NFL’s top 5 cornerbacks for 2015

Sure, Richard Sherman says he’s the best, but he has plenty of company when it comes to the shutdown cornerback discussion in the NFL.

If a cornerback’s main responsibility is to cover receivers, there are plenty that have your teams well-covered in the NFL these days.

From the big, brash Richard Sherman at the top of our list to a crafty veteran like Darrelle Revis to those cornerbacks still in the prime of their career, quarterbacks are finding it hard to see through the ever-thinning openings in the windows with some of the best cornerbacks in coverage.

1. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
Sherman does plenty of talking, which irritates some fans, players and coaches and entertains others, but he backs up his talk with his play on the field. In 2013, Sherman gave up two touchdowns to his coverage responsibility and corralled eight interceptions. He was equally as good in 2014, even if quarterbacks only targeted him about four times a game – the least of any cornerback that played at least 75 percent of his team’s defensive snaps. He still had a solid four interceptions and gave up only one touchdown while quarterbacks had a 47.8 passer rating against him. Wonder why he says he’s the best? Because he is. Combine him with Tharold Simon on the other side and Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at safety and it’s easy to see why the Legion of Boom had the No. 1 pass defense in 2014.

2. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
The well-traveled shutdown cornerback is back in New York after a season that continued to see quarterbacks generally shy away from throwing into his zone. He was targeted about five times a game and quarterbacks had only a 72.6 rating against him, fourth among cornerbacks that played 75 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He gave up only two touchdowns but had only two interceptions. Still, the respect is obvious and well-deserved, as he had 11 passes defensed in those limited opportunities while receivers caught only 52 percent of the passes with him in coverage.

Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts
Davis missed one game with a concussion and dealt with knee and ankle injuries during the 2014 season, but receivers caught an NFL-worst 43.7 percent of the passes targeted against him and quarterbacks had an NFL-worst 38.8 passer rating in those situations, according to PFF’s stats of cornerbacks playing at least half the defensive snaps. Had he been healthy the whole season, he might have been considered the best cornerback in the league. He also had four interceptions, no touchdowns against him, is solid against the run and in his tackling, and had two forced fumbles. The one drawback? He had eight penalties called against him – six for pass interference and two for defensive holding.

Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos
Maybe it’s the so-called East Coast bias from his days with the New England Patriots, but Aqib Talib seems to get more recognition than his Denver teammate Harris. But the numbers say it should be the other way around, at least last year. Harris was best in the NFL last year among cornerbacks playing 75 percent of the snaps with quarterbacks having only a 47.8 passer rating against him, receivers averaging only 7.7 yards gained against him, and he was the only cornerback in that playing-percentage range that didn’t give up a touchdown, according to PFF, all while snagging three interceptions. It’s time Harris gets his due and we’re giving it to him with a top-five ranking that appreciates performance over reputation or name recognition.

Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
Haden has lived up to his first-round draft stock with the Cleveland Browns, despite quarterbacks not shying away from him too much. Of the 29 cornerbacks that played 75 percent of the snaps last year, he had the fourth-most passes thrown his way (113), but receivers caught only 53 percent of them and didn’t gain much ground after the catch, only 162 yards on 60 receptions. He gave up four touchdowns, but also had three interceptions. The combination of him at cornerback and Tashaun Gipson at safety helped the Browns to a No. 8 ranking in pass defense last year.

Honorable mention: Aqib Talib, Brent Grimes, Patrick Peterson, Desmond Trufant, Josh Norman.


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