The Top 10 Cornerbacks of 2021

Story posted January 13, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Zach Duncan

In this modern day and age of the NFL, there are stars on both sides of the ball with big personalities. One position that has especially emerged as a prominent one is the cornerback.

There are three types of corners: the traditionalist, ball-hawk and the complete corner. The traditionalist erases half of the field while striking fear into the hearts of quarterbacks everywhere. Then there’s the ball hawk, capable of turning the tide with plentiful takeaways and the third type is the complete corner capable of getting downhill to make tackles with physicality.

These cornerback’s styles of play are cornerstones of their respective team’s schemes. So, the burning question after Week 18 just wrapped up is: who were the top-10 at this position from the most recent season?

10. Chidobe Awuzie

Criminally underrated on a less-than-stellar Cincinnati secondary, Awuzie fits the complete cornerback role to a tee. He utilizes his length and frame to shoot between blockers and finish tackles. He earned a commendable 83.4 overall defensive grade on Pro Football Focus this recent season.

9. Amani Oruwariye

The Lions may be a dumpster fire, but several bright spots have emerged from the rubble, including the former Nittany Lion. He managed to rack up six interceptions during his 14 starts, which was the third-most in 2021.
8. Casey Hayward Jr.

In his tenth season, Hayward Jr. played the most snaps of any corner outside. He is still playing quality football and it was evident Sunday night when he made several splash plays.

7. Marshon Lattimore

Lattimore is still elite, tasked with shadowing the opposing team’s top target with matchups against the likes of D.K. Metcalf and Davante Adams. The Saints have the utmost trust in their shutdown corner, who was just selected to his third consecutive pro bowl.

6. Kenny Moore II

Slot corners deserve some love for their often-underappreciated role, and Moore II is a massive reason why. The best corner in the AFC South, he manned the second-most snaps in the slot playing his signature physical-style of football.

5. Darius Slay

They call him “Big Play” Slay and with good reason. He earned an 83.9 grade in coverage this past season while tacking on three interceptions for good measure. Who knows if Philly even makes the playoffs without that key piece to their secondary puzzle?

4. Trevon Diggs

Don’t always believe all the hype. Diggs was unreal at garnering takeaways, with a league-leading 11 interceptions; that’s the sole reason he cracks the top five. Yet, he had many glaring issues all-around. He epitomized the ball hawk prototype, but the balance was not there whatsoever.

3. A.J. Terrell

Once believed to be a desperate draft reach, Terrell has more than paid off for being a first-round pick. Having 13 games with fewer than 20 yards allowed, the lowest passer rating allowed (47.5) and the lowest completion percentage allowed (43.9%), number 24 is just fine by himself on “Terrell Island.”

2. J.C. Jackson

New England had the second-best pass defense in the NFL, large in part due to this man. Tallying an impressive eight picks and a league-leading 23 passes defended, Jackson shut down most that came his way.

1. Jalen Ramsey

It couldn’t be anyone else but the trash-talking, field-erasing and boastful Ramsey.
He also showed increased versatility this year, sliding inside to cover the slot when needed. He is the top dog because he inexplicably is a combination of all three prototypes rolled into one superstar.

 

Zach Duncan is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at ztd5045@psu.edu.