NFL Defensive Back Rankings for 2021 – | Expert Predictions, Picks, and Previews

Defense/Special Teams Rankings Week 8: Kansas City Chiefs/Tyrann Mathieu

Tyrann Mathieu excels as each a security and slot defender

The secondary could also be thought of the “final” line of protection, however that should not reduce the essential function defensive backs serve within the NFL. Versatility is also turning into a key asset with the emergence of slot defenders.

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Offensive coordinators have gotten extra artistic in the case of getting their vast receivers the ball in house. So it is turning into extra frequent for a crew to make use of its greatest defensive again as a slot defender, as they’ve the ability set greatest suited to the job.

To that finish, an argument may be made that Tyrann Mathieu is probably the most precious defensive again within the NFL. Not solely is Mathieu Athlon Sports activities’ prime security coming into the 2021 season, the three-time, first-team All-Professional is also the No. 1 slot defender.

Under are the entire rankings of cornerbacks, safeties and slot defenders for the upcoming season.

Athlon’s participant rankings are simply one of many options that seem within the 2021 Professional Soccer journal.

2021 NFL Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE/FB I OL I DL I LB I DB I Prime 50

2021 NFL Cornerback Rankings

1. Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

Howard led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2020, turning into the primary participant with double-digit picks since 2007. However it wasn’t simply the thefts that made Howard’s season particular — he additionally allowed simply 47 receptions on 90 targets for 695 yards, 294 yards after the catch, 4 touchdowns and a 53.0 opponent passer score.

2. Jaire Alexander, Inexperienced Bay Packers

Should you have been to ballot NFL cornerbacks about their favourite on the place, Alexander would possibly prime the record. A technician who managed to transcend some “fascinating” protection ideas in 2020, Alexander allowed simply two TDs from the beginning of the season by the NFC Championship Recreation — and one got here within the first recreation of the season.

3. J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

Jackson has been one of many recreation’s extra underrated cornerbacks in a star-studded Patriots defensive backfield, and 2020 was the season wherein he coated extra No. 1 receivers because of Stephon Gilmore’s accidents. He gave up simply 41 catches on 75 targets for 584 yards, 253 yards after the catch, 5 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and a 62.7 opponent passer score.

4. Darious Williams, Los Angeles Rams

The addition of Brandon Staley to run the Rams’ protection in 2020 unlocked Williams’ potential, and he took off as few different cornerbacks did final season. Few anticipated Williams to change into the Rams’ most useful cornerback in 2020, with 38 receptions allowed on 78 targets for 578 yards (together with playoffs), 174 yards after the catch, two touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

5. William Jackson III, Washington Soccer Staff

Below the radar in a typically dangerous Cincinnati protection, Jackson turned among the best man protection cornerbacks within the NFL, which made it fairly stunning that the Bengals let him go. Washington jumped on the prospect so as to add him to its secondary with a three-year, $40.5 million contract. As a press cornerback who follows receivers by their routes from step one, he has few friends.

6. Stephon Gilmore. New England Patriots

Gilmore was most definitely the NFL’s greatest cornerback in 2019. New England’s protection wasn’t fairly as on level in 2020 for a number of causes, and Gilmore missed a number of video games with accidents. Was this a one-year blip, or the start of the top?

7. Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Payments

Like Gilmore, White had a comparatively down 2020 season after a spectacular 2019. Accidents additionally performed a task. When wholesome, White was nonetheless a lockdown nook, and Buffalo’s protection was a lot better when he was at his greatest. However White allowed 4 TD passes final season after giving up none the 12 months earlier than.

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8. Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams

In 2020, Ramsey thrived within the “Star” function he continuously performed at Florida State, the place he would bounce into the slot and canopy receivers in several methods. Whereas Ramsey can expertise protection lapses when he’s taking part in receivers straight up off the road of scrimmage, he has the acumen to close receivers down when he sees them from completely different angles.

9. L’Jarius Sneed, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

Sneed picked off passes in his first two NFL video games, didn’t permit a TD till the Chiefs confronted the Saints in Week 15 and completed with a 66.6 opponent passer score, by far the perfect of any rookie cornerback in 2020.

10. Marcus Peters, Baltimore Ravens

As normal, Peters was the NFL’s most distinguished feast-or-famine cornerback in 2020 — however the feasts have been fairly tasty. Since his rookie 12 months of 2015, Peters has an NFL-best 31 interceptions, with Miami’s Xavien Howard rating second with 22.

11. James Bradberry, New York Giants12. Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns13. Kyle Fuller, Denver Broncos14. Michael Davis, Los Angeles Chargers15. Kendall Fuller, Washington Soccer Team16. Richard Sherman, free agent17. Malcolm Butler, Arizona Cardinals18. Joe Haden, Pittsburgh Steelers19. Levi Wallace, Buffalo Bills20. Shaquill Griffin, Jacksonville Jaguars21. Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys22. Jason Verrett, San Francisco 49ers23. Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers24. D.J. Reed, Seattle Seahawks25. T.J. Carrie, Indianapolis Colts26. Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers27. Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers28. Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos29. Xavier Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts30. Dre Kirkpatrick, Arizona Cardinals

2021 NFL Security Rankings

1. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

Final season, Mathieu had 287 snaps at free security and 399 as a field participant or sturdy security. And on these 686 snaps, Mathieu allowed 36 catches on 54 targets for 520 yards, 222 yards after the catch, six interceptions and a 70.5 opponent passer score. Mathieu has the uncommon athletic expertise to interrupt up brief and intermediate passes within the field and take care of deep-third protection simply as seamlessly. He’s probably the most imposing do-it-all defensive again within the NFL at this time.

2. Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

The Broncos prevented Simmons’ impending standing as the perfect defensive free agent within the 2021 class by re-signing him to a four-year, $61 million contract with $35 million assured that made him the NFL’s highest-paid security on a per-year foundation. It’s nicely deserved, as Simmons has change into one of the vital versatile and efficient safeties within the NFL.

3. Darnell Savage, Inexperienced Bay Packers

The primary-round select of Maryland in 2019 improved his protection expertise exponentially in 2020. Savage is extra of a real free security and slot defender than an alpha tackler within the field, however if you permit simply 35 catches in 60 targets over two seasons (and 18 catches on 33 targets in 2020), that’s simply positive. Savage excelled in Mike Pettine’s dime-heavy defenses, so it is going to be fascinating to see how he’s deployed below new defensive coordinator Joe Barry

4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

When the Steelers received Fitzpatrick in a commerce early within the 2019 season from the Dolphins, they transformed him to extra of a standard free security function and watched as he turned a lockdown defender there. Fitzpatrick had much more snaps at free security within the 2020 season, permitting 9 catches on 20 targets for 130 yards and an opponent passer score of 60.4.

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5. Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals

Particularly as a deep-third defender in two-high security appears, Bates has the vary, quickness and on-field smarts to take care of any receiver. Final season, he gave up 19 catches on 35 targets for 178 yards, 72 yards after the catch, one landing, three interceptions and a 42.3 opponent passer score.

6. Micah Hyde, Buffalo Payments

Hyde is the first free security in what stands out as the NFL’s greatest security duo together with teammate Jordan Poyer. Hyde performs all over the place from the field to the slot to deep, however he’s only when trailing receivers up the sphere. Final season, on 710 protection snaps, Hyde allowed 15 catches on 27 targets for 143 yards, 46 yards after the catch, one TD, one interception and a 67.4 opponent passer score.

7. John Johnson III, Cleveland Browns

Johnson, a free-agent signee from the Rams, not solely provides a superb free security to Joe Woods’ protection, however there’s additionally his effectivity within the slot and his means to get everybody lined up appropriately. Johnson gave up a handful of TDs early in 2020, however general, he was nice in any sort of protection.

8. Julian Blackmon, Indianapolis Colts

In his rookie season, with 869 snaps at free security, Blackmon allowed simply 9 catches on 17 targets for 137 yards, 45 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 40.2 opponent passer score. Blackmon was capable of do one thing uncommon — pull into a real free security function as a rookie.

9. Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Smith, one of the vital constant gamers of his period, did what he all the time does — present excellent protection within the field and the deep third. Whereas all the things was falling aside round him, Smith allowed 17 catches on 26 targets for 276 yards, 80 yards after the catch, one landing, 5 INTs and a 74.0 opponent passer score.

10. Anthony Harris, Philadelphia Eagles

Have been you to have a look at the stats solely, you’d assume that Harris’ 2020 Vikings season was a disappointment. However the tape exhibits he was typically left within the lurch as a deep security with no go rush and little or no protection assist. Hopefully, he’ll have a greater probability to shine with the Eagles.

11. Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks12. Adrian Amos, Inexperienced Bay Packers13. Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks14. Amani Hooker, Tennessee Titans15. Marcus Maye, New York Jets16. Kamren Curl, Washington Soccer Team17. Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers18. Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia Eagles19. Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills20. Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 NFL Slot Defender Rankings

1. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs

Mathieu is the one participant on this 12 months’s record to be deemed the perfect participant at two completely different positions — slot defender and security — which speaks voluminously to his general worth. As a pure slot defender in 2020, he allowed 22 catches on 33 targets for 295 yards, 127 yards after the catch, one landing, three interceptions and a 67.1 opponent passer score.

2. Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos

No slot defender allowed a decrease opponent passer score in 2020 than Callahan’s 10.7, which is what occurs if you hand over simply six catches on 14 targets for 41 yards, 12 yards after the catch, no touchdowns and two interceptions. When he’s been on the sphere for Chicago and Denver all through his NFL profession, he’s all the time had the aggressiveness, motion expertise and intelligence to be one of many recreation’s greatest slot erasers.

3. Kenny Moore II, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts signed Moore off the road and watched him change into one of many NFL’s most underrated cornerbacks — particularly within the slot. Moore can even succeed outdoors, however together with his quickness and change-of-direction skills, he’s a pure inside. In 2020, he allowed 48 slot receptions on 64 targets for 241 yards, one landing, three interceptions and a 79.1 opponent passer score.

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4. Mike Hilton, Cincinnati Bengals

Hilton has 1,866 snaps within the slot versus 63 snaps at outdoors cornerback because the Steelers made the previous Jaguars and Patriots undrafted cornerback a part of their group in 2017, and it’s anticipated that the Bengals, who signed Hilton to a four-year, $24 million contract within the offseason, will preserve him proper there. Final season, Hilton gave up simply 23 slot catches on 35 targets.

5. Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams

Ramsey lined up within the slot on 176 of his 1,088 snaps final season, permitting six receptions on 12 targets for 40 yards, 42 yards after the catch, no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 57.6 opponent passer score. Ramsey continuously aligned within the “Star” place, overlaying slot receivers and tight ends from completely different components of the sphere along with his extra frequent outdoors CB duties.

6. Troy Hill, Cleveland Browns

The Browns didn’t have nice slot defenders in 2020, which is one purpose they signed Hill, the previous Rams defender, to a two-year, $9 million take care of $4.5 million assured. In 2020, Hill allowed 41 slot receptions on 55 targets for 373 yards, one TD, three interceptions and a 75.8 opponent passer score.

7. Taron Johnson, Buffalo Payments

The Payments’ fourth-round select of Weber State in 2018, Johnson had simply two interceptions in 2020, however they each mattered lots. The primary was towards Ben Roethlisberger in Week 14, and Johnson returned that choose 51 yards for a landing. Then, within the divisional spherical towards the Ravens, Johnson intercepted a Lamar Jackson go ultimately zone and returned that one 101 yards for a game-defining pick-6. Buffalo’s main slot defender is nice at hiding his intentions and leaping routes on the final second.

8. Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

It’s under no circumstances simple to be each an amazing outdoors cornerback and an amazing slot cornerback as a result of the ability units required are so completely different, however Howard, the highest outdoors cornerback on this 12 months’s record, additionally excelled within the slot, the place he used his short-area quickness and change-of-direction expertise to permit eight catches on 16 targets for 83 yards, 60 yards after the catch, one landing, three interceptions and a 46.6 opponent passer score.

9. Darnell Savage, Inexperienced Bay Packers

Whenever you play dime protection on 50 % of your snaps because the Packers did in 2020, your safeties are going to see numerous time within the slot as nicely. Savage allowed seven catches on 14 targets within the slot for 126 yards, 42 yards after the catch, one landing, two interceptions and a 65.5 opponent passer score.

10. Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As soon as the postseason received underway, Murphy-Bunting turned the lockdown slot defender the Bucs had hoped he could be. From the wild card spherical by Tremendous Bowl LV, he allowed simply 13 catches on 22 targets for 157 yards, 73 yards after the catch, one landing, three interceptions and a 56.6 opponent passer score.

11. Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers12. Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens13. Ok’Waun Williams San Francisco 49ers14. Jalen Mills, New England Patriots15. Juston Burris Carolina Panthers16. Juan Thornhill, Kansas Metropolis Chiefs17. Jonathan Jones, New England Patriots18. Brian Poole, free agent19. Nik Needham, Miami Dolphins20. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Athlon Sports' 2021 Pro Football Magazine

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