It’s tough to succeed in the NFL today without a strong secondary anchored by at least one shutdown cornerback. The ability to take away the opposing team’s best receiver or an entire section of the field is an advantage for defenses that can not be understated. Let’s take a look at the top five cornerbacks the Cowboys will play this season.
5. WILLIAM JACKSON III, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
William Jackson III is set to join one of the best defenses in the entire league, and his presence should only make them tougher in 2021. In 2020, Jackson III racked up 45 tackles, 11 passes defended, and one interception while allowing a completion on only 51 percent of the 74 passes thrown his way. Jackson III is one of the top man-to-man cornerbacks in the league and should put up monster numbers playing behind one of the most intimidating front-sevens in football. The addition of William Jackon III gives Washington a true No.1 cornerback, as they set out to try and repeat as division champs.
4. MARSHON LATTIMORE, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Marshon Lattimore regressed some in 2020 but is a prime candidate to bounce back in 2021. At times he’s absolutely dominant, showcasing true shutdown corner skills, but he’s not always consistent in bringing that level of play. Last season Lattimore allowed seven touchdowns in coverage which was tied for second-most but was solid overall, allowing just 45 completions on 85 targets (52%). Lattimore is active in all facets of the game, as he finished with 62 tackles (two for loss), 11 passes defended, and two interceptions.
3. STEPHON GILMORE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Stephon Gilmore’s ranking on this list is based on the train of thought that he’s going to be closer to the guy he was in 2019 when he brought home Defensive Player of the Year than the guy we saw last season. There is no denying that he wasn’t as impactful last season as he complied just 37 tackles to go with three passes defended and one interception. But there is also no denying that he was the best corner in the game the two seasons prior. The Patriots should be improved at DL and LB after having a huge chunk of their core opt-out of the 2020 season, and this should pave the way for Gilmore to return to his previous ball-hawking form.
2. BRYCE CALLAHAN, DENVER BRONCOS
In a year where the Broncos defense was decimated with injuries, 5’9” Bryce Callahan stepped up in a big way, showcasing he was just as capable of playing on the outside as he is in the slot. The addition of 2021 1st round pick Patrick Surtain II should allow Callahan to move primarily back into the slot, where he has been one of the best in coverage over the past few seasons. Per PFF, Bryce Callahan has earned a 90 coverage grade with a passer rating of just 64.7 out of the slot since 2017, both of which are best in the NFL.
1. JAMES BRADBERRY, NEW YORK GIANTS
James Bradberry was one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league in 2020, racking up 54 tackles, 18 passes defended, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles en route to his first Pro-Bowl selection. He is one of the most consistent on a week-in and week-out basis and should anchor what will be an improved Giants defense after adding guys like Adoree Jackson and Azeez Ojulari into the mix. Bradberry has two or more interceptions in four of his five seasons, and at least 10 passes defended in all five. He’s been targeted 301 times over the past three seasons and has allowed completions on under 55 percent of those passes. Simply put, James Bradberry is one of the best in the game.