Best Zone Corners Of All Time

Carole Stephens
• Wednesday, 18 November, 2020
• 7 min read

Does the player move over the slot in three wide receiver sets or does he play exclusively outside? Some of the league's top corner backs were thrown at less than 50 times last season, while others had more than 100 passes come their way.

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I found myself rearranging this list constantly while sorting through all of these factors. Consider the fact that quality corner backs like Dayton Florence, Cedric Griffin, Terrence McGee, Nate Clements, Rashes Mathis and Terrence Newman didn't make the top 30.

That's when you realize this is a very difficult position to debate when all the factors are considered. Opposing teams threw at him less than three times per game last season.

How much separation exists between INAMI Sought and Darrell Revise, considered the NFL's best corner? Kurt Warner sees a difference that sets Revise apart.

He is usually targeted 3-4 times per game, and consistently shuts down the best receivers in the NFL. Woodson moves inside over the slot receiver against three-receiver packages and is an absolute terror as a blitzer.

Teams went after him more than 100 times last season, and he responded by giving up just four touchdown passes and accounting for more than 80 tackles. Devin McCarty, Patriots (^): Was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after picking off seven passes last season.

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He follows in the footsteps of Ty Law and As ante Samuel as zone corners with a knack for finding the ball. Teams threw at Robinson more than 90 times, and he only surrendered three touchdowns.

He only had one interception in 2010 and has missed 13 games during the last four years, so holding down a top spot will be tough in 2011. Williams is targeted often while playing on an island opposite Woodson.

But he allowed just three touchdowns while being targeted 90 times, and had six interceptions and 14.5 yards per return as well as 20 passes defended. Even though he isn't big, he is a tremendous cover-two corner and gave up one touchdown in close to 70 passes thrown his way.

Age will soon be a factor, but in 2010 Winfield fought father time and won. But he responded, giving up just three touchdowns in close to 125 passes thrown his way.

He had five interceptions and 21 passes defended last year, both in the top ten at the position. Thomas' consistent play has made Aaron Ross expendable.

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He's a good fit in the Steelers scheme, but might not be as effective in other defenses and will be 32 next seasons. Barber is the ideal cover-two corner and is so effective in the scheme that he only gave up two touchdowns in the 70 passes thrown his way last season.

His three interceptions, 13 passes defended and leadership skills keep him among the top 30 at the position. He allowed three touchdowns in about 70 targets last season and is a solid tackler after the catch.

He's the only corner to give up more than 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns, but also had six interceptions and was voted to the Pro Bowl. He is around the ball a lot with 17 forced fumbles during the last four seasons while averaging close to 70 tackles during over the same span.

Having an elite corner back to counteract a team's stud quarterback can make a huge difference in this league -- particularly when that team has a go-to receiver like Julio Jones, Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. Sometimes a player isn't highly touted out of college (Richard Sherman, Malcolm Butler), and other times, they're top-10 picks (Patrick Peterson, Stephen Gilmore).

Others view top corner backs as the ones who can take away half of the field in zone coverage. He has the hands to pull down interceptions and the speed and vision to bring picks back for touchdowns.

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He's also not afraid to bring down ball carriers, showing his willingness to tackle when called upon. It's no surprise he has 17 career interceptions and is consistently shadowing opposing teams' top receivers.

Prior to 2015, many would have said Richard Sherman was the top corner back in the league, and he still makes a strong case as such. 1 receiver, but the Seahawks experimented with that a bit in recent years, making him even more valuable in the secondary.

Based on numbers alone, which is a poor way to judge corner backs, Sherman appeared to have a down year. And like Peterson, Sherman is a willing tackler in the secondary, never shying away from contact with receivers or running backs coming downhill.

A few years ago, the term “shutdown corner back” was synonymous with Darrell Revise' name. That may not be the case anymore given the slight decline he's experienced recently, but he's still among the best defensive backs in football.

Like the other top corner backs, Revise wasn't often targeted each week, though he did have his fair share of struggles against DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Having Antonio Romantic opposite him didn't help, given his horrendous season, and that led teams to attack him rather than Revise.

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Last season certainly wasn't Revise' best as he showed his age a bit being unable to cover quicker and more explosive receivers. That's to be expected from a 30-year-old corner back who's tasked with covering the likes of Watkins, Hopkins and Atari Cooper.

The bigger, more outspoken AAIB Tali gets a lot of the attention in Denver's secondary, but it's Chris Harris Jr. who's actually the better corner back. He started all 16 games last season, intercepting two passes, one of which he brought back for a score, and forcing two fumbles.

Harris has some of the quickest, smoothest feet in the game and despite being 5-foot-10, he uses his hands extremely well to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage be it on the outside or in the slot. When playing nickel, Harris has the speed and quickness to match up with quicker receivers, though Antonio Brown was a handful for him last season -- but to be fair, few if any corners can lock him down for 60 minutes.

If he continues to improve as a boundary corner back and keeps creating turnovers, Harris will solidify his place among the best defensive backs in the league. He has great size for the position and the speed (4.40 40-yard dash) to keep up with faster receivers, making him a tough matchup for opposing players.

The Bills would like to see his interception totals go up a big (just three in 2015), but they'll certainly take him being a guy who can lock down an opponent's go-to receiver. His numbers match that narrative, but he just doesn't possess the ability to shadow top receivers everywhere on the field the way those above him can.

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Norman never shied away from contact in those cases -- just look at his physical matchup with Odell Beckham Jr. -- which is one of his best assets, though he doesn't show the best tackling technique. The Redskins still play a lot of zone coverage, it's just a Cover 3 scheme unlike Carolina's, which features ample help over the top.

Norman will have to prove he's capable of playing man coverage across from the best of the best to vault into the top-three conversation. Despite only having one interception and 11 passes defensed, Truant earned his first career Pro Bowl bid, and it was well deserved.

He locked down his half of the field with a great deal of success, often forcing quarterbacks to throw away from him. That's the one aspect of his game holding him back, and if he can improve, he'll be paid a hefty amount following this season.

Like Sherman and Norman, Truant would benefit greatly by following opposing receivers across the field rather than staying on one side. There were questions about Marcus Peters' maturity and willingness to be coached coming out of the University of Washington last year.

Peters is the epitome of a big-play corner back in the fact that either he's going to make a big play, or the receiver he's covering us. One year after making one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, Malcolm Butler proved he's not just a one-play wonder.

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Taking over the spot that was left by Darrell Revise, Butler stepped up and performed admirably, playing with swagger and confidence that a No. Butler was named to his first Pro Bowl after a great season in which he picked off two passes and racked up 67 tackles.

The one knock on Butler at this point is that he didn't always cover the opposing team's top receiver. That job was often left to Logan Ryan, while Butler covered the team's second option.

It worked out great for the Patriots, but it didn't completely prove that Butler can handle the duty as a shutdown corner. Since taking over one of the starting spots at corner back in 2014, Slay has developed quickly after being somewhat raw out of Mississippi State.

He's a long, rangy corner back with elite measurable, though bulking up a bit wouldn't hurt. His combination of size and speed (4.36 40-yard dash) make him a rare talent at corner back, one with sky-high potential.

Last season, Slay wasn't always matched up with a team's top receiver, but that's mainly due to the Lions' scheme. They often run Cover 2 zone with safeties over the top, somewhat like the Panthers did with Josh Norman.

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