Cornerback is one of the most important positions to a football team. Which corners in the NFL are lockdown guys, who can shut down the top wide receivers in the NFL?
1. Stephon Gilmore
Even though he is at the top of my list, Gilmore still falls under the radar as one of the best cornerbacks in football. Gilmore consistently the past two seasons has shut down the top receivers in the NFL, such as Tyreek Hill, Brandin Cooks, Antonio Brown, and Davante Adams. His length and speed allow him to match up with every receiver in the NFL, and he helps diversify Bill Belichick’s coverage scheme.
Gilmore is turning 29 this season, so his prime may be coming to an end in a couple of seasons. Still, Gilmore should have a few more seasons of this type of play, and as long as he stays with the Patriots, they will be a formidable pass defense.
2. Jalen Ramsey
One of the brightest young talents in the league a few years ago, Ramsey had a somewhat down year last season compared to his 2017 season. Still, Ramsey was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last season. Part of the reason he did have down year was due to the fact that the Jaguars were really bad all around. Ramsey is possibly the most athletic cornerback in the NFL, and he uses that to shutdown the top receivers in football.
Ramsey also is near a contract year and seriously wants to get paid next season. He has already made it very known that he wants to get paid the top cornerback salary in football. There is a large incentive to play well, so I fully expect Ramsey to keep his spot on this list.
3. Patrick Peterson
Even though Patrick Peterson has been in this league for many years, he still is one of the best cornerbacks in football. He can play man or zone, and he can also travel with the top receivers in football. It is unfortunate to watch Peterson still dominate in the league, as his prime is being wasted away on a bad team.
There have been some rumors that Peterson wants out of Arizona, but that hasn’t affected his play so far. Peterson is near the end of his contract, and really wants an extension. Expect Peterson still to play at a high level next season, and stay at the top of this list.
4. Darius Slay Jr.
Slay is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. For a few seasons now, Slay has been one of the best defenders in football. Slay doesn’t get a ton of publicity, since he plays in Detroit. In the NFC North, you have to defend Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, and Davante Adams in the division. Consistently, Slay shuts down those receivers by having elite ball skills and being able to stay in front of receivers.
He just turned 28, so he should have many years of his prime left. In Matt Patricia’s diverse coverage scheme, Slay fits his mold as an elite corner in their scheme.
5. Kyle Fuller
After his first few seasons of disappointment in the league, the last two seasons for Fuller have been amazing. Fuller has been an elite shutdown corner, and has had nine interceptions in the past two seasons. Even after getting paid last season, Fuller’s play didn’t drop at all last season. After only just turning 27, there is reason to believe Fuller should only get better this season.
6. Chris Harris Jr.
Like fellow cornerback Patrick Peterson, Harris has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league for many seasons. Harris isn’t the fastest guy, and he is really small, but he has always shut down the top receivers in the league. He uses his toughness, mental IQ, and overall technique to win. There isn’t a guy Harris isn’t able to cover in the league. After getting a new contract, he should only continue to be one of the best corners in the league.
7. A.J. Bouye
Like teammate Jalen Ramsey, Bouye had a disappointing season compared to his 2017 season. His overall production and play slipped in 2018, and he wasn’t the shutdown corner he was before. Still, Bouye is a really good player, one of the best corners in the league. With an improved offense this season for the Jaguars, the defense shouldn’t be asked to do as much in 2019, so Bouye’s play should improve.
8. Marshon Lattimore
After being a top three corner in 2017, Lattimore was nowhere as good last season. Lattimore really struggled in the beginning of the season to be the same shutdown guy he was. For a while, he wouldn’t have even made this list due to the fact that he really wasn’t good at the beginning of the year.
As time went on though, Lattimore improved his overall play, and he got back on this list. Lattimore proved that he wasn’t a fluke, and he can still impact every single football game. Still, that inconsistency really pushed him down the list. If Lattimore can stay consistent like he was his rookie year, he can get back up this list.
9. Tre’Davious White
White is the definition of an underrated player. Even though White has proved to be an elite player in both of his first two seasons, people forget how good he truly is. He hasn’t made a Pro Bowl yet, even though he should have made two. He truly is a great player, who will only continue to improve.
10. Casey Hayward
Hayward has been a great player for the Chargers. He was signed by the Chargers a few seasons ago, and there weren’t any major expectations for him. Hayward tapped into his potential though, and he proved to be an elite player. Still, even though Hayward is really good, I didn’t think he was as good last year as he was in years past. I don’t think Hayward is declining necessarily, but he had more of a down year than in years past. I expect Hayward to be better in 2019, and if he is, he will go up on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Jaire Alexander, Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Xavier Rhodes, Aqib Talib
These five aren’t in order, they are just guys who missed the cut. Xavier Rhodes had an injury prone, down year in 2018, and really was pretty bad. Xavien Howard is really good, and should only continue to improve. Expect him to possibly make this list next season. Aqib Talib is really good as well but is declining physically, so his chances of making this list next year are really slim. He doesn’t bring it as much as he used too. Byron Jones was consistent for the Cowboys last season but isn’t an elite corner yet. His athleticism is top-notch, but his technique isn’t good enough to be a top 10 corner yet. Same goes for Jaire Alexander, but he was just a rookie. His technique was arguably better than Jones last season. Alexander should improve drastically in 2018, as he has so much potential.