NFL Medalists

Best NFL cornerbacks heading into 2021 season? Analysts reveal gold, silver, bronze picks

In honor of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, we're highlighting the best of the best across the NFL. Heading into the 2021 season, who are the premium players in five marquee areas: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, pass rusher and cornerback? Twenty-five analysts individually ranked their top three in each category, and then we tallied all of the votes via this simple formula:

Each first-place vote: 3 points
Each second-place vote: 2 points
Each third-place vote: 1 point

Below, you'll find the cornerback podium -- highlighting the gold, silver and bronze medalists from our accumulated ballots -- as well as additional intel on the position.

THE CORNERBACK PODIUM

GOLD
Jalen Ramsey
Los Angeles Rams

Total points: 65 (1st: 19; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 2)


Kyle Brandt: I love that he wants to cover the best wideouts every week. I love that he cares about being the best corner in the game. But my favorite part? I love that he HITS. Go look at Jalen hitting Amari Cooper. And Golden Tate. And Melvin Gordon. The hit list keeps going and going. And he's a corner! Totally fearless. Shutdown corner. Smackdown hitter. Best CB in the sport.

SILVER
Jaire Alexander
Green Bay Packers

Total points: 44 (1st: 4; 2nd: 14; 3rd: 4)


Jim Trotter: Alexander doesn't get a lot of attention because he doesn't get a lot of interceptions (four total in three NFL seasons). But when it comes to shutting down the opposing receiver, few do it better -- which is why he has the attention of the people who matter most, his opponents. For that reason alone, he belongs on the podium.

BRONZE
Xavien Howard
Miami Dolphins

Total points: 26 (1st: 2; 2nd: 7; 3rd: 6)


Lance Zierlein: As NFL coaches and general managers will tell you, ball production should never be undersold when it comes to evaluating defensive backs. Howard used his impressive combination of size, strength and ball skills to lead the league in both interceptions (10) and passes defensed (20) in 2020. While they are very different cornerbacks stylistically, Buffalo's Tre'Davious White is right there with Howard in terms of offering a stingy cover corner with the ability to take it away. Ultimately, Howard was a bit stingier and greedier -- and he brings the physicality defensive coordinators love. He's very worthy of his spot on the podium.

Also receiving votes: Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens (8 total points); Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots (4); Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills (3).

INSIGHTS INTO THE CB VOTING

CB RECORD HOLDERS

SINGLE SEASON

CAREER

*Passes defensed records are unofficial. Our data goes back to 1994.

FASCINATING CB STATS FROM NFL RESEARCH

  • Four of the eight cornerbacks who posted four-plus interceptions in 2020 entered the NFL as undrafted free-agent signees: Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, Kenny Moore II and Darious Williams. The other CBs to log four-plus picks last year: Marcus Peters (first-rounder), Carlton Davis and Xavien Howard (both second-rounders) and Kendall Fuller (third-rounder).
  • The 2020 season saw two different cornerbacks nab eight-plus picks: Howard (10) and Jackson (9). That hadn't happened in an NFL campaign since Charles Woodson and Asante Samuel each intercepted nine passes back in 2009.
  • Twelve cornerbacks recorded 14-plus passes defensed in 2020. Only one of them (Denzel Ward) was a first-round pick, while four (Butler, Jackson, Williams and Michael Davis) were undrafted.
  • Four of the top six corners with the lowest completion percentage allowed in 2020, per Pro Football Focus, were born in or played college football in Florida: Ramsey (50.0 comp pct allowed, played at Florida State), Williams (50.0 comp pct allowed, born and played high school football in Jacksonville), Xavier Rhodes (50.7 comp pct allowed, played at Florida State) and Joe Haden (51.5 comp pct allowed, played at Florida).
  • Top speed reached by a cornerback since 2018 (Next Gen Stats): 22.81 mph, Chidobe Awuzie (tracking down Saquon Barkley on a 59-yard run back in Week 1 of 2019)

INDIVIDUAL CB BALLOTS

Table inside Article
VoterGoldSilverBronze
Judy BattistaJalen RamseyXavien HowardJaire Alexander
Jeremy BergmanJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Ali BhanpuriJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Tom BlairJaire AlexanderJalen RamseyXavien Howard
Gil BrandtJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderXavien Howard
Kyle BrandtJalen RamseyTre'Davious WhiteJaire Alexander
Nate BurlesonJalen RamseyXavien HowardStephon Gilmore
David CarrJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderStephon Gilmore
Brooke CersosimoJalen RamseyXavien HowardJaire Alexander
Jeffri ChadihaJalen RamseyXavien HowardStephon Gilmore
Gennaro FiliceJaire AlexanderJalen RamseyMarlon Humphrey
Cynthia FrelundJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Chase GoodbreadJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Marcas GrantJaire AlexanderJalen RamseyMarlon Humphrey
Maurice Jones-DrewJalen RamseyXavien HowardStephon Gilmore
Dan ParrJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderXavien Howard
Kevin PatraJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderXavien Howard
Adam RankJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderTre'Davious White
Marc RossXavien HowardJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Marc SesslerJalen RamseyXavien HowardJaire Alexander
Nick ShookXavien HowardJaire AlexanderJalen Ramsey
Joe ThomasJaire AlexanderXavien HowardJalen Ramsey
LaDainian TomlinsonJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderXavien Howard
Jim TrotterJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderMarlon Humphrey
Lance ZierleinJalen RamseyJaire AlexanderXavien Howard

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