THIS STOPS ME FROM COMITTING SUICIDE BECAUSE…….CBs are possibly the most athletic guys on the field
This is the 2nd part of my top 5 rankings for every position in the NFL. It will culminate in an overall top 10 NFL players list.
Cornerbacks are arguably the most athletic players on the field on any given Sunday. They have to defend against the super-athletic wide receivers play after play. Receivers are so athletic these days, a half-second hesitation or even a slight misstep could be the difference between an interception and a touchdown for the offense.
For me there were three truly elite cornerbacks but they all had different strengths. Wide receivers are getting bigger in the Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson mould and cornerbacks have been forced to get stronger too. Strength is one of the qualities the top 3 cornerbacks all share.
After the top 3, it became more difficult. Number 4 is a quality player but criminally underrated. He is young and part of an ascending franchise and I am sure he will get to showcase his talent on the biggest stages soon. Pick number 4 was a difficult one for me. Because the pick lacks phyisicality is run support and is in fact used often used as the prototype of the non-tackling corner. However, turnovers are key in this game and his ball-hawking abilities against the biggest QBs on the biggest stages for a sustained period of time elevates him into the top 5.
It was difficult leaving players like Tramon Williams, Champ Bailey and Cortland Finnegan off the list:
5. Asante Samuel – Philadelphia Eagles #22
Samuel struggles badly as a tackler. He isn’t the most naturally gifted cornerback either. Apparently, he only ran a 5.4 40 yard dash until he entered college where he worked hard to reduce his time down to 4.49 for the NFL combine. However, his instincts and ball skills are arguably second to none. He has 36 interceptions in the last 5 seasons, an average of over 7 a season. He also plays well in the biggest games. He already has 7 post-season interceptions, the highest for active players and 5th all-time. Not necessarily known for his returning skills he still has 4 interception returns for touchdowns already an NFL record. He often plays outside of the system as he has great faith in his instincts. He isn’t to the taste of some defensive co-ordinators in the NFL but he few doubt his ability to make game-changing plays.
4. Brandon Flowers – Kansas City Chiefs #24
He is arguably the best player on a rapidly improving, young Chiefs defense. Vastly underrated, he has had two very good seasons and a true breakout 2010 season where he routinely helped frustrated the opposition’s number one receiver. Although only listed at 5’9” 187 lbs, he is one of the most physical corners in the league and is a fantastic tackler in the mould of Antoine Winfield. Nobody may have noticed this play but I started to especially take notice of Flowers when he tackled Panthers’ Steve Smith in the open field in his rookie season, a highly difficult feat. He may not have blazing long-range speed (note Jacoby Ford vs Flowers in the 2010 season) but he is very quick and can still keep up with most speed receivers in the NFL. QBs in the 2010 season often avoided Flowers’ side and this reflects in him only having 2 INTs last season. He is certainly one whose future is exciting.
3. Charles Woodson – Green Bay Packers #21
The 2009 defensive player of the year was a college phenom and the most versatile corner in the NFL today. He is the cornerback version of Troy Polamalu. He is strong in run support, in the blitz game, a ball-hawk and a dangerous INT returner. He is a fluid, highly talented athlete and he ability to muscle the ball away from receivers mid-air is amazing. He reminds me so much of Rod Woodson and I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves to safety in a few years time just like the other Woodson did. I am glad he got out of the black hole and realised the importance of his job and since he joined the Packers he has become the player everybody expected him to be when he was drafted. In 5 seasons with the Packers he has 30 INTs, 8 Sacks, 13 FFs and 8 TDs. He was one of the keys to the Packers defense in this year’s Superbowl season.
2. Darrelle Revis – New York Jets #24
Forgetting my personal opinion of Darrelle’s training camp holdout last year. Never mind the talk of his job being easier due to the Jets’ pass rush, Darrelle Revis is a phenomenal cover corner and it is true when Rex Ryan said after the 2009 season that it was arguably the best season by a corner since Deion in his prime. The number of pro bowl and future hall of fame receivers he shut down week after week in such a difficult position to play was amazing. He is very strong for a corner. Once he gets his hands on you, many receivers find it difficult to get separation from then on. He is quick, fast and has brilliant technique. He has good ball skills but it is something he could work on. If he continues to play at this level, he wil have less and less INTs opportunities in the coming years and when he gets a chance he must take them. Missing training camp had an effect on his performances in the 2010 season but he still had a very good season and some teams didn’t even bother looking his way when he was on form. His best should still be ahead of him as long he keeps on playing with motivation and desire and it is scary how good he could be.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha – Oakland Raiders #21
Many would pick Revis as the best CB in the league and they will point out the 2009 season as the reason why. Nnamdi Asomugha or Scrabble, has been blanketing receivers on his side for the past 5 years. He is well built at 6’2” 210 lbs and he has long arms and like Revis, it’s hard to separate when he gets his hands on you. He was a safety in college and I have never heard of such a good transition from safety to corner. The change in position usually goes the other way. So as expected, he is strong in run support, especially for a cornerback. Since the 2006 season when he had 8 INTs, teams have been avoiding his side of the field. There are two reasons why Nnamdi does not get as much national publicity as Revis. Firstly, he plays in the dictatorial career-destroying organisation called the Raiders (although there are recent signs of improvement). It’s hard to get away from publicity if you play in New York like Revis. Also, there is some criticism that he doesn’t follow the number 1 receiver around like Revis does; Nnamdi just gets a side of the field to defend. However, that is just the system he plays in and if he had the chance I am sure he would want to play against the best receiver at all times. But whichever player he lines up against he blankets the opposition. Peyton Manning singled out Nnamdi as one player he wants to avoid. Other QBs have followed suit and many don’t even bother targeting him and this is shown in only having 3 INTs in the last 4 seasons. ‘Shut down corner’ is an overused term in the NFL but Revis was shutting down players in 2009 and Nnamdi has been shutting WRs down for the last 5 years. A fantastic player.
Overrated: Deangelo Hall – A loudmouth who can have the odd good play but he makes too many bad plays to make up for it. He is also a bad tackler and a player that people remember for his pre-draft workout speed rather than his (lack of) production
Underrated: Quentin Jammer – This could have been Jerraud Powers for the Colts or Brent Grimes of the Falcons but I’m sticking with the 31 year old veteran. He was overshadowed by the playmaking abilities of Cromartie and although Antonio has left, Quentin still doesn’t get the recognition for his consistently successful performances.
One for the Future: Devin Mccourty/Patrick Peterson – Some good CBs came out in the 2010 NFL draft such as Haden and Verner but Mccourty was an unexpected revelation. On an average but opportunistic defense he became the turnover machine, helping limit the opposition’s best receiver and also came up with 7 INTS. Patrick Peterson is the best CB draft prospect I have seen since I first started really analysing the draft process in 2007.
Greatest of All-Time (GOAT): Deion Sanders – He changed the position and is arguably the best athlete ever to play the game. His work ethic is also underrated. It was still difficult to leave out Mel Blount and Night Train Lane though.