With NFL offenses tilting more and more towards throwing the ball rather than running it that puts even more emphasis on the strength of a team’s secondary. Look no further than the success of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” the Seahawks’ vaunted secondary that helped Pete Carroll’s team play in back-to-back Super Bowls.
In fact, Seattle boasts the top cornerback and safety in the NFL, according to Athlon Sports' defensive back rankings, which were done in conjunction with Dan Shonka of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services and appear in the 2016 NFL Preview magazine. Defending Super Bowl champion Denver also is well represented with both starting cornerbacks (Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib) and safety T.J. Ward in the top 10.
Rankings courtesy of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services, which has been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.
2016 NFL Cornerback Rankings
1. Richard Sherman, Seattle
Was voted second-team All-Pro in 2015. He’s smart, quick and reactive. Athletic and competitive in his play.
2. Patrick Peterson, Arizona
A big and physical corner who was voted to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. The durable athlete has not missed a start since being drafted in 2011.
3. Josh Norman, Washington
The first-team All-Pro corner signed with the Redskins after Carolina released him from the franchise tag. The competitive corner totaled 56 tackles and defended 19 passes.
4. Chris Harris Jr., Denver
Played in 79 regular-season games and started 63 times in his first five season with the Broncos. He had 12 interceptions in that span. Second-team All-Pro in 2015.
5. Delvin Breaux, New Orleans
Suffered a serious neck injury and did not play football in college. Signed as an undrafted free agent with the Saints and started all 16 games in 2015. One of league’s emerging stars.
6. Jason Verrett, San Diego
The undersized but ultra-competitive corner held All-Pro Antonio Brown to three catches and 45 yards in their head-to-head matchup. A Pro Bowl defender.
7. Desmond Trufant, Atlanta
Has not missed a start in his three years with the Falcons. He has 173 tackles and six interceptions in his career.
8. Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo
The smooth and athletic corner has 59 passes defended over four years. He totaled 36 tackles in 12 games last season.
9. Aqib Talib, Denver
Posted the most interceptions (30) in the NFL among active cornerbacks since he entered the league in 2008. One of three corners selected to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons.
10. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis
Defended 16 passes in 2015 and picked off four passes in an injury-plagued year. He worked through foot, hamstring and ankle injuries, as well as a concussion.
11. Sean Smith, Oakland
12. David Amerson, Oakland
13. Marcus Peters, Kansas City
14. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
15. Malcolm Butler, New England
16. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants
17. Darius Slay, Detroit
18. Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles
19. Adam Jones, Cincinnati
20. Ronald Darby, Buffalo
21. Logan Ryan, New England
22. Joe Haden, Cleveland
23. Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants
24. Sam Shields, Green Bay
25. Bashaud Breeland, Washington
26. Johnathan Joseph, Houston
27. Casey Hayward, San Diego
28. Tramaine Brock, San Francisco
29. Robert Alford, Atlanta
30. Kyle Fuller, Chicago
2016 NFL Safety Rankings
1. Earl Thomas, Seattle
Since entering the NFL, Thomas has been one of the most dominant safeties in the league and leader of the Legion of Boom. An intense, focused and physical player.
2. Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia
A playmaker who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He posted career and team highs with 109 tackles, three forced fumbles and 10 passes defended.
3. Eric Berry, Kansas City
Has been elected to four Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro pick in 2015 in his first year back after overcoming cancer.
4. Harrison Smith, Minnesota
Has returned a Viking-record four interceptions for touchdowns in his career. Totaled 66 tackles in 2015.
5. Reshad Jones, Miami
Is a big hitter who plays the ball well in the air. The run-support terror collected 135 tackles and defended 10 passes last fall.
6. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona
Was named to the All-Pro first team in 2015. The quick-reacting safety had 11 tackles for a loss, a sack, forced fumble and an interception for a touchdown.
7. Morgan Burnett, Green Bay
The active and athletic safety had 68 tackles and defended five passes in 11 games played. He has defended 32 passes in his Packer career.
8. Devin McCourty, New England
A five-time defensive captain for the Patriots who has excelled at both safety and cornerback. Has started every game he was active for in his six years in New England.
9. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay
Let his instincts and athletic ability do his talking in 2015 after learning the Packers’ complex defensive playbook.
10. T.J. Ward, Denver
The two-time Pro Bowl selection has started all 81 career regular-season games and four postseason contests. He has 33 career passes defended.
11. Patrick Chung, New England
12. Kurt Coleman, Carolina
13. Reggie Nelson, Oakland
14. Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia
15. Da’Norris Searcy, Tennessee
16. Marcus Gilchrist, New York Jets
17. Darian Stewart, Denver
18. Isa Abdul-Quddus, Miami
19. Michael Mitchell, Pittsburgh
20. Walter Thurmond, Philadelphia
21. George Iloka, Cincinnati
22. Tony Jefferson, Arizona
23. Eric Weddle, Baltimore
24. Kam Chancellor, Seattle
25. Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans
26. Donte Whitner, Free Agent
27. Adrian Amos, Chicago
28. Corey Graham, Buffalo
29. Glover Quin, Detroit
30. Byron Jones, Dallas