NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2018" airs every Monday at 8 p.m. ET, unveiling a new set of 10 players each week. Three of the league's top-tier cornerbacks were revealed between Nos. 51 and 60, including Aqib Talib (No. 53), Xavier Rhodes (55) and Casey Hayward (59). NFL Network analyst and former NFL wide receiver James Jones lists his own rankings of the top 10 cornerbacks heading into the 2018 campaign.
*Rhodes were closed* a lot in 2017, as the Vikings' CB1 shut down top receivers weekly. It's one thing to travel with the best receivers, but it's another to produce, too. In coverage in 2017, Rhodes gave up just two touchdowns, a 79.0 passer rating against and a 54.7 completion percentage when targeted. He can cover on the outside, inside or in the slot, and his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and physicality at the line of scrimmage give receivers fits, making it hard for them to create separation, because he can push receivers off their routes. I've gone head-to-head with Rhodes, and these qualities, coupled with his ability to play bump-and-run *and* off coverage well, make him a nightmare matchup on the island. </content:power-ranking>
When the Jaguars drafted Ramsey, they envisioned a physical tone-setter in the secondary who could shut down the NFL's top-notch wideouts. I'd say they got that and much more just two years into his career. His extremely physical play, along with his won't-back-down attitude, gives him a chance to win any ball that comes his way. The first-team All-Pro (52.1) was second only to teammate A.J. Bouye (36.1) in passer rating yielded among corners who took at least 400 pass-play snaps in 2017. Ramsey's high IQ and unbelievable instincts should keep him near the top of this list for years to come.
Seven Pro Bowls in seven seasons. That's all you need to know. Peterson has been a staple in the Cardinals' secondary since he was drafted, so much so that quarterbacks often avoid him entirely. Even in Peterson's "down" 2017 season, he still gave up just three touchdowns. He has incredible ball skills, but his speed is what makes him special. Both of these attributes are apparent in this one-handed pick from 2016. Unreal.
Hayward has established himself as a ballhawk the last few years, and he stepped up in a big way when other Chargers went down with injuries. He has an extremely high football IQ and is always around the ball. Since 2015, Hayward is one of five players -- Marcus Peters, Darius Slay (both on my top-10 list), Trumaine Johnson and Brent Grimes -- who have recorded at least 10 interceptions and 40 passes defensed. (Hayward has 11 INTs and 49 passes defensed, for the record.) That kind of production deserves some recognition, even if he's not one of the "big names."
The new 49er has been the league's most productive corner since Seattle drafted him in 2011, ranking first in INTs (32), passes defensed (99), completion percentage allowed (47.4) and passer rating allowed (50.9) among CBs with a minimum of 300 targets in coverage. So why is he No. 5 here? Last year's Achilles injury drops him, because we simply don't know if he'll be the same Sherman in his return. Still, with his length and skill in bump-and-run, quarterbacks would be smart to stay away from him.
Detroit's CB1 is coming off a solid 2017 campaign. Slay, who tied for first in picks (six) among corners last season, is extremely patient at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to watch a play develop and react when the time is right.
The definition of a ballhawk, Peters leads the league in interceptions (21) since 2015, including the playoffs. Only Ed Reed has more INTs (22) in the first three seasons of a player's career in the last 25 seasons. Peters could still use work in man coverage, but he excels in zone coverage, often jumping routes and taking advantage of poor throws. Now that the ex-Chief is in Los Angeles, I'm really looking forward to watching him pair up with fellow new-Ram Aqib Talib under the direction of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who should elevate the 25-year-old's game to the next level.
Bouye is a pure football player. He's not the fastest defender, but he never gets beat deep. With Ramsey often shadowing the opponent's WR1, Bouye has utterly dominated against WR2s and WR3s. Just look at his stat line in his first year in Jacksonville: a 36.1 passer rating against and a 46.7 catch rate when targeted (92 times) in coverage. Bouye's patience allows him to consistently make plays, making him one of the Jags' biggest additions heading into the 2017 season.
Norman has consistently been among the best cornerbacks in the league since his breakout 2015 season in Carolina. He has great feet, is able to get in and out of breaks and has good anticipation and route recognition. One reason Norman appears so low on this list is he doesn't travel with top receivers.
The sky's the limit for the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, as Lattimore did not allow a touchdown on 415 coverage snaps and gave up a first down or touchdown on just 27.9 percent of his targets, per Pro Football Focus. He's still learning, but he has shown he can make big-time plays. Expectations for Lattimore couldn't be higher after a stellar debut campaign in which he led all rookies in interceptions (5) and passes defended (18) in the regular season.