Ranking the top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL ahead of the 2021 regular season

Marlon Humphrey
The best cornerbacks in the NFL can change a game in an instant. Photo from CNBC.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are few positions more important than cornerback. With the emphasis on passing the ball in today’s NFL, the players who are matched up one on one against wide receivers are of the utmost importance. In other words, the teams with the best cornerbacks in 2021 will be positioned to have a solid defense this season. It also got us thinking about the best cornerbacks this season.

Best cornerbacks 2021

Traditionally, it’s not been easy to break into the elite cornerback club. Once a player gets there, they typically stay there for many years.

Of course, the order of the top cornerbacks in the NFL is very much up for debate and can vary from one year to the next.

With that said, here is our ranking of the best cornerbacks in 2021.

10. Denzel Ward, Browns

The only thing that has held back Denzel Ward in his career is his inability to play a full season. He’s missed time for one reason or another in all three of his pro seasons.

But he was also a Pro Bowler as a rookie and has all the talent he needs to be a top-tier cornerback.

9. James Bradberry, Giants

There are plenty of reasons why the Giants gave James Bradberry a lucrative deal before the 2020 season. He repaid the team’s confidence in him by playing well enough last year to make the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Bradberry has racked up 11 interceptions over the first five seasons of his career and has only gotten better with every season.


8. Marcus Peters, Ravens

Marcus Peters seems like he’s been around for a long time, but the guy is only 28 and very much in the prime of his career.

Teams have learned not to throw to him that often, but he still finds a way to make big plays, including a game-sealing interception in the playoffs last season. Remember that Peters was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and his career has ascended from there, including three Pro Bowl selections.

7. Xavien Howard, Dolphins

While he’s had good seasons in the past, the 2020 campaign was surely Xavien Howard’s coming out party. He led the league in both pass deflections and interceptions, which isn’t easy to do.

The only caveat is that Howard has been a little inconsistent at times while also missing most of the 2019 season due to injury. But there’s no question that he’s talented enough to be among the league’s top cornerbacks.

6. Jaire Alexander, Packers

Jaire Alexander has made incredible strides over the past two seasons, making his first Pro Bowl in 2020. The talent was always there from the former first-round pick, but Alexander has started to more than live up to his promise.

Even if some of his numbers aren’t eye-popping, it’s hard not to put him in the same category as the elite corners in the NFL.

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints

Trouble off the field this offseason aside, Marshon Lattimore is undoubtedly one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

He has the size and strength to get physical with any wide receiver, which is why even some of the best receivers in the league hate going against him. Lattimore has also made the Pro Bowl in three of his four seasons, leaving no question that he belongs among the best.

4. Stephon Gilmore, Patriots

At various times of his career, there’s been a strong argument for Stephon Gilmore being the best cornerback in the league, especially when he won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019.

His 2020 season wasn’t his best due to injury and illness, which has cost him a few spots but keeps Gilmore in the conversation as the NFL’s best corner.

3. Marlon Humphrey, Ravens

As a former track star in high school, Marlon Humphrey’s athleticism is off the charts, which allows him to keep up with some of the best receivers in the NFL. He’s really come into his own over the past couple of years and become a player teams try to avoid.

However, Humphrey finds a way to make plays and isn’t afraid to mix it up, leading the league in 2020 with eight forced fumbles, which isn’t usually a category that cornerbacks dominate.

2. Tre’Davious White, Bills

Tre’Davious White was good in his first two seasons, but he’s truly become one of the elite cover corners over the last two seasons.

He led the NFL in interceptions in 2019 and has been named an All-Pro in back-to-back seasons. White has the ideal combination of athleticism and intelligence, making him a huge weapon for the Buffalo defense and arguably the best cornerback in the NFL right now. 

1. Jalen Ramsey, Rams

If money means anything, Jalen Ramsey belongs at the top of the class because he’s the highest-paid defensive back in league history.

Of course, Ramsey backs it up on the field, being named to four straight Pro Bowls. His numbers have been way down over the past couple of years because teams refuse to throw the ball in his direction. That’s the ultimate sign of respect, and it’s why Ramsey is the best cornerback in the NFL heading into 2021.

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About Bryan Zarpentine 67 Articles
Bryan Zarpentine is a freelance writer and editor with most of his work focusing on the world of sports. He is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and still resides in upstate New York.

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