NESN.com is breaking down the NFL’s best positional groupings on both sides of the football, ranking teams in order of worst to first.
Today, we rank the best cornerback groups in the NFL.
Of note, this is not a ranking of the best individual cornerbacks, as teams were evaluated on the overall position. The top six cornerbacks on each team’s depth chart, courtesy of ESPN, were used.
32. Carolina Panthers (Donte Jackson, Eli Apple, Corn Elder, Troy Pride Jr., Stanley Thomas-Oliver III, Cole Luke)
Jackson has impressed in his two seasons (17 passes defensed, seven interceptions), but Apple is coming off a down year in New Orleans and the Panthers don’t have much depth thereafter.
31. Atlanta Falcons (A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Josh Hawkins, Chris Cooper)
The Falcons don’t have an established No. 1, as Terrell was the No. 16 pick in the 2020 draft while Oliver had 11 passes defensed in his rookie season.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (Tre Herndon, CJ Henderson, D.J. Hayden, Rashaan Melvin, Josiah Scott, Chris Claybrooks)
The Jags are rebuilding in a lot of places, especially after trading cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2019. The No. 9 overall pick Henderson will be among those tasked to fill the void.
29. Houston Texans (Gareon Conley, Bradley Roby, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Vernon Hargreaves III, Phillip Gaines, John Reid)
The former first-rounder Conley (11 pass breakups in eight games) is a decent No. 1 option, but Roby (eight PBUs in 10 starts in 2019) is inconsistent.
28. Arizona Cardinals (Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy Jr., Kevin Peterson, Robert Alford, Chris Jones, Duke Thomas)
The eight-time Pro Bowler Peterson still has what it takes to be a No. 1 corner, but the Cardinals need a lot from Murphy (10 PBUs in 2019) in his second season.
27. Minnesota Vikings (Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, Mark Fields)
The Vikings lost their top three corners from 2019, and will look to young-but-talented corners in Hughes and Gladney.
26. Washington Redskins (Kendall Fuller, Fabian Moreu, Jimmy Moreland, Ronald Darby, Greg Stroman, Aaron Colvin)
The Redskins added a pair of corners in free agency, with Fuller returning after a two-year stint in Kansas City and Darby joining Washington after playing the last three years with NFC East rival Philadelphia. Neither, however, is a high-end player at the position.
25. New York Jets (Pierre Desir, Blessuan Austin, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bryce Hall, Quincy Wilson)
Desir is coming off his best year (11 PBUs, three INT in 12 games) while Poole was a decent nickel corner for the Jets, who never signed Logan Ryan like previous reports once indicated.
24. Indianapolis Colts (Kenny Moore II, Rock Ya-Sin, Xavier Rhodes, T.J. Carrie, Marvell Tell III, Isaiah Rodgers)
The Colts will hope Rhodes, a three-time Pro Bowler with Minnesota, can rediscover his dominance, joining Moore (three PBUs, two INTs in 11 games) and Ya-Sin (five PBUs in 15 games).
23. Las Vegas Raiders (Trayvon Mullen, Prince Amukamara, Lamarucs Joyner, Damon Arnette, Amik Robertson, Neven Lawson)
Mullen (10 PBUs in 10 starts) enters his second season while the veteran Amukamara, a first-year Raider, could prove a nice complement. Arnette was the No. 19 pick in 2020 draft.
22. Dallas Cowboys (Chidobe Awuzie, Trevon Diggs, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Reggie Robinson, Daryl Worley)
Awuzie played well (14 PBUs, two turnovers in 2019) opposite former Cowboy Byron Jones, a Pro Bowler who left in free agency. Diggs, a 2020 second-round pick, will carry some high expectations to fill that void.
21. Tennesse Titans (Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, Kristin Fulton, Johnathan Joseph, Tye Smith, Kareem Orr)
Losing slot corner Logan Ryan could impact the Titans as Jackson enters as Tennessee’s No. 1 corner. Ex-Patriot Butler (nine PBUs, two INTs in nine games in 2019) will be looked to complement him.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (Bashaud Breeland, Charvarius Ward, Rashad Fenton, Chris Gammons, Alex Brown, Antonio Hamilton)
Breeland (eight PBUs, four turnovers) was a nice addition in his first year in Kansas City, while Ward (10 PBUs in 16 starts) gives the Chiefs a solid pair of starters.
19. Cincinnatti Bengals (Trae Waynes, William Jackson III, Mackensie Alexander, Darius Phillips, Tony Brown, LeShaun Sims)
The Bengals improved their group with the addition of former first-rounder Waynes (eight PBUs in each of the last two seasons in Minnesota) and Alexander.
18. Detroit Lions (Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah, Darryl Roberts, Justin Coleman, Mike Jackson, Amani Oruwariye)
The Lions lost star power with the departure of Darius Slay, but with Trufant (seven PBUs, four INTs in nine games), No. 3 overall pick Okudah and Coleman (12 PBUs, five turnovers) rounding out the group, there’s still reason for optimism.
17. New York Giants (James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, Ronald Zamort, Grant Haley)
The Giants made a big free-agent acquisition with Bradberry (12 PBUs in 15 games in 2019) while former first-rounder Baker enters his sophomore season with high expectations.
16. Denver Broncos (A.J. Bouye, Isaac Yiadom, Bryce Callahan, Duke Dawson Jr., Michael Ojemudia, De’Vanta Bausby)
The Broncos will have to fill the void created by the departure of Chris Harris Jr., who left in free agency. Bouye comes to Denver after spending the past three years in Jacksonville, while Yiadom and Callahan likely will see bigger roles in 2020.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, M.J. Stewart, Ryan Smith, Mazzi Wilkins)
The Bucs have a young group of early-round picks, with Davis (19 PBUs in 14 games), Murphy-Bunting (three INTs, eight PBUs) and Dean (17 PBUs, two INTs in 13 games).
14. Los Angeles Rams (Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Darious Williams, David Long Jr., Donte Deayon, Adonis Alexander)
Ramsey took a step back in 2019 (five PBUs, one INT in 12 games) but could again look like one of the game’s best this year. Hill (eight PBUs in nine starts) and Williams (four PBUs in 12 games) don’t offer much depth.
13. Cleveland Browns (Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Terrance Mitchell, Kevin Johnson, Donnie Lewis Jr., Tavierre Thomas)
Ward, the No. 4 overall pick in 2018, recorded 11 passes defensed in each of his first two seasons, while Williams and Mitchell add talent and versatility.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (Darius Slay, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Trevor Williams, Avonte Maddox)
The Eagles made some nice moves at the position, adding three-time Pro Bowler Slay (13 PBUs, two INTs in 14 games) and another talented corner in ex-Ram Robey-Coleman.
11. Green Bay Packers (Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka’dar Hollman, DaShaun Amos)
The 2018 first-rounder Alexander (17 PBUs, two INTs) took a step forward in 2019, while King (15 PBUs, five INTs) increased his production with more snaps.
10. Chicago Bears (Buster Skrine, Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson, Artie Burns, Tre Roberson, Duke Shelley)
Skrine (five PBUs in 16 games) is far removed from his dominant days in Cleveland, but Fuller remains one of the league’s best in coverage.
9. Seattle Seahawks (Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, Neiko Thorpe, Tre Flowers, Brian Allen, Ryan Neal)
Griffin (13 PBUs in 14 games) earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, his third season in the league. Dunbar (four INTs, eight PBUs in 11 games) and Flowers give Seattle good depth at the position.
8. San Francisco 49ers (Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley, Tim Harris, Jason Verrett)
The Second-Team All-Pro Sherman (three INTs, 11 PBUs) saw increased production during the 2019 season, after being limited for each of the previous two seasons with an Achilles injury. Witherspoon (nine PBUs in 10 games) and Williams (six forced TOs) could see increases in snaps.
7. New Orleans Saints (Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, P.J. Williams, Patrick Robinson, Johnson Bademosi, Deatrick Nichols)
A two-time Pro Bowler, Lattimore is coming off a season with 14 passes defensed in 14 games. Jenkins will be in his first full season with the Saints, having 16 passes defensed and five interceptions in 15 games last season.
6. Buffalo Bills (Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Josh Norman, Taron Johnson, Siran Neal, E.J. Gaines)
White, a 2019 First-Team All-Pro after a dominant year (six INTs, 17 PBUs in 15 games), is in the running for the league’s best cornerback, along with New England’s Stephon Gilmore. Wallace (nine PBUs in 16 games) and the addition of Norman (six PBUs in 12 games) give Buffalo some depth.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Breon Borders)
The 2019 Pro Bowler Haden put together a dominant age-30 season with five interceptions and 17 passes defensed. Nelson (eight PBUs in 15 games) and the slot man Hilton (11 PBUs in 16 games) return after strong 2019 campaigns.
4. Miami Dolphins (Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jamal Perry, Noah Igninoghene, Ken Webster, Nik Needham)
The Dolphins employ the two highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL, with a pair of 2019 Pro Bowlers in Howard and Jones, a first-year Dolphin and former Dallas Cowboy. Igninoghene is a 2020 first-rounder.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (Chris Harris Jr., Casey Hayward Jr., Desmond King II, Michael Davis, Brandon Facyson, Tevaughn Campbell)
The acquisition of Harris, previously with the Broncos, will give the Chargers a very, very good complement of veteran cornerbacks. Harris (six PBUs, one INT) and Hayward (eight PBUs, two INTs) are talented and experienced, while King, who regressed in 2019, should be able to bounce back in a strong secondary.
2. Baltimore Ravens: (Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Iman Marshall, Anthony Averett)
Humphrey and Peters each earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 as defensive backs. A 2017 first-rounder, Humphrey had 14 passes defensed with three INTs, while Peters (14 passes defensed, five INTs), Smith and Young make for an incredibly talented quartet.
1. New England Patriots (Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Justin Bethel, Joejuan Williams)
The Patriots ranked first in passing yards allowed in 2019 and have every cornerback returning. Led by the Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-Pro selection in Gilmore, the Patriots have as much depth as any team. Their top four all could see the field extensively. They also have players — like the speedy Jones and Jackson — to match up. The fact their No. 6 corner, Williams, was a 2019 second-round pick accurately depicts just how much depth the Patriots have at the position.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images