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Best cornerbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) reacts after intercepting a pass in the Tennessee Titans end zone in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl is done and dusted, which means all 32 NFL teams are firmly in the team-building phase of the offseason. 


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The offseason is all about 31 teams trying to build a roster capable of winning next year’s Super Bowl while the defending champions make sure they can retain their crown.

The big debate is where to invest resources. Teams can attack positions of need in free agency, the draft and even via trade. In this series, we will take a look at each position group and where the strengths lie for any teams in need, starting with cornerback.

(Editor's note: The figures inside parenthesis indicate the player's ranking on PFF's free agent or NFL draft rankings.)

Best Free Agents

  1. J.C. Jackson(6)
  2. Stephon Gilmore (15)
  3. Carlton Davis (16)
  4. Casey Hayward Jr. (25)
  5. Darious Williams (36)
  6. Steven Nelson (45)
  7. Charvarius Ward (47)
  8. D.J. Reed Jr. (48)
  9. Bryce Callahan (66)
  10. Donte Jackson (76)

This offseason doesn’t offer the strongest group of free-agent cornerbacks in recent memory, but there is an interesting group of players that have succeeded to varying degrees. This year also seems to offer some quality on the older side of things, giving teams potential upgrades if they are willing to gamble that Father Time can be held at bay for another year.

Jackson is the star of the free-agent cornerback group, and as such, it seems unlikely that the New England Patriots will ever let him hit the open market. Jackson has had elite coverage numbers throughout his NFL career, and his PFF coverage grade has steadily improved to meet those numbers. For his career, Jackson has allowed a 50.5 passer rating when targeted, and he is coming off an 80.4 coverage grade.

In Carolina, Gilmore showed that he still has some gas left in the tank, but a cornerback specializing in man-to-man coverage at 31 years old will scare teams, so his market is likely short-term deals only. 

Davis is the other corner who fits the prototype that teams are looking for, but he also has youth on his side. A former second-round draft pick, Davis has been a solid yet unspectacular starter for Tampa Bay. He has 45 pass breakups over the last three seasons including the playoffs, but his best PFF coverage grade in that time is 72.1.

Williams and Reed offer teams an opportunity to potentially snag overachieving coverage players if they don’t care about size. Neither fits the typical NFL cornerback mold, but both are quality players who have the ability to match up with big receivers despite the size disadvantage.

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