by Rob Joyce
It’s one thing to have confidence. It’s another entirely to be delusional. When asked earlier this week where he ranks among the league’s cornerbacks, the Jets’ Dee Milliner responded with a great sense of self-assurance. “The best corner in the league? Me,” said the second-year pro. “I ain’t going to say that somebody else is better than me.” While admirable, the facts show Milliner to be far from the truth. He was benched multiple times his rookie season, and ranked in the bottom half of cornerbacks last season by multiple stats. Here is a more realistic list of the best shutdown corners in the NFL (Hint: Milliner is nowhere to be found):
5) Alterraun Verner, Tampa Bay: The best corner you’ve most likely never seen. Spending the first four years of his career with the Titans, Verner had a breakout 2013. He picked off four passes in the team’s first four games before opponents started avoiding him. In a contract year, his performance was rewarded with a $26.5 million deal with the Buccaneers. In man-to-man coverage, there are few better.
4) Darrelle Revis, New England: His 2012 ACL tear and a somewhat-average 2013 in Tampa Bay lowers him on this list. Two years ago, before his knee injury, he was almost universally regarded as the league’s best corner. But with the Bucs his strengths – namely playing in man coverage – were not a fit in Greg Schiano’s zone scheme. Now with New England, expect Bill Belichick to find a way for Revis to thrive like Aqib Talib did last year for the Patriots, before leaving for Denver this offseason.
3) Joe Haden, Cleveland: He was the league’s highest paid corner until Tuesday night. In his first four years in the league Haden has gone from very consistent to dominant. Named a second team All-Pro last season, Haden is a cornerstone the Browns are building around. After taking fellow CB Justin Gilbert in the first round of this year’s draft, Cleveland’s defense could be quite good. With some guy named “Manziel” on offense, though, you probably won’t hear about it.
2) Patrick Peterson, Arizona: Like Milliner, he too has called himself the best corner in the league. Only he can back it up. On Tuesday the Cardinals made Peterson the league’s highest paid defensive back, signing the fourth-year pro to a five-year deal worth $70 million. This after Peterson made the league’s All-Pro team for the first time as a corner (he made it in 2011 as a return specialist). At just 24, expect him and Tyrann Mathieu (22) to create nightmares for opposing offenses for years to come.
1) Richard Sherman, Seattle: Take out the deflection in last year’s NFC Championship Game against the 49ers and Sherman still tops the list. Yes, he is brash and outspoken. He’s allowed to be – he’s been named first team All-Pro the last two years, he signed a $57.5 million deal in May, he is a part of the Legion of Boom that is among the better defenses ever, and he has a Lombardi Trophy to his name. Each of the last two years he has eight interceptions. Now teams might recognize Sherman’s talent and throw away from him.