With "The Top 100 Players of 2011" wrapped up, it got us thinking: Who are the greatest players of the new millennium, the Y2K era? Since 2000, broad developments in NFL strategy have taken place, as well as the specialization of the players who fit into these new schemes. So who has thrived most in the league's ever-evolving environment?
Today, Jason La Canfora and Elliot Harrison debate the best cornerback. Got an opinion of your own? Sound off in the comments section below.
La Canfora: A case for Champ Bailey
Champ Bailey, more than anyone else at his position, played the game at a truly elite level, for the duration of this 2K time span. I have to go with him as the best cornerback of this era.
At one point, Bailey was unquestionably the best corner in the NFC when he played for the Redskins. Then he was part of a blockbuster deal and became the best corner in the AFC and a perennial All-Pro.
Bailey is a true shutdown corner with exceptional ball skills and a great mind for the game. He's made huge plays in huge games. He took away a side of the field for pretty much the life of this study. He has always had that air of greatness.
Sure, other youngsters like Nnamdi Asomugha came along, but the span of time in which he has dominated the game pales to Bailey's at this point. For Bailey to be getting contract extensions in the $16-million-per-season range at this stage of his career tells you all you need to know.
The only other player who has displayed this kind of superiority and longevity during this era is Charles Woodson, but Woodson also experienced depths that Champ never has. Woodson bottomed out in Oakland and was thrown a lifeline by the Packers.
At their very best, I'd probably lean Woodson's way, but when you're dissecting this 11-season span, Bailey's remarkable consistency sets him apart.
Players in the discussion: Woodson, Asomugha
Great ... but don't belong: Shawn Springs, Asante Samuel
Guy nobody talks about: Chris McAllister
Harrison: A case for Nnamdi Asomugha
Not 98 completions, 98 pass attempts! In three years. That's just over two times a game quarterbacks have tested him.
Once a half an opposing quarterback says to himself, "What the heck, I'll try throwing Nnamdi's way."
Remember in 2009 when everyone was going nuts over how good Darrelle Revis was playing? He got thrown at 108 times. That's 10 more times than Asomugha has been tested in the last three years combined. Revis gave up 40 receptions in 2009, while Asomugha has allowed 49 catches in the last three years combined.
Bailey has a lot more interceptions, but that's because he gets tested. He was thrown at 69 times in 2010 and 98 in 2009. Even in his prime, quarterbacks would push their chips to the middle of the table on the great Broncos corner. He was targeted over 80 times in both 2004 and 2005, his first two seasons in Denver.
There was a time when passers tried to deep-six Asomugha back in 2006. Eight interceptions later, they said enough already. Asomugha hasn't been challenged 40 times in a year since.
Now all this is not to say Revis and Bailey aren't incredible players, too. The former shuts great players down, while the latter has 48 career picks -- a lot of them in clutch situations. Asomugha doesn't switch sides much, either. And maybe Asomugha got challenged slightly less in his career because teams were often beating the Raiders and didn't have to roll the dice. But if you have to make those kinds of excuses, it tells you something about the kind of player we're talking about.
Asomugha has been tested so little, there is no real explanation other than the easiest one. He's the best corner in the game, and has been for a while.
Players in the discussion: Revis, Bailey, Charles Woodson
Great ... but don't belong: Ty Law, Troy Vincent
Guy(s) nobody talks about: Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison