Ranking the NFL’s five best cornerback situations heading into the 2020 NFL Draft


In the modern NFL, passing is king. This means pass defense also needs to be king, assuming you want your defense to get off the field at some point. If you can’t stop the pass, you simply are not going to win many football games. Generally speaking, there are two ways to disrupt an opponent’s passing game. You can contest the point of the catch, or you can make throwing the actual pass as difficult as possible for the opposing quarterback. There is a bit of a debate these days regarding which of those things is more important, and while NFL teams have traditionally viewed the pass rush as the key to a successful pass defense, there is a growing school of thought around the league that values the back end of the defense more than the front. 

So, while we took some time yesterday to examine the teams that have major needs along the edge, we’re going to use the space below to dig into the teams that have done the best job of loading up at cornerback, where the coverage responsibilities for defenders are of the utmost importance. Before we get to the top five, a few honorable mention teams that fell just short of making the list: apologies to the 49ers, Bills, Packers, and Saints. 

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

Remember when the Browns outright cut Joe Haden because he refused to take a pay cut from $11 million to $7 million? That was hilarious(ly stupid). A few years later, Haden is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He’s coming off a season where he allowed a passer rating of just 70.0 on throws in his direction, per Pro Football Focus, ranking 14th out of 140 corners who spent at least 100 snaps in coverage. Fellow outside corner Steven Nelson, signed away from the Kansas City Chiefs, allowed just a 73.3 passer rating, ranking 20th among the same group of players. That duo is supplemented by slot man Mike Hilton, who had a bit of a down season last year but has reached incredible highs working on the inside. Add in the versatility safety Minkah Fitzpatrick brings to drop down as a corner, and this is a really strong group.

4. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins better have one of the best cornerback units in the league, considering how much they’re spending at the position. They have broken the bank with a record-setting corner contract in back-to-back offseasons, first splashing the pot for Xavien Howard and then springing for a market-setting deal on Byron Jones. Both players are tall, long, strong corners who excel at using their bodies to take away any available throwing windows, and they should fit extremely well in Brian Flores’ man-coverage schemes. Nik Needham was an underrated find for last season’s Dolphins in the slot, and he should be freed up to play a bit more aggressively now that there are other quality corners in the backfield with him.

3. New England Patriots

This was the clear-cut best cornerback group in the NFL for most of last season. Stephon Gilmore is the (deserved) reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He allowed a 47.4 passer rating on throws in his direction, fifth-best among the aforementioned group of 140 players. And that wasn’t even the best mark on his own team, as J.C. Jackson held opponents to a 37.0 passer rating, the single best mark in the league. No. 3 corner Jason McCourty, who brings a ton of flexibility to the backfield, allowed a 63.3 rating, ninth-best within that same group. The Pats, obviously, were the only team to have three players ranked inside the top 10. Throw in Jonathan Jones for depth and New England is deservingly considering among the top corner units in the league. The one thing holding them back this year is the team’s pass rush exodus, which could force them to cover for longer periods of post-snap time in 2020.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ secondary broke out in a big way a couple of years ago, with Desmond King joining Casey Hayward among the top corners in the NFL. They were supplemented by a versatile group of safeties including Derwin James, the past couple years, but now the Chargers have added a player who has probably been either the best or second-best corner in the entire league over the past five seasons in Chris Harris Jr. King should be able to have a bounceback year with Harris sliding into the lineup and freeing him to roam a bit more as he did two years ago, and we know James, Nasir Adderley, and Rayshawn Jenkins have the versatility to cover slot receivers and tight ends as well. This is the deepest secondary in football. 

1. Baltimore Ravens

Marcus Peters was the best corner in football after arriving in Baltimore last season. Marlon Humphrey might have been the second-best corner in the league behind Gilmore throughout the entire season. Jimmy Smith is as solid as they come on the outside, and held opponents to one of the 10 lowest passer ratings in the NFL last year. This trio has everything you want out of a cornerback group. Size and strength (Smith). Aggressiveness (Peters). Versatility (Humphrey). And they have Earl Thomas cleaning things up behind them.





Source link