We all love best-of lists, but what if people around the NFL created their own? To preview the 2022 NFL season, 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 lineman. This is the third edition of these rankings, and there are several players who moved up or dropped from last year's lists. Today, we focus on the cornerbacks.
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 50 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with our rankers. 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 2022. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who are the best players today? Pretty simple.
We rolled out a position per day over 11 days. Here's the schedule: edge rushers (July 5), defensive tackles (July 6), off-ball linebackers (July 7), cornerbacks (July 8), safeties (July 9), interior offensive linemen (July 10), quarterbacks (July 11), running backs (July 12), wide receivers (July 13), tight ends (July 14) and offensive tackles (July 15).
Cornerback is less about what you have done and more about what you're able to do. Corners who can consistently handle man coverage will get paid a premium and rank higher on lists like this. Those who put up impressive coverage numbers in zone-heavy schemes will usually be knocked by NFL voters who prioritize scheme transcendence. And getting beat is overrated.
"All the good ones do," an NFC exec said. "I'd rather a guy play a ton of man, knowing he'll give up completions but he'll compete and make plays on the ball, than one who rarely gets tested and struggles when he does."
That notion became a central theme in the voting for the top-10 cornerback list. The top name here is a well-known playmaker, but the rest of the order is not. Let's look at some of the game's top corners as ranked by execs, coaches, scouts and players around the NFL.