The Best Corners in the NFL

In today’s NFL the most important positions on a defense are the pass rushers and the corners. How is that so? The answer is simple. Who gets the most money when it comes time for free agency? Almost since the salary cap system has been in place, the highest paid players on most defenses are corners and pass rushers. Sure, you can find exceptions, but for the most part, that holds true. When you put together a list of the best corners in the NFL, three players stand alone at the top of the list. They are in no particular order, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, and Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals. After those three, you would get a good argument as to who is the next best, and the rankings vary depending on who does the evaluation and his criteria. Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks Right of the bat, the things that separates Sherman from Peterson and Revis is Sherman was a fifth round draft choice, while the other two went in the first round. Sherman wasn't supposed to be as good as he is. When Sherman entered the NFL in 2011, he had a good combine but not a great one. At 6’3 – 195, he was taller than most but he ran only 4.56, and that hurt him in the draft because corner is a stop watch driven position. The evaluators missed his change of direction, body control, and overall athleticism. At 6’3, Sherman had a 6.82 3-cone, a 10’5 standing long jump, and a 38” vertical jump. He also had a competitive nature that is second to none and may well have been the best press cover corner in that draft. Once he got to the NFL, his athleticism, intangibles, press cover skills, and ball skills took over. In his previous four seasons in the NFL, he has improved on those skills and it can be said that no one is better when it comes to press man. He is outstanding when it comes to jamming a receiver or re-routing him. He gets in his opponents hip pocket and never loses track of him. Once the ball is in the air, he is like a receiver with outstanding hands and ball reactions. As good as Sherman is in pass coverage, the same can be said about run support. He is aggressive and a sure tackler. At 27 years of age, Sherman is still improving, and if there is such a thing as a shut-down corner, Sherman is it. In my book, he is the best in the business. Darrelle Revis – New York Jets Usually, when a club has a star player at a certain position, they find a way to hold on to that player. That hasn’t been the case with Darrelle Revis. Revis was drafted by the New York Jets in the first round of the 2007 draft and played for the Jets for the next six seasons. Following the 2012 season, Revis signed with Tampa Bay as a UFA but only played one year there. He stayed there only one season, as the Bucs had turnover in the front office and coaching staff. The new regime did not feel that the salary Revis was getting fit with what they were trying to do. They felt that money could be better used in finding players at multiple positions. Also, Revis's style of play wasn’t necessarily conducive to the scheme Lovie Smith was implementing. Revis spent 2014 with the New England Patriots and helped them win a Super Bowl. Now, he is back with the Jets and will most likely finish out his career there. Like Sherman, Revis is an outstanding press corner with rare mirror skills. He also possesses excellent ball skills and plays a very aggressive style of man cover. He has very good ball skills as referenced by his 23 career interceptions and is also a very good run support player. It’s his rare athleticism that helps Revis be as good as he is. I was at Revis's pro day prior to the 2007 draft and it was one of the best corner workouts I have ever been to. He has excellent speed, change of direction, explosion, and suddenness: all traits needed to be a top cover guy. The only thing working against Revis is his age. At 30, his best football is most likely behind him, but he is without a doubt, still, one of the three best cover corners in the NFL. Patrick Peterson – Arizona Cardinals Going into the 2011 NFL Draft, LSU’s Patrick Peterson was looked at as the best corner in that class. Arizona selected him with the fifth overall pick in the first round. Since coming into the league, Peterson has easily played to the level of where he was drafted and maybe even higher. While at LSU, Peterson was known a mainly a press cover guy and he has excelled at that area of pass coverage in the NFL. Where he has improved his game is in zone and man off coverage. He has very good receiver awareness and anticipation and is seldom out of position. What Peterson has that most corners don’t is bulk. At 220 pounds, Peterson is bigger and stronger than most corners. He uses his size to his advantage, and that helps him be a top run support player. His ability to jam and re-route is also excellent. Peterson has also shown outstanding durability, as he hasn’t missed a game in his four years in the NFL. Like Sherman, Peterson is still young and will still get better. Going into this season, he is only 25 years old. He may show improvement in his game for another four or five years. I thought that for his level of talent, Peterson was not at the top of his game last year. While he played very well, he can play better, and I look for him to rebound well in 2015. Bets of the Rest I think that if I were to choose a fourth corner for this list, it may be Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns. Since he came into the league, Haden has played at a high level and really doesn’t have any weaknesses. Others who deserve consideration are Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins and Vontae Davis of the Colts. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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