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Ranking the Top 4 NFC North Cornerbacks

SI All Lions provides it rankings for the top four cornerbacks in the NFC North headed into the 2022 season.

Outside of the quarterback, the position of cornerback is arguably the second-most important position on an NFL team.

Why?

If a team can’t pass the ball and stop the pass, it has no real chance to win.

The argument can be made that pass rushers are pretty important, too. But, as fast as a lot of these QBs are getting rid of the ball (an average of 2.0-2.8 seconds), it comes down to a team’s corners. 

In the division Detroit plays in, the NFC North, there are four capable signal-callers who all can get hot at any given time.

The four projected starting QBs in the NFC North are as follows:

Detroit: Jared Goff

Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers

Minnesota: Kirk Cousins

Chicago: Justin Fields

Don’t forget there are big-time threats at receiver in this division, too.

Who are the top four CBs in the NFC North who can line up and have the best chance to stop them?

The list starts with one of Detroit’s finest and goes from there. 

4.) Amani Oruwariye, Lions

After learning to read QBs in coverage better in 2021 than he did in his two previous seasons, his effectiveness in coverage drastically improved.

Oruwariye put up six interceptions and 11 passes defensed last season.

To put that into perspective, in the two seasons prior to 2021, Oruwariye had three combined interceptions and 10 passes defensed.

While the thought was that 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah was going to become Detroit’s premier cornerback, it actually has become Oruwariye instead.

This fifth-round pick, out of Penn State, in 2019 has become the Lions’ top cover man, and he is on the brink of gaining the prestigious label of being a shutdown corner.

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3.) Jaylon Johnson, Bears

He has proven to be as durable in his two years as he has been productive. Johnson has only missed five games in that time period, and he has recorded 24 passes defensed (and one interception). Additionally, he was part of Chicago’s No. 2 ranked pass defense unit in 2021.

Johnson has a way about him to drift towards the ball, and he has a physical disposition to match. It almost looks like he is the receiver at times, and in the past, he has given former Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams a real challenge.

Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Johnson has already shown enough for his ceiling to be that of a true No. 1 CB. 

Despite snagging just one interception since entering the league in 2020, the 6-foot, 195-pound cornerback ranks eighth in forced incompletion rate (15.3%). If Johnson can reel in his occasional over-aggressiveness, he can significantly move up in these rankings.

2.) Kyler Gordon, Bears

Yes, he is a rookie, and yes, I am going out on a limb to rank him as the second-best CB in the division, before he ever plays a snap in the NFL.

What is the reason? Because of what he has shown me on his college game film. 

Pre-draft, Gordon was my No. 2 corner behind Ahmad Gardner, who went No. 4 overall to the N.Y. Jets this past April. 

Gordon ended up going early in the second round to the Bears.

While at the University of Washington, Gordon showed the ability to keep an eye on the backfield, while smoothly transitioning into the routes of receivers. 

He thrived in press coverage with his long arms, and he showed the kind of coveted short-burst that the top corners have to have to make a play on the ball.

With his length and ball prowess, Gordon is going to be tough to beat. He just looked so comfortable being out on an island all by himself.

1.) Jaire Alexander, Packers

Last year in July, PFF hailed Alexander as the top CB in the NFL.

Alexander had that kind of reputation headed into last season, and then a shoulder injury ended his year in Week 4.

There is little reason to believe he will not bounce back. The Packers must feel that way, too, having given Alexander a four-year, $84 million extension this offseason.

Since coming into the league in 2018, he has five interceptions, plus an astonishing 44 passes defensed.

Alexander is an impressive combination of aggressiveness, ball skills and athleticism, and it makes him just plain tough to throw against.