We’ve been breaking down a bunch of awards here at PFF as we reach the halfway point of the season. Today, we turn our attention to what we believe is the second most valuable position on the football field. These are the top-performing cornerbacks so far according to PFF’s coverage grading.
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1. Quinton Dunbar 91.4
We thought last year might be Dunbar’s breakout season after he earned a 92.4 coverage grade against the Cardinals in Week 1. Injuries piled up, though, and he managed to play only 373 snaps. But this year, he already has two games with a coverage grade over 90.0 as he’s picked off three passes in six games.
2. Jonathan Jones 87.4
Jones is allowing only a 55.8 completion percentage in coverage, which is an excellent number for a slot corner. He’s also getting tested a ton with 43 targets already on the year. Those targets have resulted in only 264 yards and 12 first downs — which is a ridiculously low conversion rate.
3. Richard Sherman 83.3
Sherman once again just isn’t getting beaten down the field. In seven games, he’s allowed only 143 yards. His .67 yards per coverage snap allowed is the second-best of any starting outside cornerback in the league.
4. Marcus Peters 83.1
Peters is averaging the most coverage snaps between receptions of any corner in the league. So far, he’s allowed all of 11 catches while he himself has hauled in three interceptions, including a pick-six against Seattle. He wasn’t traded for his on-field play.
5. Jason McCourty 82.6
Yet another Patriots corner who isn’t allowing first downs. McCourty has allowed only seven first downs on 42 targets this season. That’s the lowest conversion rate of any starting cornerback in the league. He unsurprisingly leads the NFL with 14 coverage stops, as well.
6. Casey Hayward Jr. 81.9
Year after year Hayward has been a top-10 cornerback with the Chargers. Over the past three seasons, only Stephon Gilmore has a higher coverage grade than Hayward. Targeting him this season has netted opposing QBs only a 59.2 passer rating.
7. Jaire Alexander 81.4
If it weren’t for the Cowboys game where Alexander got toasted following around Amari Cooper all game, Alexander may very well be tops on this list. He’s tops in terms of forced incompletions, though, as he’s broken up 14 passes already at the halfway point.
8. Shaquill Griffin 79.7
Griffin had been much maligned at times in his first two years with the Seahawks. He’s currently in the midst of by far the best season of his career, though. His 10 forced incompletions are the second most of any corner in the league.
9. Tramon Williams 79.2
The 36-year-old corner has gotten a second wind manning the slot in Green Bay. He’s been the solid for the Packers all season long and has allowed catches in only five of their eight games this season.
10. Brian Poole 78.4
Poole was once in the conversation for best slot cornerback in the league, but his play slipped along with many others on the Falcons in recent years. This year, he’s back at his best though with the Jets. He’s allowed only six first downs all season long and has the second most coverage stops of any corner (12).
11. Steven Nelson 75.6
Nelson’s addition this offseason didn’t draw many headlines, but it’s paid big dividends for the Steelers. He leads the league averaging only .64 yards per coverage snap allowed, and opposing quarterbacks are completing under 50% of their passes when targeting Nelson.
12. Chris Harris Jr. 74.8
Harris continues to be one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. After his rookie season in 2011, Harris hasn’t had a single season where he’s allowed a passer rating over 90.0. This year is no exception, as he’s at 87.5 on the season.
13. James Bradberry 74.6
Bradberry has been one of the most up-and-down cornerbacks in the NFL over his career with the Panthers, and this season has been no exception. He’s had lockdown games like Week 1 against the Rams, where he allowed 1-of-4 targets to be caught for 11 yards while picking off and breaking up a pass. He’s also given up 60-plus yards in three of the Panthers seven games this season already, though. Still, his 46.2 passer rating when targeted is far and away the best of his career.
14. Marlon Humphrey 73.8
Humphrey isn’t quite grading out as highly as he did in 2018, but it’s still an impressive feat to crack this list considering he’s tracked number one receivers in five of the Ravens seven games this season already. He’s once again allowing a completion percentage against right around 50.0%, as he’s yielded 19-of-37 targets so far for 293 yards.
15. Stephon Gilmore 73.1
He’s been beaten a little more than usual with 315 yards allowed already, but Gilmore is also on pace to get his hands on more passes than ever before with three picks and seven pass breakups. Make no mistake, this is still arguably the best cornerback in the NFL.
16. Adoree’ Jackson 72.3
Jackson’s per target numbers don’t look great with a 71.4 completion percentage allowed and 110.2 passer rating, but quarterbacks have been hesitant to target the Titans corner. He’s been thrown at only 21 times all year and has the third-highest coverage snaps per target of any corner in the league.
17. Prince Amukamara 71.5
Amukamara has been the definition of solid over the course of his career in the NFL. From 2012 to now, Amukamara has never had a season with a coverage grade below 63.8 (2016) and never higher than 77.1 (2018). That’s quality play that’s not easy to find.
18. Nickell Robey-Coleman 71.2
Robey-Coleman has earned a coverage grade over 70.0 each of the past three seasons and is off to a solid start once again. He’s allowed only 64 yards after the catch on 20 receptions, a superb figure for a slot corner. Because of that, those 20 catches have only gone for 171 yards.
19. Charvarius Ward 70.8
The Chiefs desperately needed someone to take a big leap in their cornerback room and so far Ward has looked like a different player than we saw last year. Over the past four weeks, Ward has allowed only 9-of-15 targets to be hauled in for 80 yards with zero touchdowns and a pick.
20. D.J. Hayden 70.4
Hayden never quite lived up to his draft billing in Oakland or Detroit, but he’s reinvented himself as a quality slot cornerback out in Jacksonville. He’s allowed only 165 yards all season long for the seventh-best yards per coverage snap of any corner in the league.