This is the eighth in our series of position-by-position rankings. It is a little different this season because we’re ranking the players before free agency starts and before rosters are set. We will adjust accordingly as we go along. On to a stacked group of defensive backs:
1. Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland: This may change. Many league observers expect Asomugha to leave the Raiders when free agency starts. That would be a major hit to this list.
2. Champ Bailey, Denver: Bailey is aging, but he is still an elite-level player.
3. Eric Berry, Kansas City: Berry could be atop this list next year. The second-year safety appears to be a special player.
4. Quentin Jammer, San Diego: The veteran cornerback is underrated. He is a stalwart.
5. Brandon Flowers, Kansas City: He is a favorite of NFL scouts. He is becoming one of the better young cornerbacks in the league.
6. Eric Weddle, San Diego: He is a top safety and a playmaker.
7. Stanford Routt, Oakland: This is a big year for Routt, who just signed a big contract with the Raiders. He’ll be challenged if Asomugha leaves.
8. Antoine Cason, San Diego: Cason is an up-and-coming player. He was very solid is his first season as a starter last year.
9. Brandon Carr, Kansas City: Carr is a strong right cornerback. He and Flowers make a nice tandem.
10. Bob Sanders, San Diego: The new Charger has to show he can stay healthy. If so, he’ll be a great pickup.
11. Tyvon Branch, Oakland: Branch is a good, strong player, but he still has to improve.
12. Michael Huff, Oakland: Huff is decent, not great. He could leave in free agency.
13. Andre Goodman, Denver: He is nearing the end of his career, but he’ll probably start in 2011.
14. Brian Dawkins, Denver: This could be his final season.
15. Steve Gregory, San Diego: He is a solid role player.
16. Kendrick Lewis, Kansas City: Lewis and Berry could be a pair for years.
17. Chris Johnson, Oakland: He could start if Asomugha leaves and the youngsters aren’t ready.
18. Javier Arenas, Kansas City: He could be a good nickel for the long term.
19. Mike Mitchell, Oakland: It’s time for this 2009 second-round pick to make a move.
20. Rahim Moore, Denver: I have a feeling this second-round pick will be ranked much higher next year.
21. Quinton Carter, Denver: The same may be said for Carter.
22. Marcus Gilchrist, San Diego: The second-round pick will get a chance to contribute early.
23. DeMarcus Van Dyke, Oakland: The third-round pick is a speedster.
24. Chimdi Chekwa, Oakland: The fourth-round pick got great experience at Ohio State.