In the NFL, one of the most important defensive positions is at cornerback. If a team possesses an elite player at that position, it could go a long way in helping shut down an opposing offense, with their best wide receiver likely taken out of the game plan. There is plenty of talent at this position, but these are the top five cornerbacks currently in the NFL.
5. Marcus Peters
The Kansas City Chiefs took a chance on the former Washington cornerback with the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and it has paid off in a tremendous way. Marcus Peters took the league by storm as a rookie, finishing tied for the league with eight interceptions while recording a league-best 26 pass deflections. This includes not allowing a single touchdown between Weeks 8 and 16.
The 23-year-old’s outstanding play helped him earn what will likely be the first of many Pro Bowl selections. He should be named Defensive Rookie of the Year, which would make him just the fifth cornerback in league history to win the award and just the third overall since the 1992 season. Despite finishing just his first season in the league, Peters is a special talent who has quickly become one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
4. Aqib Talib
Whatever happened inside Aquib Talib when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded him to the New England Patriots in the 2012 season elevated his game, making him one of the elite cornerbacks in the league. Since then, he has claimed three consecutive Pro Bowl selections and a Second-Team All-Pro nod.
In his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos, Talib has been a game-changer for a defense that this year boosted the top overall defense in the league against both the pass and run. The 29-year-old has played a major part of that with four interceptions and 13 pass deflections. Like the players ahead of him on this list, his numbers may not be in the top of the league, but opposing teams do not throw in his direction often because of coverage ability in both zone and man-to-man.
His time with the Buccaneers is often overlooked, but through the first three seasons in the league, he had 15 interceptions. He also has eight career defensive touchdowns. Prior to 2015, Talib may not have been in this conversation, but his play in his eighth season puts him squarely among the top players at his position as a part of the league’s best defense.
3. Patrick Peterson
The Arizona Cardinals cornerback has developed a strong reputation for guarding the opposing team’s best receiving option — be it a wide receiver lined up on the outside or in the slot — and even covering tight ends at times. Since entering the league in 2011, Patrick Peterson‘s stellar play has been rewarded with five straight Pro Bowl selections to start his career, along with three First-Team All-Pro nods (2011, 2013, and 2015).
In many ways, Peterson is the definition of a complete cornerback due to his ability to play in multiple coverage schemes — but his bread and butter has been in man-coverage. This is where he’s gained the separation in the league as one of the best at his position. There is certainly a huge reason why Peterson is well respected across the league because of his play on the field.
An added element that the other players on the list don’t have is his factor in special teams thanks to his ability to be a major force as a punt returner. Peterson made the league well aware of that in his rookie campaign by setting NFL records with four punt-return touchdowns in a single season, four punts returns that were 80-plus yards and brought back for touchdowns, 699 rookie punt return yards in a single season, and a 99-yard game-winning punt return for a touchdown in overtime.
2. Richard Sherman
Since entering the league as a fifth-round pick out of Stanford in the 2011 NFL Draft, Richard Sherman has become one of the elite defenders at his position, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl selections (2013-2015), three First-Team All-Pro nods, and one Second-Team All-Pro Selection. He was also the league’s interceptions leader in the 2013 season.
Detractors will point out that Sherman only plays one side of the field and doesn’t pick up the man-to-man coverage on the opposing team’s best wide receiver every week. However, opposing quarterbacks don’t try to test Sherman on his side of the field with the low volume of throws against him each week. (Just ask Aaron Rodgers.)
Opposing teams have to game-plan against Sherman because he essentially blankets the left side of the field and has been a major reason for the Seattle Seahawks ranking at either No. 1 or 2 in the league in pass defense over the last three seasons. The 27-year-old is worth the four-year, $57.4 million contract extension that he signed back in May 2014 thanks to what he brings to the team both on and off the field. He’s just entering the prime of his career and should remain near the top of this list for the foreseeable future.
1. Darrelle Revis
There is a reason that this New York Jets cornerback is paid top dollar; he’s the top talent at his position and has been over the last several years. Darrelle Revis‘s track record speaks for itself with seven Pro Bowl selections, four First-Team All-Pro nominations, and AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. The 30-year-old has been the best man-to-man coverage cornerback in the league with his ability to make the opposing team’s top receiving option a non-factor.
Revis’s numbers may not be among the league leaders, but that’s because teams don’t throw in his direction as often because of what he does defensively on a weekly basis. With that said, Revis was tied for fifth in the league with five interceptions. Many believed that Revis fell off in his lone campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. However, he returned to elite form in 2014 with the New England Patriots, shutting down some of the league’s best wideouts on “Revis Island,” which included Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, Sammy Watkins, Keenan Allen, and Brandon Marshall.
Revis is the best, most fundamentally sound defensive back player in the league. He has a unique skill set that brings out the best of opposing receivers each week. Ultimately, he’s the top player at his position, and his ability to lock down any opposing receiver only boosts his case as the best in the game.