• Young CBs rise to the top: Patrick Surtain II and Sauce Gardner have dominated thus far in 2022, establishing themselves as the cream of the crop at cornerback.
• Veterans still playing well: Jalen Ramsey, Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay make the top 10 after strong campaigns to add to their already decorated resumes.
• Five rookies make the cut: Sauce Gardner, Jack Jones, Tariq Woolen, Kader Kahou and Martin Emerson are all shining within their respective secondaries.
Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins
Surtain leads the NFL in coverage grade (89.1) while allowing just 160 yards on 41 targets. He’s developed into a shutdown cornerback that teams have avoided altogether this season. Opponents are averaging just 7.0 yards per reception on Surtain this season, second-best in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks.
Not only has Gardner been the best rookie cornerback, but you can also make a case that he's been the league's best defensive back in the NFL this year. He’s allowed just 97 yards in coverage since Week 4, and opposing quarterbacks have a 44.6 passer rating when targeting him. He is already a superstar at the cornerback position.
There have been a few games in which Ramsey has struggled, but he’s still been one of the league’s most impactful players. No cornerback in the NFL is more physical than Ramsey, and he’s been excellent as a run defender this season (third-highest run-defense grade among cornerbacks). The Rams are struggling, but their defense has been outstanding due to the play of Ramsey, Aaron Donald and Bobby Wagner.
Gilmore was one of the best free-agent signings of the offseason, as he continues to be one of the league’s best coverage players. He has yet to allow a single touchdown this season and has recorded five pass breakups. He routinely draws the best wide receiver each week but has yet to surrender 80 yards in any single game. With him playing on his third team in three years, it’s hard not to be impressed with his play this season.
Diggs doesn’t have the gaudy interception total that he had at this time last year, but he’s been a much more consistent player. He still has three interceptions on the season, and opposing quarterbacks are still mindful of where he is at all times. Diggs is the NFL’s biggest boom-or-bust cornerback, but he’s done a better job of limiting big plays this season. His eight pass breakups are tied for the second-most at the position.
Alexander has been a bit up and down this season, but his talent is undeniable. He has some of the quickest feet you will ever see from a cornerback, currently ranking as the 17th-highest-graded cornerback in the NFL (75.7). He routinely draws opponents' best receiver, and as we saw last week against the Cowboys, he finds a way to make a play in the biggest moments of the game.
Slay has the No. 7 coverage grade among cornerbacks this season, recording three interceptions and three pass breakups. He’s allowed just one touchdown in coverage while surrendering just a 48.1 passer rating.
The Patriots' secondary has been excellent this season, with both of their starting outside cornerbacks making this list. But it’s Jonathan Jones who is ranked inside the top 10. Of all cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps, he ranks No. 4 in coverage grade (82.1). He has allowed just 174 yards into his coverage all season.
Dean has the eighth-best coverage grade among qualifying cornerbacks on the season (78.1). He is the seventh-highest-graded cornerback overall on the year (79.9), as he's allowed just 268 yards on 391 coverage snaps. Opponents are averaging just 7.7 yards per reception on Dean, which is third-best in the NFL behind only Jaycee Horn (6.8) and Patrick Surtain II (7.0).
One of the emerging stars of the 2022 season, Tyson Campbell has developed into one of the best overall cornerbacks in the league after a rough rookie campaign. He’s allowed more than 45 receiving yards in a single game just once, and opposing quarterbacks have a 58.8 passer rating when targeting Campbell. He has also really improved as a run defender, making him one of the more well-rounded cornerbacks in the league.
Before he injured his knee, Awuzie was having the best season of his career. Quarterbacks were generating a 58.2 passer rating when targeting him, and he had six pass breakups in eight games while not allowing a touchdown on 286 coverage snaps.
Humphrey has put together a nice season for the Ravens, but he has certainly played better in previous years. He is the No. 26-ranked cornerback by PFF grade (71.4) but has allowed only 271 yards on 372 coverage snaps. Humphrey has yet to allow a touchdown in coverage this season and has two interceptions. Don't be surprised if he plays much better in the second half of the season as the Ravens come out of their bye week.
Peterson has been surprisingly effective for the Vikings this season, sporting the third-best coverage grade among cornerbacks. While he’s allowed a few big plays in coverage, he’s also made some timely interceptions to help seal wins for the Vikings. This is easily the best he’s played over the past few seasons.
Hobbs has missed a lot of time due to a hand injury this season, but he’s been phenomenal whenever on the field. He did not allow a touchdown in his five starts and remains one of the league's best tackling cornerbacks. Hobbs also has the position flexibility to play in the slot and on the outside, which is rarely seen from cornerbacks in today's NFL.
Ward has had only one poor game this season, and that came against his former team in the Kansas City Chiefs. In the other eight games he’s played, he’s allowed just 219 yards in coverage while recording an interception. Ward has allowed just one touchdown this season on 326 coverage snaps and is currently PFF’s No. 9-graded cornerback on the year. He’s also the No. 1 cornerback in the league in run-defense grade (92.0), as he is as physical as it gets on the edge.
The second-highest-graded cornerback (86.9) in the NFL this season is rookie Jack Jones of the New England Patriots. He has the league’s best coverage grade (90.4), as he has yet to allow a touchdown this season. He also has two interceptions, including a pick-six against Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. The only reason he’s not higher is due to a lack of snaps (only 199 coverage snaps this season), but he’s been fantastic this year for the Patriots.
The second New York Jets cornerback to make the list, Reed has been incredible opposite of Sauce Gardner. He has allowed only 244 yards on 46 targets this season and has yet to surrender a touchdown. In addition, opponents are generating just a 58.6 passer rating when targeting Reed, giving the Jets one of the league’s best one-two punches at cornerback.
Playing opposite Darius Slay, Bradberry has had an excellent bounce-back season with the Eagles. He is currently the No. 25-graded cornerback on the season (71.7), but he has the 15th-highest coverage grade (76.3) on the year. He’s allowed just 258 yards on 58 targets while letting up just a 41.2 passer rating. He also has three interceptions on the season with only one touchdown allowed.
How could we make a top 25 list of the best cornerbacks and not include Tariq Woolen? The former UTSA star has been a turnover machine for the Seahawks, recording five interceptions and two forced fumbles in 10 games. He’s given up a ton of yards in coverage (339 yards on 45 targets), but the Seahawks will live with that considering all of the other plays he's made. Woolen is a high-variance player, but his playmaking skills make him worthy of a spot on this list.
|Tariq Woolen to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year||+250|
|$10 returns $35.00|
After missing most of last season with an injury, Horn has bounced back in a big way for the Panthers. He’s recorded two interceptions and allowed 81 yards in coverage this season. Horn is surrendering just 6.8 yards per reception, the lowest mark in the NFL among cornerbacks. He needs to improve as a run defender (53.3 run-defense grade), but he’s been one of the league’s better cover cornerbacks so far this season.
Sneed is the No. 13-graded cornerback this season (76.8) and has been very solid for the Chiefs. While he has allowed nearly 400 yards through nine games, he’s also been the third-most-targeted cornerback in the league (58 targets). Sneed is also a top run-defending cornerback, which is another reason why he makes our list.
Rookie Derek Stingley Jr. is the big name in Houston’s secondary, but their best cornerback has been veteran Steven Nelson. He has the seventh-highest coverage grade (80.2) in the NFL at the position, as he’s allowed just 198 yards all season. He’s let up just one touchdown, and opposing quarterbacks have a 75.1 passer rating when targeting him. He might not be the flashiest cornerback in the league, but Nelson has been incredibly productive this year.
Another rookie cornerback who deserves a place here, Kader Kohou has had to play a ton this year due to all of the injuries in Miami's secondary. And he has performed well. He is currently PFF’s No. 14-graded cornerback this season (76.5), as he has yet to allow a single touchdown on 417 snaps. Kohou has let up a few big plays in the passing game, but he has performed exceptionally well for a rookie undrafted free agent.
The Steelers have had major issues in their secondary, especially at cornerback. But their one reliable player at the position this year has been Sutton, who has played 471 snaps through Week 10. Sutton has allowed three touchdowns this season, but he’s recorded two interceptions and has played both in the slot and on the outside. All in all, he’s been a pretty decent cornerback for the Steelers this season.
Emerson, another rookie, has been forced to play a ton of snaps due to injuries. He sports the 16th-highest coverage grade in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks (76.2), as he's allowed just 9.6 yards per reception. Unfortunately, Emerson is a liability as a run defender — the only reason he's not ranked inside the top 20 of our list. Still, the sky is the limit for the former third-round pick from Mississippi State.