Every year the NFL Network does its top 100 countdown based on the previous season. However, that’s the past, and we want to look forward to the future. Four of our writers have put together a 14 part series, predicting our top 10 at each position. We’ve also included the most under and overrated at each position. Today, we continue the series with our top 10 nickel cornerbacks.
10) Tavon Young, Baltimore Ravens
After missing 2017 with a torn ACL, Young returned in 2018 and appeared in every game, playing sparingly but well during that time. Enough so that (with a nod to a great 2016 campaign) the Ravens re-signed him last offseason to a three-year, $25.8 million deal. Unfortunately, he eventually missed all last season after neck surgery. His talent is off the charts, and he’ll make a big impact this season if he can stay on the field.
9) Chandon Sullivan, Green Bay Packers
Sullivan is a lengthy and strong cornerback who plays best when he can jam his opponent at the line of scrimmage. His aggressiveness is admirable but always keeps it in check when the whistle blows. He didn’t get nearly the snaps in 2019 that the aging Tramon Williams did, and while Williams had a great season in the slot, he is currently still a free agent, suggesting the Packers might be ready to go full time with Sullivan.
8) Nickell Robey-Coleman, Philadelphia Eagles
Consistency. Robey-Coleman has been around and has always excelled in the slot. He signed with the Eagles on a bargain one-year deal in an offseason that sees the Eagles loaded with great players but a lot of questions as to where they will fit. Robey-Coleman occasionally loses his cool on the field but has a whopping 48 passes defended in his career.
7) Jonathan Jones, New England Patriots
Jones is not going to win any interception titles, but he sticks like glue to his man on underneath routes and has excellent instincts to sniff out a run before the ball is snapped. The Patriots secondary plays a different scheme than most, often drifting just underneath their man. Consequentially Jones’ numbers have been skewed at times by giving up passes over his head. Jones is potentially a top-five slot corner. Although, he is overshadowed by his teammates at times.
6) Justin Coleman, Detroit Lions
The “tough luck” award goes to Coleman. He was targeted a monstrous 110 times last season, which left him with an unfortunate Pro Football Focus grade of 60.7, the lowest on this list. However, against 2019 playoff teams, Coleman was graded third highest in the NFL at 77.9. His biggest attribute (aside from being quick off the blocks) is his confidence. Coleman never hangs his head and welcomes the challenge of facing top talent in the NFL.
5) Brian Poole, New York Jets
Poole is on his second-straight one-year deal as a Jet and was worth every penny during his first. He is an excellent tackler and only allowed 11 first-down passes when targeted, spanning 14 starts in 2019. With the departure of Jamal Adams, he will be asked to take on more responsibility in the defensive backfield. He will likely have his number called more often to blitz in 2020 after accounting for five quarterback hits and four tackles for loss a season ago.
4) Mackensie Alexander, Cincinnati Bengals
Alexander reads quarterbacks extremely well from the zone, which has helped him become one of the fastest closers in the league. He hits like a safety and is the only cornerback in 2019 to play over 500 snaps without missing a single tackle. He was signed in the offseason by the Bengals along with backfield teammate Trae Waynes. Cincinnati was arguably the worst-tackling team in the league last year, so Alexander is a welcome addition.
3) Desmond King II, Los Angeles Chargers
To this point, King has shifted in and out of the slot when necessary. He has done such good work there that the Chargers were willing to have new acquisition Chris Harris Jr move to the outside and let King take over the slot. With a tremendous knack for reading routes, he is deceptively quick when the ball is thrown. King has shown the ability to jump routes by keeping up with the receiver while watching for the ball to come his way. Harris and Casey Hayward on opposite sides of him form a strong trio.
2) Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos
Callahan is primed for a big season, his first in Denver after missing 2019 after a freak accident in practice last offseason. Callahan had played extremely well in Chicago before following Vic Fangio to the Broncos. He has had injury issues in the past, though not to the degree of last year. Callahan often plays off the line but is not averse to stepping up for a jam and is excellent in coverage. With 20 passes defended in four seasons where he did not play all 16 games, this looks to be the best cornerback currently on the Denver roster.
1) Kenny Moore II, Indianapolis Colts
In 42 games playing in the slot position, Moore has already amassed 19 passes defended, six interceptions, and 10 tackles for loss. Add on two fumbles, four sacks, and 176 tackles. His knowledge of when it is safe to undercut his receiver for the opportunity to jump a route is uncanny, and he possesses the speed to effectively blitz the quarterback. The Colts have a lot of talent on their roster, and Moore is one that should be at the forefront in 2020.
Most Underrated – Mike Hilton, Pittsburgh Steelers
Hilton barely makes the list, largely because he still must fend off Cam Sutton in training camp to win the job. However, he should win the starting spot and relegating Sutton to fill-in duty at safety. Hilton has outstanding tracking skills and can wrap up in the open field, which is especially important in the AFC North.
Most Overrated – Bradley Roby, Houston Texans
Roby has been all over the board in terms of potential and execution. He is far and away better in man coverage than in a zone scheme, and Houston (who plays a zone, mostly) signed him as a free agent and then moved him from the outside to the slot. Luckily, he is in a division where he won’t be exploited too often in the regular season.
Check us out on our socials:
Follow Sam Schneider on Twitter @BuyAndSellYou
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images