The Dope 10: NFL CornerbacksAugust 27, 2012
By: Julian Kimble
Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions to play at any level, so all of the pros get tons of respect from us. There’s a lot of glory that comes with the position, because who wouldn’t want to win a game on a Pick Six in overtime? But cornerbacks bear a lot of responsibility as well—nobody wants to be that guy who ends up on Sportscenter because he got burned and gave up an 80-yard score. Some of the great corners are great showmen as well (yeah, we’re talking about you, Prime), while others choose to get the job done in silence, but we appreciate them all, so here are the 10 best cornerbacks in the NFL right now. Brandon Browner, Charles Tillman and Patrick Peterson had great seasons in 2011, but they just missed the cut. Still, we present a list that combines some young guys with some old guys, all of whom deserve their spots.
10. Cortland Finnegan
The unpopular choice. Everyone hates this guy, but you’re supposed to—he’s the bad guy. You need a player like Finnegan on your team, especially on defense. He’s physical, fearless, and he gets into opposing players heads and under their skin with his “dirty” play. Some of us may have wanted Andre Johnson to knock his block off a couple of seasons ago, but that incident highlighted what he’s good at—disrupting people. He’ll bring that much-needed tenacity to the Rams secondary this season.
9. Leon Hall
When Johnathan Joseph became Texan, Hall took it upon himself to lead the Bengals secondary. An impact player since his rookie season, the extremely aggressive Hall is skilled at forcing fumbles and stays tethered to wideouts in man-to-man coverage. His 2011 season was cut short by an Achilles injury, but as long as he’s healthy, he’s one of the league’s best.
8. Carlos Rogers
After years of being clowned for dropping interceptions, Rogers had a breakout season in 2011, picking off 6 passes for his new team. Rogers seemed quite eager to outshine former Redskins teammate Deangelo Hall, and he did. On top of that, he did it on a much better team. The Niners rewarded him for his outstanding performance by giving him with a new contract last Spring, thus keeping their feared defense in tact. Look for this man to continue to flourish in a new (and better) situation.
7. Brandon Flowers
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in awareness and instinct—two things that you can’t teach. At 5’9,” he has a hard time defending taller wideouts (particularly in the red zone), but he’s a great cover corner who will only get better with time.
6. Joe Haden
The good thing about Joe Haden is that he’s a damn good cornerback at just 23 years old. The downside is that he doesn’t quite get the credit or recognition he deserves because he plays for the Cleveland Browns. An exceptional athlete, the only thing that may prevent Haden from becoming one of the next great shutdown corners in the NFL are a few off the field distractions, especially of late. His 2011 season was up and down, but the bright moments showed why he’s such a headache for opposing receivers.
5. Champ Bailey
He’s getting up there in the age, but still among the NFL’s current elite, and he’ll be remembered as one of the best in league history when he finally hangs it up. Bailey isn’t quite the bolt of lightning he was in his youth, but the older he gets, the smarter he gets. Remarkably, he still has the speed to hang with opposing #1 receivers, and looks at rookie QB’s like birthday cake. Veterans know that even at 34, Bailey isn’t one to be tested. Plus, he’s been to a record 11 Pro Bowls. That’s nothing to dismiss.
4. Johnathan Joseph
Who knew? After teaming with Leon Hall as part of the Bengals secondary, Joseph tested the free agent waters and ended up in Houston. He had a standout season under Wade Phillips’ defense, picking off four passes and breaking another 15 up. Joseph will continue to lend his exceptional coverage skills to a pass defense that’s slowly demanding respect from the rest of the NFL.
3. Nnamdi Asomugha
Yeah, we know—he struggled last season, but so did the Eagles defense as a whole. The problem that Asomugha experienced last season was that he had to learn a new system on the fly, and Juan Castillo didn’t put him in the position to succeed that often. By the end of the 2011 season, he finally seemed comfortable, and opposing QB’s weren’t testing him much, which was the standard when he was a Raider. At a rangy 6-2, he has the size to smother shorter receivers and challenge the taller ones. With Asante Samuel gone, the Eagles appear committed to Asomugha and implementing a system that favors his style of play.
2. Charles Woodson
He and Champ Bailey are really on that Darrell Green, because they’re still among the most feared corners in the league well into their 30s. Green Bay’s pass defense was terrible last season, but that blame doesn’t fall on Woodson, who had one of his best seasons at the age of 35. While not as quick as he once was, he’s every bit as physical and far more intelligent. Whenever you see this dude creep up to the line of scrimmage, be afraid, but he’s head-hunting when he blitzes. He’s still excellent at stopping the run, and is a threat to take it to the house whenever the ball in his hands. Let’s not forget that this dude the Heisman as a defensive player, they should just start carving his Hall of Fame bust now.
1. Darrelle Revis
Come on, now—you knew Revis had the top spot before you even clicked on this. There’s a dead calm on Revis Island, and that’s because nothing at all is going down over there. He doesn’t give opposing receivers any room to breathe, as he has the strength to jam them up at the line of scrimmage and the speed to stay with them down the field. It’s rare to see a corner who’s such an excellent one-on-one defender all over the gridiron. He’s been regarded as the best cornerback in the NFL for the past four seasons, and will most likely continue to have that title on lock just like his side of the field.