Dylan’s top ten cornerbacks heading into 2015/16

We’ve taken a look at every position on the offensive side of the ball, so now we turn our attention to the defense, and to start things off it’s corners under the spotlight. One of the most athletic and skillful positions in the game, some of the most talented players in the NFL are found at the cornerback position, and in many cases they aren’t shy in reminding everyone of that fact. Here’s looking at you Sherman…
 

10) Sean Smith

Targeted 86 times, Kansas City Chiefs corner Smith allowed 57% pass completion, registered 51 total tackles and snagged one pick in 2014. He was beaten for three touchdowns and missed seven tackles which drops him down to the tail end of the list, but not conceding a single penalty in over 1,000 snaps is mightily impressive. He defensed* 16 passes, the fourth most of anyone on this list and has very impressive size and skill that allows him to attack the ball on the ground or in the air. Smith is a key part of a superb Kansas pass defense that ranked second in the NFL last season and though there were a whole host of players vying for the number ten spot, I’m giving the nod to Smith.
 

9) Aqib Talib

Talib’s physicality and size allows him to be a dominant player in press coverage, and 16 defensed* passes recorded in 2014 is an impressive total. He was beaten for four touchdowns, but registered the same amount of interceptions, the joint most on this list along with Richard Sherman and Vontae Davis (spoiler if you didn’t know those two were going to appear later). He made 64 total tackles, and is one of the most impressive corners against the run. One of the most experienced names to make the top ten, at 29 years old and as part of a seriously talented Denver secondary, there’s no reason to suggest Talib won’t have yet another excellent season in 2015.
 

8) Casey Hayward

Hayward gets labelled as just a slot cornerback, which means I wouldn’t be surprised to see him omitted from many top ten lists this season. I however am a big fan, and though he was not on the field for anywhere near as many snaps as many of the other players on this list, his ability to negate the production of his man means he deserves to be praised highly. As a rookie in 2012, Hayward held opposing quarterbacks to an incredibly low 31.1 passer rating and procured six interceptions along with a forced fumble and 55 tackles. Injury destroyed his 2013 season, but he performed very well in 2014, albeit limited to just 435 snaps. With the Packers losing Tramon Williams and Davon House this off-season, Hayward will be shifted into the spotlight in 2015, and I am expecting him to thrive.
 

7) Desmond Trufant

After being taken with the 22nd overall pick in 2013, Trufant enjoyed a superb first season, setting a record in Atlanta for most passes defensed by a rookie with 17. In 2014 he continued to be just as consistent in coverage, recording 16 defensed passes and holding opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 74.0. He allowed a pass completion percentage of 58.7, grabbed three interceptions and allowed just two touchdowns from 92 passes thrown in his direction. Trufant is underrated in my mind, and his job is made harder by the fact he plays in a Falcons team with absolutely zero pass rush. He definitely deserves his spot among the elite cornerbacks of the league, and if he continues to play at the level we have witnessed the last two years then number seven will look very low indeed.
 

6) Patrick Peterson

No one can deny that Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson had a down year in 2014, and there are plenty of players who on the strength of their performance last season alone deserve to be placed above him on this list. However, I’m not ready to write off the four time pro-bowler just yet. Only seven passes defensed, 13 penalties conceded and an allowed quarterback rating of 97.0 is nowhere near the standard we’ve come to expect, but his being diagnosed with diabetes may have shed some light on a key reason for his poor performance. Peterson is one of a rare breed of elite cornerback who stick with the number one receiver and follow them around the field. This means his stats aren’t always the most impressive, but considering who he is covering, his quality cannot be overstated. If we see a fully fit Peterson in 2015, he will prove why he deserves his spot on this list.
 

5) Joe Haden

No matter where they line up, Joe Haden marks the best opposing receiver on every play. He is a shut-down corner with elite athleticism and like three of the four guys above him on this list could make an argument to be spotted higher. In 2014 he gave up four touchdowns and was penalised 10 times, not fantastic, but he did record three interceptions and defensed 20 passes, the most of any player who makes my top ten. He was targeted 113 times, again the most of any of my top ten, and allowed a completion percentage of just 53.1. His 77 total tackles were once again the most of any player on this list and coupled with the fact he missed just four is mightily impressive. I’ve often said the Cleveland Browns can’t have nice things, but Haden is one of the few exceptions to that rule it seems.
 

4) Chris Harris Jr

In 2014 Harris was thrown at 89 times without allowing a single touchdown. Now that’s impressive. In fact, since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Harris has allowed just six touchdowns, a truly incredible feat. He picked off three passes and recorded 17 defensed passes last year, allowing just 51.7 percent of receptions, the fourth lowest of my top ten. Passes that were caught averaged only 7.7 yards per completion, the lowest for any cornerback in the NFL. He also notched 51 total tackles, but did miss six. He trailed only Vontae Davis in allowed quarterback rating, with a lowly 47.8. Returning to action after suffering a torn ACL is impressive enough, but returning and registering a pro-bowl calibre season deserves huge credit, and it is scandalous that the NFL top 100 list doesn’t include his name. The Denver Broncos face a tough year after much change and uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball, but at least they can be assured that their secondary will remain a strength, with the 26 year old Harris entering his prime as one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL.
 

3) Richard Sherman

Many people will tell you that Richard Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFL, Richard Sherman being one of them. He is undoubtedly in the discussion, and the mystique he has built up, the mind games he has used to influence quarterbacks into avoiding his side of field seemingly at all costs is part of the reason why many rate him so highly. The fact he was thrown at less than any other player on my top ten list is not to his detriment, instead it is the ultimate sign of respect, proving that quarterbacks often will not test him, knowing how dangerous he is. One thing is for certain, no matter how infuriating many people may find him, as much as he talks the talk, he walks the walk on the field as a playmaking ball-hawk, recording 24 interceptions over the course of 64 career games. For comparison purposes; Vontae Davis has 17 in 85, Chris Harris 10 in 63, Darrelle Revis 23 in 111 and Joe Haden 16 in 72. Last season Sherman gave up only one touchdown, and quarterbacks managed a poor 47.8 passer rating against him. He made 60 combined tackles, missing just five and defensed 8 passes. He is often derided for the fact he plays in a powerful defensive unit that many believe makes him appear better than he is; I don’t buy that necessarily and I’m sure Sherman would be a star wherever he played, still, lining up for 91.3% of snaps in the same zone on the left side of the field and not specifically against the opponent’s number one target means he loses marks in my eyes. Sherman is the best at what he does, he’s just not the best cornerback overall.
 

2) Vontae Davis

Based on the majority of statistical evidence, Vontae Davis is the best cornerback in the NFL. 2014 saw him allow just 43.7% of passes to be caught, the lowest percentage of anyone on this list, and he did not allow a single touchdown from the 71 times he was targeted. He also grabbed four interceptions, the joint most of the top ten. He defensed 18 passes, and according to profootballfocus.com led all corners in holding opposing quarterbacks to a miserly 38.8 rating. He also recorded just two missed tackles opposite 43 combined successful ones. The most obviously negative stat is the seven penalties against him, but his two forced fumbles – the most of anyone in the top ten – offsets that. As a member of the Indianapolis Colts, he did of course reap the benefit of playing against quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, Charlie Whitehurst and Case Keenum on multiple occasions, but let’s not hold that against him too much as he did also have excellent games against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo.
 

1) Darrelle Revis

This was the hardest list so far to choose a player to fill the coveted number one spot. An argument could be made for any of the top four being awarded the top place, but in the end the honour is bestowed upon Darrelle Revis. He is remarkable in the fact that covers number one receivers constantly, shadowing them around the field in a way that the likes of Richard Sherman do not. He also works in the slot and sometimes even covers tight ends, making him in my mind the most versatile corner in the NFL. As a Super Bowl winning Patriot in 2014 Revis made 50 tackles, missing just four, and recorded 14 defensed passes. He allowed two touchdowns and snagged two interceptions. His allowed quarterback rating of 72.6 may seem high compared to the other guys at the top of this list, but the time he spent defending the slot (23.3% of snaps) inflates the completion percentage against him. The respect he commands from opposing quarterbacks and the adjustments offenses make in an attempt to avoid him is another example of why he has earned the reputation he has. After all, there’s a very good reason why “Revis Island” is a permanent part of the NFL lexicon.

 

*Passes defensedStatistic from Sportingcharts.com – Credited when an incomplete pass is caused by a defensive player tipping or blocking the ball, or by a tackle simultaneous to the arrival of the football which results in breaking up the catch.

 

Agree? Disagree? Want to know the names of the guys who just missed out? As always feel free to comment, like, share and review at all the usual places, and find me on Twitter @Dylanbaker1986