Cornerback is one of the most important positions in the NFL, and teams, fans and the media alike finally seem to be realizing it. As teams around the league are starting to pass the ball as much as ever, the guys on your defense responsible for stopping the receivers are crucial for success.
The NFC North lost a few of its biggest names at corner this offseason. The Detroit Lions dealt Darius Slay over to the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Minnesota Vikings allowed former stand-out corner Xavier Rhodes to walk in free agency after a few disappointing seasons. Despite that, there are still a ton of good players lining up at corner in the division in 2020.
5. Justin Coleman (Detroit Lions)
Justin Coleman had an interesting 2019 in Detroit. The nickel corner signed with the Lions early in the offseason and became one of the highest paid at his position in league history. He looked like he was worth every penny early on in the year and notably played an incredible early-season game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Things went off the rail for Coleman in the second half of the season, though. His level of play took a drastic hit, and he went from one of the best nickels in the league to among the worst. While he clearly has the talent to play at a high level, it just was not showing up.
Coleman can play at a high level. While he is certainly inconsistent, getting to play in a renovated Lions defense this season should surely help him going forward. As the team around him gets better, so should he.
4. Jeff Okudah (Detroit Lions)
Jeff Okudah was one of the hottest names entering the 2020 NFL Draft, and Detroit made the no-brainer selection at third overall by scooping up the Ohio State corner. He now is set to start in his rookie year as he hopes to show fans that he was worth all of the hype.
Okudah is very athletic and showed great coverage instincts at Ohio State. While he was not a perfect corner, he is about as good as you could hope for a player coming out of college. Recent players like Marshon Lattimore and Tre’Davious White have shown in recent years that corners are capable of becoming standout talents in their rookie seasons.
Detroit will desperately need the rookie corner to live up to his draft billing in 2020. Their secondary was among the worst in the NFL in 2020, but the addition of a player like Okudah could turn their fortunes around.
3. Kyle Fuller (Chicago Bears)
Kyle Fuller has had an incredibly inconsistent career thus far. The corner started off his career with two rough years after being selected 14th overall in the 2014 NFL draft. Things seemed to finally click for him in 2017, though, and the corner erupted as a star. Then in 2018 he put together another great season and was a crucial part of the teams rise to the top of the NFC North.
Fuller took another step back in 2019, but there is a chance that he returns to form in 2020. The team, as a whole, might be better in the upcoming season, especially with star pass rusher Akiem Hicks missing time last year and Khalil Mack having one of his worst seasons.
It is hard to project Fuller going forward. Where his first two years in the league the outliers? Were the 2017 and 2018 seasons where he stood out as a star just pure luck?
2. Desmond Trufant (Detroit Lions)
Desmond Trufant was a cornerstone of the Atlanta Falcons defense. The Atlanta Falcons selected the corner 22nd overall in the 2013 NFL draft, and he was one of the best players on the defense for the entirety of his seven-year stint there. The corner played 97 games for the team during that time—starting all 97—and was a crucial part of the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2017.
Now Trufant heads to Detroit where he will attempt to fill Slay’s shoes as the team’s CB1. The veteran corner has clearly lost a step over the years, as injuries and age have surely hampered him, but he is still a formidable NFL cornerback.
Trufant is not a player that appears much in the box score, but he was one of the league’s top cover corners for much of his time in Atlanta. His 13 career interceptions may seem disappointing, but it is hard to intercept passes when you are preventing opposing quarterbacks from even throwing at you. Detroit will be hoping he can spend every week removing the opposing WR1 from the game and making things easier on the young Okudah across from him.
1. Jaire Alexander (Green Bay Packers)
The Green Bay Packers have not seen much return on their investment into young, hyper athletic, defensive backs. Both Kevin King and Darnell Savage have not quite lived up to standards in their young careers. The emergence of Jaire Alexander may make up for the failures of the others, though.
Alexander is one of the best corners in the league. Despite only measuring in at 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, he proves to be one of the most physical corners in the league who beats up receivers twice his size. The corner is extremely athletic, and his technique and footwork are great. His coverage instincts are nearly unmatched across the league as well. Alexander is one of the most dependable man coverage corners in the NFL at the moment.