Who's the NFL's best cornerback? Wide receiver? Offensive tackle? What about the second-best defensive tackle -- after Aaron Donald? To preview the 2021 NFL season, we set out to answer those questions and much more.
We surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive linemen and all the way through tight ends. This is the second edition of these rankings, and there are several players who moved up and dropped from last year's lists.
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 to 15 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. We had several ties, so we broke them by isolating the two-man matchup with additional voting and follow-up calls. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy -- even the honorable mentions.
The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2021. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who's the best today? Pretty simple.
We'll roll out a position per day over the next 11 days. Here's the schedule:
The NFL is stocked with very good cornerbacks -- but not enough truly great ones. Evaluators in the league lamented the scarcity of game-changing corners, which is a problem in an increasingly pass-first league.
Execs and coaches want corners who can cover a No. 1 receiver in man with minimal help and switch to zone with ease, who can tackle in space and win with instincts and footwork. That's a big ask, but it's also why elite corners get paid. They are rare.
This year's top-10 cornerbacks list features its share of greatness, though. It includes a clear-cut No. 1, ascending young stars, aging but still proficient corners, and a mean tiebreaker from Baltimore to New England.