It takes a lot more than a peek at the NFL’s interceptions leaderboard to determine the league’s best outside cornerbacks—just check out last season’s unlikely top three of Marcus Peters, Trumaine Johnson and Marcus Williams. Year after year, we see top corners drop off of that leaderboard entirely because offenses are learning to stay away from their side of the field at all costs—it’s become a badge of respect. Shutdown capability may not be the most TV-friendly skill—try as networks might to spice up highlight packages of a star wideout reduced to a series of futile jogs up the sidelines as the play heads in the opposite direction—but the best cornerbacks tend to do enough pre- and postgame talking to keep themselves in the headlines. This ethos lies at the heart of our ranking of the best outside cornerbacks in football ahead of the 2016 season.
The nature of the “island” that every elite corner is said to patrol is changing fast, but for now, much of the drama within the game’s central one-on-one battle still lies out near the boundaries. If the linchpin of your team’s pass defense is missing from this list, there’s a good chance he shows up in our ranking of the league’s best slot corners. Otherwise, take it as another opportunity to catch quarterbacks napping early in the ‘16 season.
Just missed the cut:
Darius Slay, Lions: Slay catches a bad break because the position is so deep at the top and because it’s a convenient narrative device to give him somewhere to go this fall as he plays for a new contract.
The next big thing:
Jason Verrett, Chargers: Yes, teams are still looking for giants to put on the perimeter, but Verrett is a budding star with average size, electric speed and a nose for the big play. He just needs to turn around his injury luck to make a big leap up this list.