If you still doubt the value of a good slot cornerback, consider that last season, NFL defenses were in nickel or dime subpackages on 65% of their plays. The subpackage is the new base defense, and the slot corner is the NFL’s new defensive starter, as roles have reversed in the last half-decade. Now, teams are more inclined to use their third linebackers as situational players, taking their third cornerbacks or third safeties off the field on obvious running situations, as opposed to in the past, when you'd use your slot defender only when opposing offenses threw as many receivers on the field as possible.
With power comes responsibility, though. Today’s slot defender has to do a little bit of everything: chase tight ends up the seam, match dance steps with small, quick inside receivers, and face up against the run. It's a daunting task worthy of recognition, which brings us to this list.
Just missed the cut
Bobby McCain, Dolphins: McCain didn’t play a lot in the slot last season, but he allowed just two catches on eight targets on 117 slot snaps, and he'll get more reps in 2016. He’s an ascending player to watch.
The next big thing
Jeremy Lane, Seahawks: You can talk all you want about the worst play call in NFL history, but the Seahawks may have still won Super Bowl XLIX had Lane not been injured in the first quarter of that game after intercepting a Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman. That injury upset the balance of the Legion of Boom, and Brady picked it apart in the second half. Lane didn’t see the field again until Week 11 of the 2015 season, but he fit right back in and played at a very high level. If the Seahawks maintain enough depth to keep him in the slot instead of outside (where he can also play quite adeptly), he'll most likely be in the top 10 next year.