American football isn't an Olympic sport -- yet. But with the world's best athletes set to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we thought we'd get in on the fun by holding a medal competition at nine key positions. NFL Media analysts ranked the top three players at each spot, with points assigned accordingly -- three points for each first-place ranking, two for each second-place ranking and one for each third-place ranking. The points were totaled, resulting in final gold-, silver- and bronze-medal finishers. Below, you'll find the results -- and each analyst's individual ballot -- at cornerback.
The Cornerback Podium
Peterson has the ideal size and speed for the position. He's the only defensive player in NFL history to make five Pro Bowls before turning 26. I don't think anybody in the NFL is better than Sherman at locking down one side of the field; his teammates feed off him. Peters was tested as a rookie and passed with flying colors. There's no reason to think he can't be even better in 2016.
Sherman has top-level ball skills and technique -- and he is such a competitor. Peterson is a student of the game, has great anticipation and is arguably the most aggressive corner in the league right now. Talib has great instincts and reads the ball well. One other thing he has going for him? The guy doesn't back down from anyone.
People say you can't separate Sherman from his system, but isn't that true of every great player on some level? Plenty of cornerbacks have suited up for Pete Carroll in the NFL. No one compares with Sherman, especially when it comes to his ability to close on the ball.
Despite what Josh Norman says, there is no Champ Bailey, Darrell Green or Deion Sanders in this group. Peterson has been the most consistent all-around player at the position recently. Norman is a physical press CB. Meanwhile, Harris gets overshadowed by his teammate, Aqib Talib, but is still a better pure man-coverage CB.
Patrick Peterson has come a long way over his five-year career and is no longer overvalued at corner. He often sticks with the No. 1 receiver, as opposed to being a cog in a system. He is also a team leader in Arizona. Many are anticipating the decline of Darrelle Revis. Maybe he had an off year in 2015, but I am not ready to put him out to stud just yet. Jason Verrett is an oft-forgotten fantastic player in San Diego -- have a feeling about him this year.
Peterson is very physical and aggressive. He wins matchups against the league's top receivers, week in and week out. Sherman's length and intelligence allow him to consistently make plays. Harris played a vital role in Denver's championship campaign, and he doesn't shy away from challenges.
To the dismay of Peterson and Norman, Sherman remains the top CB1 in the game. He is a savvy ballhawk with a high football IQ and superb instincts. Now that he has started to "travel" -- i.e., shadow premier WR1s all over the field -- he is clearly the top choice at the position.
Sherman has stayed on top since announcing his arrival. Peterson is a powerfully athletic corner and matches up well with some of the bigger receivers in the league. Talib is as physical as they come, and his confidence and swagger allow him to take on -- and beat -- some of the top receivers in the game.
With our national obsession over "elite QBs" shifting to "shutdown corners" the last couple years, "Pat Pete" has emerged as the best CB in the game. Sherman deserves credit for proving doubters wrong by "traveling" all over the field with opponents' best WRs in '15. And I know Revis wasn't great last year ... but he deserves at least one year's worth of benefit of the doubt.
Peterson's performance in 2015 -- after being diagnosed with diabetes, following a substandard 2014 campaign -- re-established him as the game's top corner. Sherman proved he could shadow No. 1 WRs in 2015, adding to his résumé, while Norman is a solid bronze-medal winner.
Peterson can match up against any receiver in the league, and if the ball touches his hands, you have to be concerned about his ability to score. Sherman is one of the best players on a defensive unit that's been in the top two for the last three or four seasons. Harris has posted three good seasons in a row. He doesn't give up touchdowns and gets his team off the field on third down.
I feel like we've taken Sherman for granted now. Like we've all just come to assume that players of Sherman's size can be amazing cornerbacks. I grew up with Deion Sanders as the top corner in the game. He wasn't super tall and certainly didn't like to tackle people. And I know that might seem a little rude of me to say of a fellow NFL Media employee. But it's the truth. Like, I couldn't get mad at Prime if he described me as a bald person. It's just the truth. And it's not like Deion knows who I am, so we're all good.