• A good game for Tavierre Thomas: Not only was he excellent on targeted passes, where he allowed -0.308 expected points added (EPA) per target, but Thomas was the eighth-best cornerback at preventing separation on all pass plays.
• Patrick Surtain II holds his own: Tasked with one of the most difficult assignments this week — covering Davante Adams — Surtain more than held his own, forcing three incompletions and recording a defensive stop while allowing just two catches.
• Dig into the numbers for yourself: PFF's Premium Stats is the most in-depth collection of NFL and NCAA player performance data. Subscribe today to get full access!
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
If quarterback is the most important position on the football field, then limiting the effectiveness of that player is the most important thing a defense can do.
A team can do this in two ways: It can pressure the passer to disrupt his timing, rhythm and accuracy, or it can shut down the opposing receivers.
Each week, after every NFL game is graded and reviewed, PFF will check in on the top cornerbacks of the 2023 season. These rankings will drastically change over the first month, as one interception, one missed tackle or one deep completion can dramatically alter a player's grade when the sample size is small. But as snap counts rise, the grades will stabilize, and we'll get a clearer picture of the league's best corners.
These rankings will combine PFF coverage grades with our Successful Coverage Over Expected (SCOE) data, which looks at how well each coverage defender performed on non-targeted coverage snaps, as we grade every coverage defender’s ability to prevent separation whether they are targeted on the play or not.
Here are the top 32 cornerbacks for the 2023 season through Week 1. For more grades and statistics on the league's best cornerbacks, check out PFF Premium Stats.
|Week 1 Rank||Player||Team||Grade Rank||SCOE Rank|
|7||Pat Surtain II||Broncos||6||36|
|15||Greg Newsome II||Browns||9||49|
|24||Derek Stingley Jr.||Texans||33||4|
1. Tavierre Thomas, Houston Texans: 91.2 coverage grade
Thomas locked it down vs. the Ravens, recording four pass stops, including one tackle for a loss. Not only was he excellent on targeted passes, where he allowed -0.308 expected points added (EPA) per target, but Thomas was the eighth-best cornerback at preventing separation on all pass plays.
2. Charvarius Ward, San Francisco 49ers: 81.6
Ward was targeted seven times in Week 1. He allowed just one catch, snagged an interception and added a tackle for loss. He allowed a -0.798 EPA per target while locking it down in separation. Ward was tested deep, too, with a 19.3-yard average depth of target in the 49ers' win.
3. A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons, 76.9
On eight targets, Terrell allowed four catches for just 19 yards. Tasked with man coverage on 59% of his snaps, he ranked eighth at preventing separation on all pass plays and added one defensive stop in coverage.
4. Tyson Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars: 75.7
Campbell had an all-around excellent game, intercepting one pass and making two pass stops. He finished third-best at the position at preventing separation and allowed -0.461 EPA per target.
5. Tre Herndon, Jacksonville Jaguars: 75.7
The Jaguars secondary played extremely well against the Colts in Week 1. Herndon ranked fifth among cornerbacks at preventing separation while also making one stop.
6. Ar'Darius Washington, Baltimore Ravens: 79.0
While Washington did allow all four of his targets to be caught, those catches went for just 26 yards. He made an excellent play to break up a pass, where he read the play to come off his assignment and force third-and-long.
7. Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos: 82.5
Tasked with one of the most difficult assignments this week — covering Davante Adams — Surtain more than held his own, forcing three incompletions and recording a defensive stop while allowing just two catches. He allowed just one first down on the day, as last year’s No. 2-graded cornerback picked up where he left off.
8. Steven Nelson, Houston Texans: 84.9
The second Texan in the top 10, Nelson had himself a day, recording an interception and a pass stop. On six targets, he allowed just four catches for 23 yards, earning the fourth-best grade of the week.
9. Darious Williams, Jacksonville Jaguars: 73.0
Williams was the best cornerback at preventing separation in Week 1, but he also forced an incompletion and recorded a defensive stop in coverage. Just one of his four catches allowed went for a first down.
10. Stephon Gilmore, Dallas Cowboys: 89.8
The new addition to the Cowboys' secondary rounds out the top 10, as Gilmore had one of the more active games of the week. He saw eight targets, allowed just three catches and came away with an interception and two forced incompletions. All that while being asked to play man coverage on 66% of his coverage snaps.
11. Kendall Fuller, Washington Commanders: 75.3
Fuller allowed -0.343 EPA per target, forced an incompletion and allowed just one first down. To go with three pass stops, Fuller was excellent all around as he limited separation all game.
12. Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints: 90.2
Lattimore’s rank on this list might seem low, given his PFF grade, especially as he snagged one interception and forced three incompletions. However, he gets dinged because of his 63rd-place finish in preventing separation on all pass plays. Regardless, if Lattimore continues to make plays on the ball when it does come his way, Saints fans won’t care what happens when he’s not targeted.
13. Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys: 81.5
Diggs epitomizes boom or bust, which shows up in this ranking, as his 81.5 coverage grade ranked eighth at the position, but he ranked 48th at preventing separation. Still, he forced an incompletion and produced a pass stop, so Diggs did what he needed to help shut down the Giants on Sunday Night Football.
14. Roger McCreary, Tennessee Titans: 84.4
The lone Titan on this list, McCreary forced an incompletion while allowing just 17 yards on five targets. His rank in preventing separation will be something to keep an eye on, as it’s an early indicator that he might struggle to maintain high grades in coverage.
15. Greg Newsome II, Cleveland Browns: 80.2
The Browns dominated the high-powered Bengals offense in Week 1, and Newsome led the secondary, breaking up a pass and making another pass stop.
Browns fans might be upset not to see Martin Emerson Jr. on this list, who did rank seventh among cornerbacks in preventing separation, but Emerson didn’t have many opportunities to earn a high PFF grade.
16. Kader Kohou, Miami Dolphins: 73.0
In the most explosive game of the week, Kohou stood out on the defensive side of the game for the Dolphins. While he allowed 7-of-8 targets to be caught, only two went for first downs, as he made two pass stops and allowed just 4.6 yards per target. In a game with explosive plays up and down the field, Kohou ranked 20th at preventing separation.
17. Christian Izien, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 69.9
Our first rookie on the list and an undrafted one to boot. Izien hails from Rutgers and wasn’t asked to play man coverage much (13% of his snaps). However, he was excellent in what he was asked to do, ranking second at the position in preventing separation. He did allow a touchdown off a missed tackle but made up for it with an interception at the goal line and another pass stop.
18. Christian Benford, Buffalo Bills: 72.7
Benford was solid all-around on Monday night without having to face Aaron Rodgers for the majority of the night, as he allowed just one catch for 14 yards while forcing an incompletion and preventing separation at a high rate.
19. Rasul Douglas, Green Bay Packers: 78.2
Douglas was active on Sunday vs. the Bears, making five tackles — including two defensive stops — and forcing an incompletion. He allowed just 11 yards into his coverage.
20. Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers: 69.2
Jackson’s stat line won’t have much on it: He was targeted once but allowed zero catches for zero yards. But he locked it down to prevent targets his way, allowing the sixth-best separation rate. If he keeps that up, his PFF grade will follow.
21. Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs: 76.6
One of the more active players on opening night, McDuffie allowed two first downs but also made a pass stop to go along with four tackles. McDuffie ranked poorly in preventing separation vs. Detroit but was one of the best rookie cornerbacks last season.
22. Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers: 74.6
The second Packer on the list, Alexander was tasked with shadowing D.J. Moore in Week 1. However, the Packers deployed zone almost 100% of the time, as Alexander was in true man coverage just once on Sunday. He produced one pass breakup and allowed just 4 yards.
23. Tyrique Stevenson, Chicago Bears: 70.3
The second rookie on the list, Stevenson did allow a touchdown but was excellent otherwise. The touchdown was just a phenomenal contested catch by Romeo Doubs. Stevenson made a stop and three tackles.
24. Derek Stingley Jr., Houston Texans: 65.0
Stingley looked more like the LSU freshman version of himself in Week 1, as he allowed just one catch for 20 yards and forced an incompletion while allowing the fourth-best separation rate of the week.
25. DaRon Bland, Dallas Cowboys: 72.7
The third Cowboy on this list, Bland was the beneficiary of a broken-up pass that fell into his lap for a pick-six. That said, Bland made two stops and allowed just 8 yards on three catches for an all-around good game.
26. Brian Branch, Detroit Lions: 66.1
Arguably the play of opening night, Branch snagged a one-handed interception off the hands of he who must not be named among Chiefs fans, returning it for a touchdown. Branch did allow a touchdown earlier in the game but allowed only 7 total yards and made a stop.
27. Deommodore Lenoir, San Francisco 49ers: 65.2
One of the most tested corners of the week, Lenoir was targeted nine times, allowing eight catches for 55 yards, but only one went for a first down. He made four stops and nine tackles, allowing minimal separation on all routes into his coverage area.
28. D.J. Reed, New York Jets: 73.9
Speaking of being tested, eight cornerbacks were targeted 10 or more times in Week 1, but Reed was the only one who graded above 57.0. He allowed seven catches, with only two going for first down, and he forced two incompletions.
29. Patrick Peterson, Pittsburgh Steelers: 64.5
Peterson had quite the day, as he allowed two touchdown passes, forced two incompletions and ranked 14th in preventing separation. Across six targets, only twice was his receiver deemed open, and the Pittsburgh field didn’t help on one of his two touchdowns allowed as he slipped trying to cover Brandon Aiyuk.
30. Marco Wilson, Arizona Cardinals: 65.8
Wilson was targeted eight times in Week 1, allowing five catches for 48 yards and two first downs. However, he made two stops and forced an incompletion. He finished in the middle of the pack at preventing separation, though he did enough to allow just -0.284 EPA per target.
31. Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles: 72.6
Continuing his boom-or-bust playstyle, Slay allowed a touchdown, intercepted a pass for a touchdown, dropped an interception and forced two incompletions. He continues to struggle with preventing separation and finished 62nd in that regard last week.
32. Cam Taylor-Britt, Cincinnati Bengals: 73.5
The 2022 rookie standout rounds out the list after a solid performance against the Browns in the rain-soaked AFC North matchup. He allowed two catches for just 17 yards and forced an incompletion to go along with a stop. He ranked worst in the top 32 at preventing separation and will need to shore that up going forward.