NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 2 Secondary Rankings

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (26) celebrates after an interception in the end zone in the third quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers Take Top Spot: The Los Angeles Chargers' talented secondary, with four players earning 65.0 overall grades through Week 2, comes in at No. 1.

Ravens' On-Paper Talent Not Translating: While the Baltimore Ravens' secondary arguably should be the No. 1 unit on paper, its performance through Week 2 has left much to be desired.

Texans' Youth Showing Through Week 2: The Houston Texans round out the secondary rankings, with two rookies struggling thus far early in their NFL careers.

Estimated Reading Time: 15 mins

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1. Los Angeles Chargers

Highest-Graded DB: SS Derwin James (70.5)

The Chargers have incredible top-end talent and depth at the defensive back position. Cornerback J.C. Jackson has 17 interceptions over the past two seasons, and he isn’t even their secondary's best player. Derwin James might be the best defensive back in football, as he can play anywhere on defense at a high level. Plus, the Chargers have several other quality role players, including Asante Samuel Jr. and Nasir Adderley. Four of the team's defensive backs carry 65.0-plus overall grades through Week 2.

2. Buffalo Bills

Highest-Graded DB: S Jordan Poyer (70.5)

The Bills have the best pair of safeties in the NFL in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. That allows coordinator Leslie Frazier to be very aggressive on defense, as those two can cover a ton of ground. The Bills could easily jump up to the No. 1 spot once Tre’Davious White returns to the field, but they haven't even needed him yet.

Dane Jackson (5 catches allowed, 9 targets, 49 yards, 0 TDs), Christian Benford (5-8-73-0) and Taron Johnson (9-12-57-0) have all played well in coverage to start the season, and Buffalo still has first-round pick Kaiir Elam waiting in the wings. This is easily the deepest secondary in the entire NFL right now. 

3. Green Bay Packers

Highest-Graded DB: CB Jaire Alexander (75.7)

The Packers have a strong defensive backfield, especially at cornerback. Their top three cornerbacks are outstanding, and they can shift back and forth from man to zone with ease. Green Bay's safeties are off to a rough start this season, with both earning sub-40.0 overall grades, but we know they are talented. Once Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos start to get to where they were last season, you can make the case the Packers belong at No. 1. Not many teams in the league have a better trio of cornerbacks.

4. Miami Dolphins

Highest-Graded DB: CB Kader Kohou (87.3)

The Dolphins are loaded at cornerback with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Jones hasn’t played yet due to an injury, but he should return to the field by Week 5. Howard has been up and down in the first two games of the season — having allowed six catches on 10 targets for two scores — but he'll be fine as he's one of the most proven cornerbacks in the NFL. 

But the surprise here for the Dolphins is the play of Kader Kohou, the highest-graded cornerback in the NFL through two weeks. The undrafted free agent from Texas A&M-Commerce appears to be a star in the making.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Highest-Graded DB: CB Jamel Dean (80.8)

The Buccaneers decided to make Jamel Dean a full-time starter over Sean Murphy-Bunting for 2022, and that decision has paid dividends already. Dean is the No. 3-ranked cornerback in the NFL in PFF grade after two games and has been outstanding in coverage. In addition, Tampa Bay fields one of the best safety trios in Mike Edwards, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Logan Ryan. It’s a very smart and athletic group that can match up with just about any offense in the league.

6. Denver Broncos

Highest-Graded DB: CB Ronald Darby (73.3)

The Broncos have been hit with some early injuries to Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons, but make no mistake: This is still one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Denver has gotten outstanding play from Ronald Darby, rookie Damarri Mathis (77.9 overall grade) and K'Wuan Williams (69.0) so far this season, and it has allowed the team to field one of the league's top pass defenses. Once this unit gets healthy, it could quickly jump back inside the top three, ahead of teams like the Dolphins and Packers. 

7. New Orleans Saints

Highest-Graded DB: S Tyrann Mathieu (78.7)

This secondary isn't as good in 2022 without Marcus Williams and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. But this is still a really good unit led by Marcus Lattimore, who has surrendered only three catches on six targets for 23 yards into his coverage thus far. That work has earned him a top-20 overall grade through Week 2. The addition of Tyrann Mathieu has been much-needed, as he gives the defense some swagger on the back end. The Saints need some of their other cornerbacks to stay healthy, including Paulson Adebo, but regardless, this is a talented group with the ceiling to wind up as the No. 1 secondary in the NFL by the end of the 2022 season. 

8. Philadelphia Eagles

Highest-Graded DB: CB Darius Slay (84.8)

We saw a vintage performance from Darius Slay on Monday Night Football in Week 2, picking off Kirk Cousins twice. He was absolutely dominant on his way to the fourth-highest game grade (86.6) among 189 qualifying secondary players in Week 2.

With Slay, Avonte Maddox and James Bradberry, the Eagles have one of the league's best cornerback trios. But, of course, they need their safeties to play better —and they will. Until then, they are ranked only just inside the top 10.

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Highest-Graded DB: CB Mike Hilton (75.1)

The Bengals' secondary hasn't been an issue through the first two weeks of the season, but it can still play better. They have a ton of talent at both cornerback and safety, although no one has stood out so far. 

The team's most consistent defensive back has been slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who is always fantastic as a blitzer (90.2 pass-rushing grade) and in the run game (71.2 run-defense grade). But this defense needs Jessie Bates III and rookie Daxton Hill to start playing better (and more, in Hill's case) to be ranked any higher. 

10. Dallas Cowboys

Highest-Graded DB: S Malik Hooker (70.3)

Trevon Diggs gets the most love in the secondary, but the Cowboys have several talented players. They roster one of the deepest safety rooms in the league with Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson. Hooker has finally been able to stay healthy for a significant stretch, and he’s starting to look like the player we saw during his days at Ohio State.

All three players see the field together, as Kearse plays a pseudo-linebacker role in Dan Quinn's defense, while Hooker is more of the true free safety. 

Dallas needs its cornerbacks to play better, but they've also got a lot of depth there with Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis and 2021 second-round pick Kelvin Joseph waiting in the wings. 

11. Los Angeles Rams

Highest-Graded DB: S Nick Scott (80.3)

Jalen Ramsey got off to a rough start against the Bills in Week 1, allowing five catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, but he bounced back in a big way in Week 2 against the Falcons. He made the game-winning interception, putting an end to the Atlanta comeback. He’ll be just fine as the season goes on, but the real question is, can the Rams find another cornerback opposite of him who they can rely on? 

Los Angeles is deep at safety, as Nick Scott has developed into a weapon as a run defender. His 93.0 run-defense grade leads all safeties through Week 2. Scott, Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp give the Rams three versatile safeties who can play all over the field. 

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest-Graded DB: S Minkah Fitzpatrick (90.8)

The only reason the Steelers are ranked this high is Minkah Fitzpatrick. You can make the case that he's been the NFL's best defender through two weeks, recording two interceptions and making several other big-time plays en route to the league's highest grade among all defensive backs. 

Terrell Edmunds has played well opposite him, but the cornerback room has left much to be desired. They have some talent there with Ahkello Witherspoon and Cameron Sutton, but both players could stand to be a bit more consistent. 

13. Baltimore Ravens

Highest-Graded DB: SS Chuck Clark (73.8)

On paper, this should be the best secondary in the NFL. Marlon Humphrey is one of the league's best cornerbacks, and Marcus Williams has been a much-needed addition to the safety room.

But injuries are starting to decimate the Ravens, and it’s part of the reason they allowed six passing touchdowns to the Dolphins in Week 2. We know this secondary can be outstanding, but it has yet to play like it. It would also help if Marcus Peters could get back to his 2020 form, as he struggled in Week 2 against Miami (6 catches on 7 targets in coverage, 90 yards, 1 TD).

14. Indianapolis Colts

Highest-Graded DB: CB Stephon Gilmore (73.2)

Stephon Gilmore continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, even at 32 years. The issue for the Colts is that Kenny Moore II (52.2 overall grade) has gotten off to a slow start. It's a concern because he struggled toward the tail end of the 2021 season, which has continued so far this season. The Colts also haven’t gotten enough good play from their safeties, as both Julian Blackmon and rookie Nick Cross have underwhelmed on their way to sub-55.0 grades.

15. Carolina Panthers

Highest-Graded DB: S Xavier Woods (76.7)

The Panthers have a lot of young players in their secondary, including Jaycee Horn, C.J. Henderson and Jeremy Chinn. However, none of those three have played exceptionally well to start the season. Their best defensive backs have been Xavier Woods and Myles Hartsfield, but they need more from their young guys. This is still a pretty good unit that just needs to play up to its potential more frequently.

16. Kansas City Chiefs

Highest-Graded DB: S Juan Thornhill (77.1)

The Chiefs' secondary appears to be much better this season, with the addition of Justin Reid helping stabilize the unit. First-round pick Trent McDuffie looked outstanding in Week 1 before going down with a hamstring injury, and the play of players like Juan Thornhill, L’Jarius Sneed (74.5 overall grade) and Jaylen Watson (69.6) gives Kansas City one of the deepest secondaries in the NFL.

17. Cleveland Browns

Highest-Graded DB: CB Martin Emerson (74.8)

Much like the Ravens, this is a secondary with a lot of talent, but it needs to play better. Denzel Ward is a Pro Bowl cornerback, although he has allowed a perfect 158.3 passer rating into his coverage through Week 2. The Browns also haven't gotten great play from their safeties, as Grant Delpit is beginning to become a liability in coverage. This secondary has the talent to be one of the best in the league, but there have been too many coverage busts for it to be ranked any higher at this point. 

18. New England Patriots

Highest-Graded DB: S Devin McCourty (74.9)

No team in the NFL has more depth at safety than the Patriots. Devin McCourty, Jabrill Peppers, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger are all excellent players, but the cornerback room leaves a lot to be desired. Jalen Mills (33.1 overall grade) has struggled out of the gate, and rookie Jack Jones (48.3) appears to be a long way away from being a quality cornerback. New England misses J.C. Jackson, as the team lacks starting-level cornerbacks.

19. San Francisco 49ers

Highest-Graded DB: SS Talanoa Hufanga (90.7)

You can make a case that the 49ers have the best safety room in the NFL after two weeks. Talanoa Hufanga is the No. 2-ranked safety in the NFL in PFF grade. At the same time, veteran Tashaun Gipson comes in at No. 4. The issue for the 49ers is that their cornerback room has been very mediocre to start the season, and they don't have the cornerbacks to match up with the best receivers in the league.

20. Las Vegas Raiders

Highest-Graded DB: CB Nate Hobbs (80.7)

The Raiders are still searching for another reliable outside cornerback, but Nate Hobbs has turned into a star. He can play on the outside or in the slot and finds a way to make plays. Of the 22 cornerbacks who have seen 13 or more targets into their coverage this season, Hobbs is one of three to allow 60 yards or less.

The Raiders' safeties have been fine this season, especially Duron Harmon. But it will be tough to rank this unit any higher until it finds another cornerback opposite Hobbs. 

21. Minnesota Vikings

Highest-Graded DB: CB Cameron Dantzler (72.2)

The Vikings' secondary played awful against the Eagles in Week 2, as Jalen Hurts was able to move the ball up and down the field. Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith struggled, showing some of their age. The good news for the Vikings is they have a lot of young talent in the secondary, including Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. It might be time for the team to start phasing out some of its older players in the secondary in favor of the rookies.

22. Tennessee Titans

Highest-Graded DB: CB Roger McCreary (73.0)

The Titans are better in the secondary than they showed in Week 2 against the Bills. Kevin Byard played a bad game, and the Bills continued to hunt second-year cornerback Caleb Farley, who gave up 68 yards and a score. The good news is that rookie Roger McCreary appears to be a hit, impressing through two games with no missed tackles and limited yardage allowed in coverage.

23. Washington Commanders

Highest-Graded DB: S Darrick Forrest (74.9)

The Commanders have enjoyed solid safety play through two weeks, but their cornerback room leaves much to be desired. William Jackson III sports a 53.2 coverage grade that ranks 84th among 111 qualifying cornerbacks, and Kendall Fuller‘s mark there is just 42.7 — good for 102nd.

This secondary has the pedigree and talent to be good, but it has struggled out of the gate. The Commanders desperately need Kamren Curl to get healthy and return to the field.

24. New York Jets

Highest-Graded DB: CB D.J. Reed Jr. (77.4)

The Jets' cornerback room has been outstanding through two weeks, as D.J. Reed Jr. and Sauce Gardner appear to be high-quality players. Even Michael Carter II (66.3 overall grade) has played well through two games, giving the team three quality cornerbacks. However, the Jets might have the worst safety play in the NFL through two games. Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead both have sub-40.0 overall grades — the only safety duo in the league to do so through two weeks. In coverage, they've combined to allow eight catches on eight targets for 133 yards and two scores.

25. Detroit Lions

Highest-Graded DB: S Tracy Walker (73.4)

The cornerback room looks much improved for the Lions, but they’ve got to get healthier. Amani Oruwariye is a really good cornerback when on the field, but he missed Week 2, which meant more snaps for Mike Hughes. This unit doesn't have a ton of holes, but it doesn't have one superstar, either. Walker is probably the most consistent player, but Oruwariye has the highest ceiling of any defensive back on the roster.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars

Highest-Graded DB: CB Shaquill Griffin (75.7)

The cornerback duo of Shaquill Griffin and Tyson Campbell has been excellent through two games. Griffin has already broken up two passes and seen 14 targets into his coverage, but it's the play of the safeties holding this defense back. Andre Cisco continues to be too hit-or-miss, and Rayshawn Jenkins is just not good enough to be a full-time starter. If the Jaguars can improve their safety play, they could rise up this list dramatically throughout the season. 

27. Chicago Bears

Highest-Graded DB: CB Jaylon Johnson (78.8)

The Bears have one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL, starting two rookies in Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon. Neither player looked good in Week 2, but this is still a pretty good unit with Johnson developing into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Plus, Eddie Jackson is still a top-tier safety. Despite the promise, this unit simply needs Brisker and Gordon to play better to be ranked any higher than this. Gordon's 233 yards allowed into his coverage leads all NFL defensive backs by 65, and Brisker's seven missed tackles are the second-most among safeties.

28. Atlanta Falcons

Highest-Graded DB: S Richie Grant (65.2)

The Falcons don't have a lot of talent on defense, but they do have some pretty good pieces in their secondary. A.J. Terrell is a Pro Bowl cornerback, and Casey Hayward Jr. is one of the best No. 2 cornerbacks in the league. Unfortunately, neither player has gotten off to a fast start, with Terrell, in particular, having already allowed four touchdowns into his coverage, but it's encouraging to see second-year safety Richie Grant play better this season. 

29. Arizona Cardinals

Highest-Graded DB: CB Byron Murphy Jr. (66.5)

The Cardinals are tough to rank because their safeties are really good and have multiple years of quality production. Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson are among the best safety duos in the NFL, and Arizona has a solid slot cornerback in Byron Murphy Jr. The secondary's problem is that it lacks viable outside cornerbacks, which makes it difficult to play defense. The hope is that Trayvon Mullen will eventually take over one of those spots when healthy, but that’s been an issue for him throughout his career.

30. New York Giants

Highest-Graded DB: CB Aaron Robinson (73.4)

Despite this ranking, the Giants' unit hasn’t played awful this season. The group has played above its talent level, but it could be in some trouble against better passing offenses later this season. The loss of Robinson (appendix surgery) was a tough blow, but he should be back in a few weeks. He played fantastic in Week 1, allowing just 28 yards on four targets.

31. Seattle Seahawks

Highest-Graded DB: S Quandre Diggs (69.3)

It’s a shame that Jamal Adams got hurt in Week 1 because he was finally starting to look like the Pro Bowl player the Seahawks thought they were getting when they traded multiple first-round picks for him. Without Adams, the secondary just isn’t very good. Rookies Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant have played a ton of snaps through two weeks, and both have struggled to sub-50.0 overall grades. This is arguably the worst cornerback room in the NFL going into Week 3. 

32. Houston Texans

Highest-Graded DB: CB Desmond King II (64.5)

The Texans are starting two rookies in their secondary in Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre. Both have had a tough time so far — including a league-high nine missed tackles for Pitre — and Houston hasn't gotten quality play overall from its secondary yet. This group should improve as the season goes on, but it's the league's worst secondary right now. Desmond King II has been the Texans' best secondary player so far, and that’s not a surprise considering he is the most experienced of the bunch.

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