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Who Are the Best Cornerbacks in NFL History? Ranking the Top 10 CBs of All Time

Pro Football Network counts down the top 10 best all-time NFL cornerbacks. Where do Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey, and Ty Law rank?

The NFL hasn’t exactly been kind to cornerbacks over the last half-century.

As the league shifted from running-based offenses to aerial attacks, cornerbacks’ contributions have become more critical. However, the NFL has continuously changed its rules to benefit wide receiver production and make playing the CB position far more complex.

Which corners best adapted to fluctuating expectations in an ever-changing league? Here are Pro Football Network’s top 10 cornerbacks in NFL history.

Top 10 CBs in NFL History

Honorable mention: Darrell Green, Aeneas Williams, Patrick Peterson, Jimmy Johnson, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Lester Hayes, Ronde Barber, Richard Sherman

10) Herb Adderley

While some corners on our list made a late-career transition to safety, Herb Adderley’s position change was far more dramatic. Adderley, the Green Bay Packers’ first-round pick in the 1961 NFL Draft, entered the league as a running back but moved to cornerback because the club already had star RBs Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor.

The switch stuck, and Adderley became a five-time first-team All-Pro for one of the NFL’s most memorable dynasties. Adderley won three NFL championships and two Super Bowls with the Packers, scoring a touchdown on the first pick-six in NFL history in Super Bowl II.

After being traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970, Adderley appeared in two more Super Bowls, winning one. He’s one of only four players in league history to play on six NFL championship-winning clubs.

9) Willie Brown

Widely considered the originator of “bump-and-run” coverage, Willie Brown and his physical style of play ushered in a new wave of bully-ball cornerbacks in the 1960s and 1970s.

Brown began his career with the Denver Broncos upon being traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1967. While Brown and the Raiders couldn’t beat the Packers in Super Bowl II, he helped Oakland take down the Minnesota Vikings nine years later, picking off Fran Tarkenton for a 75-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter of an eventual 32-14 win.

Brown’s five first-team All-Pros are tied for second-most among cornerbacks. He also earned two second-team nods and eight Pro Bowl appearances.

8) Ty Law

The defensive cornerstone of the first section of the New England Patriots dynasty, Ty Law was a critical piece for Bill Belichick’s squads that won Super Bowls after the 2001 and 2003 seasons.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, Law intercepted St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner in the second quarter, giving the Pats an early lead with a 47-yard pick-six. Two years later, Law headlined a dominant New England defense, picked off Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning three times in the AFC Championship Game, then helped the Pats win another Lombardi against the Carolina Panthers.

Law was injured in 2004, then signed with the New York Jets in 2005. He proceeded to lead the NFL in interceptions (10) while winning his fifth and final Pro Bowl berth at age 31.

7) Champ Bailey

Champ Bailey had already made four Pro Bowls and two second-team All-Pro teams when Washington sent him to the Broncos in one of the more lopsided trades in NFL history. Denver acquired Bailey and a second-round pick in exchange for running back Clinton Portis.

Bailey got even better upon arriving in the Mile High City. He was at the peak of his powers from 2004 to 2007, earning three first-team All-Pro nods, one second-team berth, and four Pro Bowls. In 2006, Bailey tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions and didn’t allow a touchdown all season.

Bailey was never afraid to get in receivers’ faces; his 203 pass deflections are the most in NFL history. A member of the 2000s All-Decade Team, Bailey has 12 Pro Bowls on his résumé, the most ever for a corner.

6) Mike Haynes

Mike Haynes’ career could hardly have started any hotter. In 1976, he won Defensive Rookie of the Year for the Patriots while capturing the first of five consecutive second-team All-Pro honors.

However, Haynes truly thrived after being traded to the Raiders in 1983. There, he teamed with Lester Hayes (on our honorable mention list) to form the NFL’s most feared cornerback tandem.

While some corners had trouble adjusting to the late ’70s rule change that prevented contact with receivers after five yards, Haynes’ smooth coverage skills made him a star. He received the first two first-team All-Pro nods of his career with the Raiders, whom he helped to a victory in Super Bowl XVIII.

5) Charles Woodson

Given that he remains the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, it’s no surprise that Charles Woodson became a star immediately upon entering the NFL.

After the Raiders selected him fourth overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, Woodson won Defensive Rookie of the Year and finished third in the league with five interceptions. Injuries compromised his later seasons with Oakland, but Woodson rejuvenated his career after joining the Packers in 2006.

Woodson’s 2008 through 2011 seasons were career-defining. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and a Super Bowl ring in 2010. Woodson was a first- or second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler every year during that stretch.

Woodson shifted to safety in 2012. In 2015, the final season of his career, he garnered his last All-Pro nod.

4) Mel Blount

Remember the rule change we mentioned that limited cornerbacks’ contact with receivers after five yards? Mel Blount’s physical, attacking style was the root cause of that 1978 change — so much so, that it’s referred to as the “Mel Blount Rule.

“When they changed the bump-and-run rule, we all had to adjust,” Blount said. “If you’re an athlete, a player, you make the adjustment. You know what the rules are. You play within the rules, and you let your ability take you to whatever it can take you to.”

Blount’s adjustment was a breeze; he earned three of his four All-Pro berths after the NFL changed the rules. While his best season came in a 1975 Defensive Player of the Year campaign, Blount was dominant in every era of his career.

3) Darrelle Revis

The NFL’s premiere cornerback of the late 2000s, Darrelle Revis was a one-man show for the Jets.

Head coach Rex Ryan consistently had Revis follow opposing WR1s around the field. Then, he designed the rest of New York’s defense around the idea that Revis could shut down his man.

With that, “Revis Island” was born.

Revis’ best campaign came in 2009 when he led the NFL with 31 pass deflections and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting after holding each of Randy Moss (twice), Terrell Owens (twice), Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith Sr., Roddy White, and Andre Johnson, to under 36 yards.

A four-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, Revis won a Super Bowl with the Patriots after the 2014 season and was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2023.

2) Rod Woodson

Rod Woodson made sure his name was in the record books after a 17-year NFL career.

He’s the league’s all-time leader in fumble recoveries (32) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (12). Woodson’s 13 total defensive touchdowns are tied for first in NFL history. His 71 interceptions are third all-time, while his 1,483 return yards on those interceptions rank second.

A five-time first-team All-Pro cornerback for the Steelers, Woodson won Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 after posting eight interceptions. He moved to safety with the Baltimore Ravens in 1999, winning Super Bowl XXXV while earning two more All-Pro nods at his new position.

1) Deion Sanders

There was almost nothing Deion Sanders couldn’t accomplish on the football field.

As a cornerback, “Prime Time” was the most electric defensive player of the 1990s, consistently shutting down his side of the field for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and Cowboys.

From 1991 through 1999, Sanders claimed six first-team All-Pros and two second-team berths. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 after intercepting six passes and leading the NFL with three pick-sixes.

Sanders was an unforgettable returner. His 19 non-offensive touchdowns are the second-most in league history. After signing with Dallas, Sanders also played wide receiver. He hauled in 36 passes for 475 yards and a touchdown in 1996 while starting 12 games and earning first-team All-Pro honors on defense.

Of course, Sanders also managed a nine-year MLB career while starring in the NFL. He’s the only person to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series.

Deion isn’t just the greatest NFL corner of all time — he’s one of the best athletes ever to grace the stage.