- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the cornerbacks stacked up.
There's a big argument about which player should be called the top corner, but nobody debates whom the battle would be between. Nnamdi Asomugha and Darrelle Revis are setting the standard right now. But this is also about how we graded.
Frankly, there are very few "shutdown" corners in the NFL. In fact, Asomugha and Revis may be the only two. All corners give up receptions and yardage. It's just a fact of the league. Ideally, many defenses would love to have a guy who can play press man coverage all day and not be a liability, but few can pull that off. With the wealth of different coverage schemes being employed, today's corner needs to do it all: press man, off man, different zones, and after all that, he has to tackle.
Being great in one area but not in another just makes it more obvious how your team will be attacked, and probably successfully.
Revis has outstanding quickness, agility and speed to challenge the top receivers in the league. He is at his best in press man coverage, where he can use his long arms to get an effective jam on his opponent off the line of scrimmage.
He has good vision and instincts. Revis is a solid run-support player who shows decent pop as a tackler. He doesn't have outstanding pure speed on the perimeter but understands angles and leverage. He can be dangerous with the ball in his hands after a turnover.
Asomugha has excellent size and speed for the position and has the foot quickness to extend the cushion with his pedal. He is effortless when flipping his hips to turn and run with receivers deep.
He is quick and explosive in transition and can close on the target with a good burst when in off coverage. However, his biggest strength is his ability to be a shut-down press cornerback who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and throw them off their routes.
Woodson has clearly lost a step in terms of speed and quickness, but plays with outstanding instincts and anticipation. He reads and reacts quickly, jumping routes within his zone responsibility.
He does a great job at jamming and re-routing receivers off the line of scrimmage in press coverage. His instincts and athleticism make him an effective blitzer off the edge as well. He is a solid run-support defender and reliable open-field tackler.
Williams has deceptive speed with excellent quickness to transition and close out of his backpedal. He has a great feel for route progressions and reacts quickly as plays unfold.
He has improved in run support and has become more physical on contact. Williams is a reliable tackler in space. His role as a core special teams player has diminished since becoming a starter on defense, but he still contributes in a big way as the starting kick returner.
Winfield had another excellent season for the Minnesota secondary in 2010. He is a short, compactly built player with excellent athleticism. He plays much bigger than his dimensions in regards to run support.
Winfield is a hard-nosed, high-intensity player who brings toughness and attitude to the Vikings' secondary. He is an instinctive player who understands angles and route progressions. Winfield reads well, and his experience enables him to anticipate and jump patterns to make plays on the ball.