Ranking the highest-graded NFL cornerbacks in press coverage from the 2023 season

2T381TT Seattle Seahawks cornerback Tre Brown (22) reacts after he and a group of teammates forced an incomplete pass in the end zone to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 20-10. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

The Seahawks' unheralded weapon: Tre Brown led all cornerbacks with an 88.5 press coverage grade in 2023.

Stephon Gilmore is still an impact player: The Cowboys veteran cornerback still has one of the best press coverage grades in the NFL.

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

NFL cornerbacks are tasked with guarding some of the most athletic wide receivers in the world every week. They need to be agile, fast, strong, smart and skilled. Like every position in the NFL, it’s not for the weak-willed. A growing theme in the league, especially compared to college football, is cornerbacks being asked to play in press coverage — right up in a receiver's face at the line of scrimmage.

Here are the 10 best cornerbacks in press coverage from 2023.

Editor's Note: Players had to have faced at least 20 targets in press coverage to meet the threshold for inclusion. This excludes Sauce Gardner (19), Michael Carter II (13) and Dane Jackson (15), among others.

1. Tre Brown, Seattle Seahawks: 88.5

Brown was a sporadic starter for the Seahawks, but his 88.5 press coverage grade was the best in the NFL. Despite his size, Brown has made a name off his physicality at the line of scrimmage, looking to turn every battle into a dogfight.

Across 145 press snaps, Brown was targeted just 22 times and allowed a 59.1% completion percentage. He might not be a household name, but Brown snagged two interceptions, forced five incompletions in press coverage and routinely made life harder for opposing quarterbacks and receivers.

2. Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 82.5

Dean’s 68.3 grade in 2023 was the lowest of his career, but the Buccaneers corner posted the second-highest press coverage grade in the NFL this season, behind Tre Brown. Dean allowed just a 34.8% completion percentage when targeted in press coverage, and he was targeted on just 23 of his 111 snaps in press coverage.

His excellent 82.5 press coverage grade was heightened by his ability to force incompletions. Dean did so on 30.4% of his targets in press coverage in 2023, one of the better marks in the league.

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3. Isaac Yiadom, New Orleans Saints: 81.7

Yiadom started the season as a rotational cornerback but stepped into a starting role in Week 12 to replace the injured Marshon Lattimore and never looked back, earning a 65.0-plus PFF grade in six of his seven starts as well as the third-best press coverage grade in the NFL.

The former third-round pick was targeted on just 15.8% of his 171 press coverage snaps, allowing just 13 catches. Yiadom let up 165 yards in press coverage, too, forcing eight incompletions at a rate of 29.6% and snagging an interception.

4. Charvarius Ward, San Francisco 49ers: 77.6

Ward’s performances in the 49ers’ secondary earned him second-team All-Pro honors in 2023, and his exceptional 77.6 press coverage grade was the fourth-best mark among NFL cornerbacks. Ward’s 234 press snaps were the third most among this top 10, and he was still targeted on just 15.8% of those reps.

He allowed a 65.8 passer rating, forced eight incompletions, brought in two interceptions in press coverage and was a driving force for one of the best defenses in the NFL.

5. Stephon Gilmore, Dallas Cowboys: 76.3

Even in his age-33 season, Gilmore was still an above-average cornerback, and his 74.4 grade ranked in the top 25 at the position. But it’s in press coverage where Gilmore really shined in 2023, earning a 76.3 grade across 190 snaps.

He allowed just 311 yards and a sub-50% completion percentage when targeted on that workload, and he was targeted on only 19.5% of his coverage snaps. On top of that, Gilmore forced nine incompletions and made six stops. His size and length will always make him a tough test.

6. Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns: 75.8

Newsome has been a constant force for the Browns since he was drafted with the 26th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has earned a 68.0 grade or better in three straight seasons and was one of the best cornerbacks in press coverage last season. Across 148 such reps, Newsome was targeted at an 18.2% clip and allowed just 149 yards in coverage.

The Browns' defense was one of the league's best in 2023, and Newsome was a big reason why. His 33.3% forced incompletion rate tied for the best in this top 10, and he didn’t allow a touchdown in press coverage all season — one of only two players in the top 10 to do so.

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7. Joshua Williams, Kansas City Chiefs: 75.2

Williams started just two games for the Chiefs but made his impact felt every time he stepped on the field, especially in press coverage. He lined up in press on 172, or 72.8%, of his 236 total coverage snaps and was a menace on all of them.

The former fourth-round pick saw a target on just 12.2% of his press coverage snaps, and just 38.1% of those targets were caught — the second-lowest mark in this top 10. His role will seemingly increase following L’Jarius Sneed‘s departure.

8. Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs: 74.1

McDuffie moved to the slot in his second season with the Chiefs and was a buzzsaw at the heart of the defense, earning an 82.9 grade — the seventh-highest mark among cornerbacks. His performance in press coverage was just as impressive, where he earned another top-10 grade and produced just a 14.3% target rate.

The former first-round pick forced an incompletion at a 9.1% clip while making seven stops in press coverage and sticking to his receivers like glue.

9. Steven Nelson, Houston Texans: 72.9

The veteran cornerback posted a 71.9 grade in 2023, his best since 2019 with the Steelers, and his performance in press coverage was a big reason why. Nelson earned a 72.9 grade in press coverage in 2023, allowing a target on just 22 of his 193 snaps — a ludicrously low 11.4%.

Nelson also went the entire 2023 season without giving up a touchdown in press coverage and allowed just a 55.5 passer rating, the lowest among those in this top 10.

10. A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons: 72.7

Rounding out the top 10 is another first-round pick in Terrell. The Falcons cornerback lined up in press coverage more than any other cornerback in the top 10 in 2023 (388 snaps), allowed a target on just 12.9% of his coverage snaps and forced 10 incompletions on 50 targets.

Terrell made a name for himself early in his career as a tough man-to-man cornerback, and his reputation extends into physicality at the line of scrimmage, too.


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