Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden NFL's best cornerbacks


Every Thursday, Chris Wesseling rolls out the power rankings for one specific NFL position.

So far, we have ranked the top running backs, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, tight ends, defensive tackles and wide receivers, defensive ends, kick returners, running backs, linebacker duos, wide receiver duos and safeties in the league.

This week, we turn our attention back to the league's top cornerbacks.

This is not a fantasy football cheat sheet, nor is it an attempt to predict which players will finish with the best statistics this season. The premise is which cornerback I would want for the rest of the 2013 season. Although statistics, scouting reports and other factors such as durability were considered, the criteria is based primarily on game film from first 12 weeks of the 2013 season.

Top shelf: Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden, Richard Sherman, Alterraun Verner, Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, Tyrann Mathieu

Arguably the best athlete in the NFL, Peterson's play finally is catching up to his reputation. He's now the closest thing the NFL has to a legitimate shutdown cornerback. ... Haden takes away big, physical speed threats, but he has been beaten of late by smaller, quicker receivers. He's still All-Pro caliber. ... Quarterbacks still are afraid to throw in Sherman's direction. As long as he and Earl Thomas are back there, the Seahawks' defensive backfield will be just fine without Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.

It's hard to beat Verner from a statistical vantage point this season. Tied for the lead in interceptions, he's also No. 1 in opponent's passer rating and completion percentage, per Pro Football Focus. ... The average completion against Revis goes for 8.9 yards; the lowest figure among all starting cornerbacks. ... Grimes leads the NFL in passes defensed and is the best player in Miami's secondary. ... Talib and Devin McCourty have succeeded in taking away what opposing passing attacks do best. At midseason, Charles Woodson chose Talib as the NFL's top cornerback.

Mathieu "starts" at free safety in base personnel, but he's played more snaps at cornerback in nickel and dime packages. He's already one of the most complete corners in the league, attacking the line of scrimmage in run support and as a blitzer, while showing a knack for big plays in coverage. The Honey Badger is a major reason for the Cardinals' success this season.

Next level: Jason McCourty, Johnathan Joseph, Vontae Davis, Lardarius Webb, Keenan Lewis, Brandon Carr, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields

McCourty and Verner have made a strong argument as the top cornerback duo in the league this season. They have allowed only one touchdown all season. That will be tested in Denver on Sunday. ... Joseph has allowed less than 50 percent of the passes in his direction to be completed. ... Davis is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the league, but he still gets toasted too often.

Lewis has been an excellent free-agent addition, allowing a passer rating of just 67.5 on throws in his coverage. ... Shields has flashed shutdown potential against the likes of A.J. Green and Josh Gordon, but he still surrenders too many big plays.

Solid starters: Brandon Flowers, Carlos Rogers, Captain Munnerlyn, Chris Harris, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Asante Samuel, Sean Smith, Tim Jennings, DeAngelo Hall, William Gay, Alfonzo Dennard, Kareem Jackson

Flowers has not been able to shut down No. 1 receivers like he has done in previous seasons. ... A pick-six machine, Munnerlyn is the best player in an underrated Panthers' secondary. ... Harris and Rodgers-Cromartie have solidified Denver's defensive backfield in Champ Bailey's absence. ... Samuel has been outplayed by rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. ... Hall is enjoying a fine contract season, but he's missed too many tackles of late. ... Gay has surpassed Ike Taylor as the Steelers' most effective cornerback.

Pro Bowl potential: Stephon Gilmore, Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, Jimmy Smith, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Boykin

Gilmore got off to a slow start while playing with a club on his hand at midseason. He's just now rounding into the form that saw him flash lockdown potential as a rookie last year. ... Rhodes struggled with penalties early this season, but he's just now hitting his stride as a physical corner who likes to press bigger receivers. ... Trufant already has set the Falcons' rookie record with 14 pass deflections, good for second in the NFC.

Injuries affected Smith's play in his first two seasons. He's finally settling in as an above-average starter for the Ravens with the skill-set to emerge as a shutdown corner down the line. ... Thurmond was one of the NFL's premier slot corners before his four-game suspension kicked in. ... Boykin has primarily played in subpackages, but he's easily the best coverage corner in Philadelphia.

Best of the rest: Antonio Cromartie, Tarell Brown, Alan Ball, Will Blackmon, Dwayne Gratz, Tramaine Brock, Greg Toler, Corey Graham, Kyle Arrington, Leodis McKelvin, Bradley Fletcher, Pacman Jones, Terence Newman, Drayton Florence, Marcus Cooper, Orlando Scandrick, Cortez Allen, Jerraud Powers, Tracy Porter, Cary Williams, Buster Skrine, Chris Houston

After a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod last season, Cromartie has had trouble handling speed threats this year. The average completion in his coverage has gone for 20.1 yards, the highest total in the league. ... Ball and Blackmon have exceeded expectations as castoffs in Jacksonville this year. Gratz has impressed since returning from an ankle injury that cost him five games. ... Brock has played well enough in the nickel role to earn a new four-year contract extension from the 49ers.

Florence is a perfect example of Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman's under-the-radar free-agent signings, still pressing and re-routing receivers as a top-notch nickel corner. ... Cooper has been picked on by Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers the past three weeks, but that shouldn't obscure an excellent first half. ... Williams talks a big game, but he still gets beat too often in man coverage. ... Skrine is developing into a fine complement to Haden.

The playoff picture
How would your team's prospects look if the season ended today? See where each team stands in the playoff picture midway through the season. More ...

Struggling: Champ Bailey, Ike Taylor, Josh Wilson, Chris Cook, Morris Claiborne, Janoris Jenkins, Dee Milliner, Cortland Finnegan, Darius Slay, Derek Cox, Trumaine Johnson, Mike Jenkins, Josh Robinson

Bailey was benched last week after missing the majority of the season with a foot injury. He's clearly not back to his 2012 form. ... Taylor repeatedly has been burned since holding A.J. Green to 41 yards in Week 2. This looks like the beginning of the end of a stellar career for the 33-year-old. ... Cook was drafted to handle the likes of big receivers such as Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall in the NFC North. That responsibility will now fall on Rhodes' shoulders.

Claiborne and Milliner have been two of the most disappointing top-10 draft picks of the past two years. ... According to Pro Football Focus, Finnegan has allowed a passer rating of 136.0 on throws in his direction. Look for the Rams to cut ties in the offseason. ... Slay has plenty of promise, but the second-round draft pick's career is off to a rough start. ... Cox already has been benched multiple times this season.

Trainer's room: Leon Hall, Charles Tillman, Brandon Browner, Jabari Greer, DJ Hayden

The latest "Around The League Podcast" debates the Seahawks' Super Bowl chances and asks "Who do you trust?" as the playoffs approach.