Moran’s NFL Positional Rankings: Cornerback

Moran’s NFL Positional Rankings: Cornerback

by July 19, 2021 0 comments

While the 2021 NFL season is still a few months away, it’s never too early to look ahead. Fanbases will argue day and night about who has the better team. Instead of debating the entire roster, why not debate positions? In the ninth part of a 12-part series, I will rank each team’s cornerback position. These rankings are a culmination of what the player has done over the entirety of their career, how they performed last season, and projecting how they will play this upcoming season.

Be sure to check out all of Moran’s NFL Positional Rankings.

1. New England Patriots

Heading into the 2021 NFL season, the Patriots have the best group of cornerbacks. Their top four cornerbacks are Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jalen Mills. Gilmore and Jackson are two of the best outside cornerbacks in football. Jones is one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league. Last season, Jackson had nine interceptions. Hopefully, the team gets Gilmore back in time for training camp. Mills was a part of the Patriots’ big free-agent class. It will be interesting to see how he is utilized.

2. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have the best cornerback in the NFL, Jalen Ramsey. Last season, he played the best football of his career. This year, expect him to be even better. Ramsey is incredibly gifted physically. He has great size, speed, and strength. Darious Williams is coming off a terrific year, one in which he was one of the best in the game. Ramsey and Williams are right there with Gilmore and Jackson as the best cornerback duos. Heading into his third year, David Long Jr. will get his best opportunity yet to contribute. Long is a talented, young player. It will be fascinating to see how he plays.

3. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have four cornerbacks all capable of having very good seasons. Bryce Callahan is coming off a very stellar year. He should keep up his production for this Broncos defense. In free agency, the team signed two good, veteran players in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller. Later on in the offseason, the Broncos drafted Patrick Surtain Jr. in the first round. Surtain is a safe prospect who will have a great career. In terms of ranking NFL team’s top four cornerbacks, the Broncos have the best group.

4. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have a top-tier cornerback in Marlon Humphrey. Over his first four seasons, Humphrey has been exceptional. He is still a young player in the prime of his career. Humphrey will remain an elite-level cornerback in football. Marcus Peters has been very good for the Ravens. Peters has special instincts and ball skills. He is the ultimate playmaker. This season, the Ravens will finally have a healthy Tavon Young in the slot. In the past, Young has proven to be one of the best inside. Jimmy Smith provides great depth to this secondary. The team drafted an intriguing prospect in Shaun Wade who can play in the slot.

5. Miami Dolphins

Xavien Howard just had a special season. He is the best in terms of creating turnovers in football. Hopefully, he ends up back with the Dolphins soon so he can continue to lead this defense. Last offseason, Byron Jones was a big free-agent signing. Jones is a good player in coverage. He should have a solid season. Out of Nik Needham, Noah Igbinoghene, and Justin Coleman, it will be interesting to see who gets the biggest role. Needham did good things in the slot last season. Igbinoghene was drafted by the Dolphins in the first round last season. Previously, Coleman has played good football as a slot cornerback.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have a great trio of young cornerbacks. Last season, Carlton Davis elevated his game as he became one of the better players in the league at the position. Two 2019 draft picks, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting have had good starts for the Buccaneers. Murphy-Bunting plays inside and had success on the Buccaneers’ road to winning the Super Bowl. Dean has great speed and coverage ability. In 2021, expect these three to continue their strong play.

7. Washington Football Team

In free agency, Washington made a big-ticket signing in William Jackson III. He has been very successful as a man-to-man cornerback. Jackson makes this already great defense even better. Last offseason, Washington added Kendall Fuller. Fuller is a fairly underrated player. He provides great versatility. In the draft, Washington selected Benjamin St-Juste in the third round. He has the potential to contribute as a rookie. St-Juste possesses great length. If he holds up it would allow Fuller to work inside. Bobby McCain was a good depth addition. If St-Juste cannot start early on McCain can play the slot position.

8. New York Giants

The Giants have a top-caliber cornerback in the NFL in James Bradberry. Last offseason, Bradberry was a free-agent and reunited with Dave Gettleman signing with the Giants. He went on to have the best year of his career. He enters 2021 as a staple to the Giants defense, one that played great football just a season ago. This offseason, the Giants upgraded the rest of the position. In free agency, they signed Adoree’ Jackson. As long as he is healthy, Jackson will provide a boost opposite Bradberry. In the third round of the draft, the Giants selected Aaron Robinson. Robinson is a very good slot cornerback who will help as a rookie.

9. New Orleans Saints

The Saints have a premier cornerback in the game in Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is a physical specimen who has attained great early success. This season, it will be important for Lattimore to just play more consistently. In the draft, the Saints selected Paulson Adebo. In college, Adebo did great things. He has the chance to start opposite of Lattimore as a rookie. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a terrific, versatile young player. Gardner-Johnson can play in the slot and be one of the best. The Saints have capable cornerback depth in P.J. Williams and Patrick Robinson.

10. Buffalo Bills

Tre’Davious White is a great cornerback who has been vital in the recent turnaround of the Bills. He is one of the best in football as a cover corner. He is in the prime of his career. White will remain amongst the best in 2021. Down the stretch last season, Taron Johnson was one of the best slot cornerbacks in football. Anticipate Johnson building on that this year. Opposite of White outside, Levi Wallace has done good things for an undrafted player. Wallace is more than capable of getting the job done for the Bills. Dane Jackson is a young player worth keeping an eye on. He could have a role and contribute.

11. Cleveland Browns

This offseason, the Browns did a great job of bolstering their group of cornerbacks. They already had a great, young player in Denzel Ward. Early in free agency, the Browns signed Troy Hill. Hill is a very underrated player with versatility. Ward and Hill can both play outside and in the slot. It will be interesting to see how they are deployed. In the first round of the draft, the Browns selected exciting prospect, Greg Newsome II. Newsome has length and athletic ability. Expect him to contribute in his first season. Greedy Williams should have a role and provides very good depth.

12. Green Bay Packers

Jaire Alexander is one of the best cornerbacks in football. He has great speed and the ability to play against the best wide receivers in man coverage. In the draft, the Packers spent their first-round pick on Eric Stokes. He has adequate length and top-end speed. Stokes had great success in college in man-to-man. Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan were both retained this offseason. They could be competing for the third cornerback position.

13. Indianapolis Colts

Kenny Moore is the best slot cornerback currently in the NFL. Over the last few years, Moore has been awesome. He will continue his strong play. Last offseason, the Colts signed Xavier Rhodes. Surprisingly, Rhodes had a stellar bounce-back season. It led to the team re-signing him this offseason. Third-year player Rock Ya-Sin is entering an important year. Ya-Sin has the ability to be effective as an outside cornerback.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars

Heading into the 2021 season, the Jaguars have a deep group of corners. The team made a big splash in free agency signing Shaquill Griffin. Over the last two drafts, they spent early picks on C.J. Henderson and Tyson Campbell. With Griffin as a lock to start at one of the outside positions, it will be interesting to see how Henderson and Campbell are utilized. Both are exciting talents. Tre Herndon and Sidney Jones are two very good backups that could earn playing time.

15. Cincinnati Bengals

In free agency, over the last two years, the Bengals have invested a lot at cornerback. The team has signed Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, and Mike Hilton. Hilton is one of the best slot cornerbacks in football. Waynes and Awuzie can be an above-average outside tandem. Both possess length to play on the boundary. A healthy Waynes and the additions of Awuzie and Hilton give this group a chance to be good.

16. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers enter this season with a stellar cornerback group. Their top-five at the position from last season were all free agents this offseason. They ended up keeping three. Emmanuel Moseley was brought back early on to a two-year deal. Moseley has become a very solid player. Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams both re-signed for one year. It was great to see Verrett back healthy last season. He showed the talent he has always had. Williams is a good slot cornerback. In the draft, Deommodore Lenoir was added. Lenoir is a prospect who could contribute.

17. Tennessee Titans

The Titans revamped their cornerback group this offseason after a long season at the position last year. They drafted a very exciting prospect, Caleb Farley. If it were not for his medical concerns, Farley would have been long gone before the Titans’ pick. He is an exceptional talent as a cornerback in man coverage. Hopefully, he is fully healthy soon. In free agency, the Titans added Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins is still capable of being a very productive player. In his second season, hopefully, Kristian Fulton is healthy and can be the player he is capable of. He should start in the slot. In the third round of the draft, the Titans added Elijah Molden. Molden can also play inside.

18. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have done a good job of finding cornerbacks with non-premium resources. L’Jarius Sneed had an awesome rookie year. Sneed should continue to improve. This offseason, Charvarius Ward had his restricted tender picked up. He has been a productive cornerback for the Chiefs. Rashad Fenton has had a good start to his career. He should start in the slot. These three have the potential to move up.

19. Los Angeles Chargers

Even at this later point in his career, Chris Harris Jr. is still a very good slot cornerback. This season, Harris should help the Chargers’ defense. In free agency, the team re-signed Michael Davis to a three-year contract. As a former undrafted free agent, Davis has turned into a very respectable player. In the draft, the Chargers selected an exciting prospect, Asante Samuel Jr. He should have a role right away. This trio can be productive in 2021.

20. Houston Texans

Bradley Roby is a great cornerback. Roby has speed and ability in man coverage. He will be one of the Texans’ better players this season. In free agency, the Texans signed Desmond King. He has done some very good things in the slot. King should remain productive inside this season. Entering his third season, it is time for Lonnie Johnson to become a consistent outside cornerback. He has great length, which should help him.

21. Chicago Bears

Jaylon Johnson had a very impressive rookie season. In 2021, expect Johnson to keep improving. Late in the draft, the Bears added Thomas Graham Jr. Graham is a good prospect who can become a solid contributor. He should start inside at the slot cornerback position. In free agency, the Bears signed Desmond Trufant. He will likely start outside opposite Johnson. Trufant has had a great career but is older now.

22. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers addressed this big need in the first round of the draft. They selected Jaycee Horn. He is an exciting player who will be a key contributor right away. Horn is a physical player with size. Donte Jackson is a solid player entering the final year of his rookie contract. He has top-end speed. The third cornerback will likely be either A.J. Bouye or Troy Pride. Bouye was a veteran free-agent addition. Pride was just drafted last year.

23. Seattle Seahawks

D.J. Reed is a player to keep an eye on entering 2021. Reed proved some good things a year ago. With unknowns around him, the Seahawks will need Reed to keep up his strong play. Ahkello Witherspoon was added in free agency. Witherspoon has great length. To this point, he has been up and down as a player. Tre Flowers has been with the Seahawks for some time now.

24. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have multiple corners who could be called upon to contribute. Cameron Dantzler had an impressive first season. He has great length and fits the Vikings scheme well. In free agency, the Vikings acquired Patrick Peterson. It will be interesting to see what Peterson has left. Recently, the Vikings acquired Bashaud Breeland. Second-year player Jeff Gladney will likely be the starter in the slot.

25. Detroit Lions

The Lions have some good youth at the cornerback position. Over the last three drafts, they have selected Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Amani Oruwariye. Okudah was an early first-round pick. He has the talent and should take a second-year leap. In the draft this year, it was a surprise to see how far Melifonwu fell. He has tremendous size. Oruwariye has been good for the Lions and should remain a contributor.

26. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals enter the 2021 season with some unknowns at cornerback. Entering his third season, Byron Murphy has to take his game to the next level. It will be interesting to see if he is used in the slot or on the outside. In free agency, the team acquired veteran Malcolm Butler. Butler is a steady player capable of helping this defense. Darqueze Dennard was added this offseason. The Cardinals also brought back Robert Alford.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a question mark at one of their starting cornerback positions. Long-time veteran Joe Haden will be one starter on the outside. Haden has had a great career and hopefully has a good season. This offseason, the team brought Cameron Sutton back. Sutton is an aggressive, versatile defense back. It will be interesting to see where he is deployed the most in a bigger role. Rookie undrafted free agent Shakur Brown could end up starting in the slot.

28. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ current group of cornerbacks is unproven but there is potential as a result of it being young. Over the last two drafts, they selected Trevon Diggs and Kelvin Joseph both in the second round. As a rookie, Diggs showed encouraging things. In his second season, he should get even better. Joseph is a prospect with very good talent. Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are the two veterans of this group who should have roles. Both can play in the slot.

29. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles only have two players currently at cornerback who have proven anything. Darius Slay has had a great career. However, he is older now and has shown some signs of slowing down. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back to form this year. Avonte Maddox is entering the final year of his contract. Maddox has done some good things over his first few seasons. It will be interesting to see if he is utilized inside or outside for the Eagles.

30. Las Vegas Raiders

Entering 2021, the Raiders have a lot of unproven youth at cornerback. If these young players can become reliable and consistent players it would be a needed plus for the Raiders. Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, and Amik Robertson will all have an opportunity to show what they are capable of. Mullen and Arnette are both long corners who were early draft picks. Robertson can play in the slot. The veteran depth consists of Casey Hayward and Nevin Lawson.

31. Atlanta Falcons

This group does not look too great. Entering his second season, expect former first-round draft pick A.J. Terrell to improve as a player for the Falcons. He has the skill needed to be a contributor. Isaiah Oliver is entering a pivotal year. He has not quite played up to the level some expected. Hopefully, Kendall Sheffield improves his game. Fabian Moreau could carve out a role.

32. New York Jets

The Jets enter 2021 with a completely unknown cornerback group. Hopefully, in his second season, Bryce Hall can stay healthy and show his capability. Blessuan Austin has had a sizable role in his first two years. This season, he will have to earn playing time. In the draft, the Jets selected Michael Carter II. He is very fast and will likely be the starting slot cornerback. It would be great if he could become a solid player. As an undrafted rookie, Isaiah Dunn is worth following. Jason Pinnock was a late-round draft pick who could earn reps.

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