NFC South top 25: No. 12

We continue our series of my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 12:

Brent Grimes, cornerback, Atlanta

What he did in 2011: Grimes continued to expand on one of the best long-shot stories in the NFL in recent years. A former undrafted player out of Shippensburg (Pa.), Grimes has proven to the league that he can make up for his lack of height with his athleticism. Although Dunta Robinson was the big-name cornerback in Atlanta last season, teams stopped picking on Grimes. He was credited with 14 passes defensed, had one interception and forced a fumble, while missing four games with an injury.

Why he’s No. 12 in 2012: The Falcons thought so much of Grimes that they put the franchise tag on him before the start of free agency. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Atlanta traded for cornerback Asante Samuel in April. That was no knock on Grimes or Robinson. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said he wanted three starting-caliber cornerbacks soon after he took the job. New coordinators tend to get what they want and the Falcons brought in Samuel for Nolan. The Falcons are going to use a lot of three-cornerback sets. With Samuel and Robinson back on the field, opponents may be tempted to target Grimes again. That would be a mistake. This guy has overcome every challenge. If teams start throwing his way more, Grimes could get somewhere near the five interceptions he had in 2010, when he went to the Pro Bowl.