The recent retirement of cornerback Darrelle Revis began a debate over his place in NFL history and whether his resume is good enough for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There is no question that Revis was the league’s best shut-down corner in his prime. It begs the question: who are the Revises of 2018? Which cornerbacks are the best the NFL has to offer? There are many contenders to the throne.
The Saints have been known for offense led a future Hall of Fame signal caller in Drew Brees. For much of Brees’ tenure in the bayou, he had to put up an insane number of points because the defense just couldn’t hold up their end of their bargain.
The 2012 version of the Saints defense was historically bad, surrendering an NFL-record 7,042 yards. Five seasons later, the Saints defense looked nothing like their 2012 self. Lattimore is the biggest reason why.
In his rookie season, Lattimore didn’t allow a single touchdown. When quarterbacks were foolish enough to throw in his direction, he allowed a passer rating of just 51.3. He showed his true potential when drawing a 1-on-1 assignment against the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones, one of the NFL’s elite receivers. Lattimore wasn’t the least bit fazed when going up against Jones and while he didn’t shut him completely, he most certainly made his presence felt.
Lattimore finished 2017 with five interceptions (third among NFL cornerbacks) and 18 passes defended. He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. If his 2017 season is any indication, Lattimore will be terrorizing receivers for years to come.
Peterson’s greatness is epitomized by the fact quarterbacks just don’t throw in his direction. He has been among the NFL’s least targeted corners in four of the last five seasons.
Peterson keeps offensive coordinators up all night because there isn’t anything he can’t do. He can shadow an offense’s No. 1 receiver as well as play the slot or track speedsters across the middle of the field. Peterson’s presence alone makes the Cardinals secondary fearsome despite the significant drop-off in talent after him on the depth chart.
Peterson’s 2017 season wasn’t a statistical smorgasbord as he allowed more touchdowns (four) than he had interceptions (one). There were rumors he was unhappy playing for a team that went 15-16-1 in the past two seasons. Peterson’s frustration reached critical during a Week 5 drubbing against the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cardinals gave up a 72-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. Peterson was furious and had to be separated from Cardinals receivers coach Kevin Ross, unusual behavior from a player who is normally composed on the sideline.
Still, Peterson has made the Pro Bowl in each of his seven NFL seasons. Quarterbacks’ refusal to throw in his area of the field proves he’s still one of the league’s elite cornerbacks.
The biggest criticism of Slay is that he doesn’t snatch enough interceptions. In 2017, he silenced the critics with eight, leading all cornerbacks and tied with Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard for the NFL-lead.
Slay can play in any kind of defense. His combination of speed, instincts, and ability make him especially dangerous. He lived up to his nickname of Big Play Slay when going up against some of the NFL’s best receivers. Last season, he didn’t allow a touchdown against Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, or Julio Jones.
Slay did surrender three touchdowns and allowed more than 700 yards. His big play ability will be on full display in new Lions head coach Matt Patricia’s defense.
Talib always had the potential to be among the NFL’s best cornerbacks. He is physical, aggressive, and possesses the uncanny ability to get into an opponent’s head (ask Michael Crabtree).
Talib has mastered the art of the pick-six as he is the NFL’s active leader in interception returns for a touchdown with 10. In NFL history, only Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, Darren Sharper, and Charles Woodson have more. He has made the Pro Bowl five consecutive years with an All-Pro season in 2016. Talib is one of the most complete cornerbacks but his greatest enemy very well may be himself.
Talib was suspended twice for on-field conduct including once for fighting Crabtree. He missed the Broncos’ trip to the White House after winning Super Bowl 50 after suffering a gunshot wound.
Talib was traded to the Rams in the offseason, his fourth team. He will now be paired with Marcus Peters to form one of the NFL’s most potent cornerback tandems. At 32 years of age, this could be his final NFL stop. He is still among the best in the league at his position. Talib needs to be part of a few championship runs to be considered all-time great.
6. Marcus Peters—Los Angeles Rams
Peters has much in common with his new teammate, Aqib Talib. He is an All-Pro corner with an intriguing mix of talent and volatility.
Peters is the first player since future Hall of Famer Ed Reed (2002-04) with five interceptions in each of his first three NFL seasons. His five interceptions in 2017 was third among cornerbacks. Peters excels in zone coverage, an expert at jumping routes and taking advantage of poor plays. He can be somewhat exposed in man-to-man situations.
Peters was traded to the Rams after three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs where his capricious nature often got him in trouble. He got into a shouting match with his defensive coordinator and screamed obscenities at Chiefs fans behind the bench. Peters was also suspended after tossing an official’s penalty flag into the crowd and leaving the field without being ejected.
Peters is now paired with the equally mercurial Talib. They have the potential to be a lethal combination in new Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense. Peters is poised to take the next level but he has to get out of his own way.
Latest From FPC on SportsCastr
Hayward has a bigger chip on his shoulder than any player on this list. After he was named No. 59 on the NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2018, he was annoyed because he thought his fellow players “got to be crazy to think there are 58 players better than me”.
Hayward’s 2017 season, his first with the Chargers, lends credence to his disbelief. He had 40 total tackles, 22 passes defended, and four interceptions. Hayward had the lowest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks (42.7) among full-time starters.
Hayward’s football IQ is among the best in the NFL and he always finds his way to the ball. He seems to improve every season, even if it’s not reflected in his numbers. If he continues on his current path, he need not worry about how his fellow NFL players view him. They will have no choice but to give him his props.
Harris has all the accolades an NFL player could ask for: First-team All Pro, three-time Pro Bowl selection, and Super Bowl champion. He also has that quality that all great cornerbacks have: quarterbacks are hesistant to throw in his direction.
In 2017, Harris had 40 total tackles, seven passes defended, and two interceptions. Over the last three seasons, no corner has allowed fewer yards per coverage per snap than Harris. This is phenomenal considering Harris was undrafted out the University of Kansas, a school known more for hoops than the gridiron.
Harris can play the slot or the outside with equal efficiency. He is physical, makes plays on the ball and excellent in run coverage. Harris benefited greatly from playing opposite Aqib Talib, who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason. In 2018, Harris will move from the slot to covering opponents’ No. 1 receiver.
Harris ensures that the Broncos’ No Fly Zone will continue, even without Talib.
Rhodes spent 2017 shutting down virtually every receiver he faced.
He surrendered just two touchdowns. Quarterbacks who threw in his direction had a collective 79.0 passer rating and completed a pedestrian 54.7 percent of passes. Rhodes is everything you want in a cornerback.
He’s big (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and physical at the point of attack. He gives receivers fits because he makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to create separation because he pushes them off their routes. His ability to play bump-and-run and off coverage makes him one of the most complete corners in the NFL.
Rhodes’ physicality comes at a price. He’s been penalized 50 times in his five-year NFL career. He was selected to the last two Pro Bowls and received his first All-Pro selection last year. Rhodes certainly has confidence in his abilities, declaring himself the best cornerback in the NFL in a Mad Dog Sports Radio interview in SiriusXM. He isn’t that far off.
Bouye is half of the NFL’s best cornerback tandem in 2017 and one of the biggest reasons why the Jaguars were one game away from the Super Bowl for only the second time in their history.
He is used to flying under the radar being undrafted out of the football factory that is Central Florida. His father, a former college linebacker, pushed him physically by working him out in the gym of the correctional facility where he worked. Bouye’s dad also instilled in him the value of being coachable, something that eluded him in his career.
Bouye always had size (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) and football IQ working for him. He isn’t the speediest receiver but doesn’t get beat deep. When he signed his multi-year deal with the Jaguars, critics said he was just another average player. He was accused of having a good 2016 season with the Houston Texans and parlayed it into a big contract with no skills to justify the money.
Bouye made his presence known in 2017 with six interceptions, third in the NFL, and 18 passes defended. He was named to his first Pro Bowl and was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 10 after he intercepted a pass that set up the game-winning field goal.
Bouye is just one half of the reason why the Jaguars’ secondary is so potent. The other is…
1. Jalen Ramsey—Jacksonville Jaguars
Ramsey is brash and bold with confidence that borders on arrogance. He is already a notorious trash talker who gets into opponents’ heads. It would just be bluster if he weren’t so damn good.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Ramsey can jam virtually any receiver at the line. He excels in any system but is especially dangerous in man-to-man coverage. He had four interceptions in 2017 with 17 passes defended.
Ramsey doesn’t know the ins and outs of every offense he faces. He’s not a cerebral, film watching player. He’s more instinctual. Ramsey doesn’t immerse himself in the defensive game plan every week, he just locks down the receiver he’s assigned to. He has an unwavering belief in himself and his abilities that cannot be measured numerically.
Ramsey is the closest thing the NFL currently has to a Revis Island. He is not there yet, however. Before he gets to that level, he will need a few more seasons of productivity. If Ramsey continues at his blistering pace, he could potentially become the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history when his rookie deal expires.
Jackrabbit only played nine games due to suspension and injury last year. He still managed three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns (tied for the NFL-lead). Questions of his effort arose during the 3-13 dumpster fire that was the Giants’ 2017 season. Every time Jenkins intercepts a pass, the pick-six is always a threat. He is second among active players with seven in his career and tied for 11th in NFL history. There is no doubt Jenkins is one of the NFL’s best corners when he is fully engaged and actually trying to compete. It will be interesting to see if he can overcome personal drama and injury to bounce back in 2018.
Sherman, like Jenkins, was limited to nine games in 2017 because of a torn Achilles. Since he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011, Sherman leads the NFL in interceptions (32), passes defended (99), completion percentage allowed (47.4), and passing rating allowed (50.9) among cornerbacks with a minimum of 300 targets. Sherman signed with the 49ers in the offseason, officially closing the door on the Legion of Boom. He is now 30 years old and coming off a major injury. Sherman is one of the NFL’s smartest players and has something to prove to his old team that he will now face twice a season.
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.