versus the Titans), but pound-for-pound, he’s among the best at coverage.
Peterson is great in coverage, but ask him to play the run, and he disappears. Some evaluators may not care, but we want a well-rounded cornerback. His four tackles against the run all year are embarrassingly low—no matter how often offenses avoided him.
Peterson’s tackling skills bring to mind Deion Sanders—and that’s not a good thing. He’s big enough to be physical, and he will bring down players in space, but there are many misses to go along with his solo tackles.
If graded purely on talent, Peterson would be top five. Taking into account only his 2013 season, the man-coverage specialist comes in just inside the top 10.
8. Byron Maxwell, Seattle Seahawks
Byron Maxwell (6’1”, 207 lbs, three seasons) made the most of his increased opportunities in 2013 and emerged as one of the league’s better man-coverage cornerbacks. In just five starts, he recorded four interceptions while also adding nine defended passes for the season. Maxwell’s size is a major benefit, as he’s long enough to get in and poke the ball away but physical enough to put hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage and take them off their route. He is raw, and you’ll see that in his timing, but the 2013 season was a good one for Maxwell.
You would expect a big, physical cornerback like Maxwell to be a great run defender. He’s not—or wasn’t, at least. Maxwell can get held up on blocks and will struggle to attack with sharp angles. He did improve down the stretch, but grading the entire season leaves you wanting more.
Maxwell may not yet be a top-tier run defender, but he is a high-level tackler. If asked to make a play on the wide receiver post-catch, Maxwell is aggressive, strong and sure to bring down the ball-carrier.
When Brandon Browner was lost to suspension, Maxwell stepped in and stood out. Now he’s firmly entrenched as the Seahawks’ No. 2 cornerback. But on most rosters, he’d be the clear-cut No. 1.
7. Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills
The changes on defense in Buffalo greatly benefited the entire defense, but cornerback Leodis McKelvin (5’10”, 185 lbs, six seasons) saw a major boost in his play this season. Formerly known more for his speed and return skills, McKelvin emerged as a true cover corner. His trademark quickness allowed him to turn and run with receivers downfield or make quick changes underneath in space. He’s not overly physical, but McKelvin limits completions by using his hands and getting good positioning throughout the route to take away targets.
McKelvin’s lack of size and strength limit him in the run game, but he does a good job using his speed to run down ball-carriers. He’ll turn the run inside and can work in pursuit.
A good open-field tackler, McKelvin shows nice angles and closing speed. He’s not the big hitter other cornerbacks might be, but he’s a solid wrap-up tackler.
No longer “just” a speed player, McKelvin has developed into an upper-level cover man. Thanks to former Bills coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense, the former No. 11 overall pick has lived up to his draft stock.
6. Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos
Chris Harris (5’10”, 199 lbs, three seasons) might not be a name every fan recognizes, but he stands out on film. Harris lines up in the slot and has shown dominant skills there. He’s quick in space and is able to shuffle and redirect if the receiver changes direction. Harris isn’t very big but uses his hands well to press off the ball. He also showed his versatility this season, stepping out to the boundary when needed and continuing to limit targets and hold opposing quarterbacks to a low (64.9) rating.
Harris lacks the size to be a big factor against the run, but playing in the slot, he must take on blockers and still set the edge. Forcing the run back to the middle of the field is something he does better than knifing through traffic to make the tackle.
In the open field, Harris has shown the ability to bring down wide receivers and make a play on the ball. He’s not great at getting to running backs, but in space, he’ll do just fine.
Harris may be penalized by some for playing in the slot, but not here. His ability to take away inside routes and keep up with the dynamic ability of the players he faces are key to us.
5. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons
If Desmond Trufant (6’0”, 190 lbs, one season) continues to play as well as he did in his rookie season, he’ll remain in the top five of this list each year. Trufant has the size, range, reach and awareness to be an elite cover man. He runs like a seasoned veteran but has the hops to jump routes and attack the ball in flight. Trufant has good hands but will need to time his attacks better to ensure a turnover and not just a batted pass.
Learning to take on blockers and fight through trash are challenges for Trufant. That said, you already see the willingness and toughness when he’s asked to come up and play the ball.
You’ll see Trufant consistently around the ball. He’s a solid, sure tackler. His production and impact were surprising for a first-year player.
Few rookies step into the NFL and play like Trufant did in 2013. His play may have been overshadowed by the team’s surprising struggles, but he was a legitimate top-five cornerback.
4. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts
Vontae Davis (5’11”, 204 lbs, five seasons) enjoyed his best pro season in 2013, even if the stats didn’t show it. Don’t get too caught up in Davis’ one interception; the film shows him attacking the ball and converting that closing speed into defended passes. Davis has top-tier closing speed, and he’s able to make plays on the ball thanks to that talent and route awareness. Again, don’t look for greatness in Davis’ stats, but instead look at performances. His Week 7 play against Peyton Manning and the Broncos was elite, but he recorded no interceptions and may not have stood out to the casual observer.
Davis aggressively comes off the line to attack and take on outside runs. While he doesn’t show great ability if blocked initially, he’s tough enough to make plays in space.
Davis is an active tackler, but what stood out most wasn’t just the number of tackles, but the rare missed tackles we saw. Davis is a sure tackler. If he gets a shoulder or arm on the ball-carrier, he’s consistently able to bring him down.
You might not think of Davis as a top-five cornerback, but in 2013, he was. Davis’ ability in man coverage—and without much of a pass rush—stands out as top-tier.
3. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals
Lining up mostly in the slot, Tyrann Mathieu (5’9”, 186 lbs, one season) wasn’t asked to go head-to-head with many No. 1 wide receivers. That said, we’re evaluating his play and not discounting his performance because it didn’t come against Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones on every down. Mathieu excelled, no matter whom he was asked to cover. His quickness in space is jaw-dropping, and his instincts are both quick and accurate. He doesn’t guess wrong and shows the foot speed to jump routes and close on the ball. When targeted, he can make a play on the ball. When asked to eliminate receivers, Mathieu’s lack of elite size can hurt him over the top, but he’s dynamic in his lower body and fluid in his movements.
Mathieu played mostly off the ball and thus played the run more like a safety than a cornerback. He’s good in space and knows how to take angles without false steps. He showed active and aggressive abilities, but his lack of size is a factor here.
Mathieu could be classified as a hitter. He’ll come in for the big shot but can also miscalculate and bounce off ball-carriers. He’s productive, though, and isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder to make a play on the ball.
A move to free safety is likely for Mathieu in 2014. But playing as a third cornerback during his rookie season, we saw a potentially dominant long-term player.
2. Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He's now with a new team, the New England Patriots, but it was the same old Darrelle Revis (5’11”, 198 lbs, seven seasons) in 2013. The former Pitt Panther is still one of the elite cover men in the league. With exceptional short-area quickness and awareness, Revis is able to stick with wide receivers no matter the route he sees. Revis’ hand use is high-level, and he has the footwork to run with all types of receivers. While he only recorded two interceptions in 2013, that’s as much a credit to the lack of targets thrown his way as a knock on his playmaking ability.
Revis isn’t known for his run-defending abilities, but he’s stout when the ball comes his way. He won’t shy away from contact and can be an effective edge defender and backfield-crasher.
In the open field, you’ll see Revis make tackles, even if his production isn’t as high as others’. He’s looking at limited plays coming his way, which has to be taken into account if you’re only evaluating production.
Many people will tell you that Revis took a step back in 2013, but we didn’t see that. He still commands the respect of offenses and is one of the greats at eliminating a wide receiver from the game plan.
1. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
The NFL’s best coverage cornerback, Richard Sherman (6’3”, 195 lbs, three seasons) has emerged as the prototype at the position. It’s rare to command the respect from quarterbacks that Sherman receives and still be able to attack the ball and create turnovers, but his eight interceptions in 2013 are evidence of that. Sherman’s speed, length and aggressive use of his body make him nearly impossible to beat. He’s excellent at coming underneath the hands of a receiver—on jump balls especially—to break up the pass. And when running with receivers, Sherman is able to play step for step to limit targets. Sherman’s length and how aggressive he is from the second the ball is snapped allow him to be in constant position to affect the pass.
Aggressive, but thin and lean, Sherman will put himself in a position to make a play on ball-carriers in the run game. He doesn’t show up as a great traffic-shedding run defender, but he can crash the edge and take away outside runs.
In the open field, Sherman is a good tackler. He shows natural strength, long arms and the willingness to get physical. He’ll dip his head too often and miss on hits, but there’s little to complain about here.
Sherman’s 2013 season may go down as one of the best you’ll see from a cornerback. Not only did he limit targets by intimidating quarterbacks and erasing wide receivers, but he also generated turnovers. That combination is rare, and Sherman continues to do it.