Ranking the NFL’s top 32 cornerbacks heading into the 2022 season isn’t an easy task, even if it’s clear who should take the top spot.
Corners have never been more important than they are in today’s pass-heavy league, and there are a plethora of high-quality defensive backs making things difficult for opposing receivers. How does PFN’s list of the best CBs in the NFL shake out?
Editor’s note: We did not include any 2022 rookies on this list. Cornerbacks like Derek Stingley Jr. and Ahmad Gardner may be excellent in their first years in the NFL, but until we see them play, it doesn’t seem logical to incorporate them here.
Top NFL cornerbacks in 2022
1) Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
Still the premier cornerback in the NFL, Jalen Ramsey had a banner year in 2021. He was named a first-team All-Pro for the third time, earned a Pro Bowl nod for the fifth consecutive season, and collected a Super Bowl trophy. Given that he won’t turn 28 years old until October, Ramsey is quickly building a Hall of Fame case.
Non-quarterback blockbuster trades can be a tough sell, but the Rams’ decision in 2019 to send two firsts and a fourth to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for Ramsey has proven to be one of the best transactions of the past several years. Ramsey can lock down one side of the field for defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, but his versatility creates even more value.
While Ramsey played the majority of his snaps on the outside, he still spent roughly 28% of his time in the slot. He also played 153 snaps in the box, second-most among NFL corners. As one of the league’s best run-defending CBs, Ramsey can affect the game in more ways when he’s closer to the action. Los Angeles re-acquired slot defender Troy Hill from the Cleveland Browns this offseason, so it remains to be seen if Ramsey will still see as many reps from the inside.
Ramsey figures to hold onto the NFL’s overall CB1 crown for at least the next couple of seasons. If he continues to thrive as he enters his thirties, Ramsey could end up as the best cornerback of his generation.
2) A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons
While he was selected after fellow corners Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson in the 2020 NFL Draft, A.J. Terrell took a massive leap between his first and second NFL seasons and is now one of the league’s best coverage defenders. On a rebuilding Falcons roster that lacks talent, Terrell is the club’s best defensive player and will compete with Kyle Pitts to become the face of the franchise.
A second-team All-Pro, Terrell ranked first among NFL cornerbacks in yards per coverage snap, yards per reception, and completion rate. Opposing teams simply weren’t interested in going after the former Clemson Tiger in 2021. Terrell was one of only two CBs to play at least 1,000 snaps and be targeted 66 or fewer times. The other? Casey Hayward Jr., who is now Terrell’s running mate in Atlanta.
Terrell — our only top-10 corner still on his rookie contract — will have a legitimate CB2 lining up on the other side of the field for the first time in his Falcons career. Rival teams will have to decide who to pick on, and neither option is attractive. Atlanta won’t be good next season, but their cornerback depth chart could be the best part of the roster.
3) Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore tested like an athletic freak at the 2017 Combine, and that physical prowess is still on display at the NFL level. The Ohio State product moves effortlessly in space, plays with a hot motor, and excels in press coverage. He’s the focal point of the Saints’ defensive attack.
Lattimore is asked to do a lot in New Orleans’ scheme, and that will likely continue in 2022. Often aligned without safety help over the top, Lattimore is feisty at the catch point when targeted. His 19 pass deflections were the most in the league last season, and no defender has managed more breakups than Lattimore (74) since he entered the NFL.
There’s no question Lattimore can be inconsistent, but cornerback is an inherently streaky position, and his highs are truly elite. The Saints haven’t finished worse than eighth in defensive DVOA since Lattimore joined the team, and he’s routinely shut down opposing No. 1 receivers. In a division with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and DJ Moore, he’s critical.
4) Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
Jaire Alexander suffered an AC joint injury in his right shoulder in Week 14 and didn’t play again until Green Bay’s Divisional Round loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Despite that injury, the Packers still signed Alexander to a four-year, $84 million extension in May that made him the NFL’s highest-paid corner on an annual basis.
At 5’10”, Alexander is among the shorter outside cornerbacks on our list of top cornerbacks in the NFL in 2022. But that lack of stature hasn’t stopped him from becoming an effective CB. He can match up in man coverage, and he has the instincts and awareness to perform in Green Bay’s zone-heavy approach.
Alexander has been a little dinged up throughout his career, both in college and the NFL. If he can stay on the field, he’ll have the opportunity to get back to his 2020 level of play and star for what could be one of the more surprising defenses in the league.
5) Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are probably always going to be among the most man-heavy teams in the NFL, especially given that new head coach Mike McDaniel retained defensive coordinator Josh Boyer. Fortunately for Miami, Xavien Howard is an outstanding man coverage corner.
The Baylor alum posted a league-leading 10 interceptions and 20 pass deflections in 2020. Howard joined Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt as the only three players to receive Defensive Player of the Year votes that season.
He was a little more up-and-down last year, but he seemed to settle down when the Dolphins started playing more zone over the second half of the campaign. Howard was targeted only eight times over a four-game stretch from Weeks 13-17 and allowed just four receptions for 54 yards.
Because he’s nearly 16 months older than the second-oldest CB in our top 10 (Ramsey), there’s a chance Howard could hit the wall sooner than others. But his aggressive style and sound technique should keep him near the top of the cornerback rankings for at least another few seasons.
6) J.C. Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers
The NFL’s top cornerbacks in 2022 were primarily early draft picks. Among our top 10 CBs, seven were first-round selections, and one was a second-rounder. J.C. Jackson went undrafted in 2018, but after four years with the New England Patriots, he’s become one of the most talented defensive backs in the league. He managed more interceptions (17) over the past two years than any other NFL defender.
The Chargers clearly liked what they saw from Jackson and inked him to a five-year, $82.5 million deal when free agency opened in March. Jackson played primarily man coverage with the Patriots, but it’s unclear how Los Angeles will deploy their new weapon.
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley deploys a lot of zone, quarters-based looks that are nominally incongruent with Jackson’s experience. But it’s not like the 26-year-old can’t play zone. We’ll be watching to see if Staley uses Jackson as a man corner on one side of the field while playing zone coverage on the other.
7) Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens
The entire Ravens roster was decimated by injuries in 2021, and Humphrey was no exception, as he suffered a season-ending pectoral tear in Week 13. Baltimore’s ravaged secondary gave up the most passing yards in the NFL, but they’re on track to rebound next year.
Humphrey will be central to that effort. Like Ramsey, Humphrey is highly versatile. As recently as 2020, he played more snaps inside than outside and saw the seventh-most slot coverage snaps in the NFL. That could be the case again next season, as Humphrey could slide inside in sub packages while Marcus Peters and Kyle Fuller play out wide.
New Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald was Humphrey’s position coach during his rookie year, so he’s intimately aware of the 25-year-old’s talent. Given his experience in Baltimore, Macdonald’s scheme is unlikely to be vastly different from his predecessor Don Martindale. But the first-year DC has preached positional fluidity throughout the offseason, and no Ravens defensive back is better suited for that concept than Humphrey.
8) Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
The fourth overall pick in 2018, Denzel Ward is one of just five cornerbacks to be selected in the top five in draft history. Through four seasons in Cleveland, he’s been everything the Browns hoped he’d be, and they rewarded him with a five-year extension that includes the most guaranteed money ($40 million) among NFL defensive backs.
Last year, Ward earned his second Pro Bowl nod after appearing in 15 games, recording three interceptions, and allowing just a 76.6 opposing passer rating in coverage. He’s the best player in Cleveland’s secondary, but he won’t have to do it alone. The Browns have continuously invested in additional corners to supplement Ward, using Day 1 or 2 picks on Greedy Williams (2019), Greg Newsome (2021), and Martin Emerson (2022).
Ward is a tad on the smaller side at 5’11”, 190 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from being physical in coverage. His superb quickness and agility allow him to flourish in press-man coverage, and he’s willing to deliver hits at the catch point.
9) Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills
Selected in the first round of the 2017 draft class alongside Lattimore and Humphrey, Tre’Davious White is the No. 1 cornerback on arguably the league’s best defense. After posting a marvelous rookie season, White has settled in as a shutdown CB who can travel with his opponent’s best receiver.
The 27-year-old has never allowed a passer rating over 80 in any of his five NFL campaigns, and he was on pace for another masterful year in 2021 before a Thanksgiving Day ACL tear prematurely ended his season. Before he went down, White was giving up the fewest yards per target of his career.
We’ll have to see how White recovers from injury, but he’ll be playing alongside the best CB2 of his career when he returns. Levi Wallace was roughly a league-average running mate, but the Bills traded up to select Florida’s Kaiir Elam in the first round of the 2022 draft. If Elam progresses throughout his rookie season, he’ll make things easier for White.
10) Kenny Moore II, Indianapolis Colts
We’ve reached the first primary slot cornerback in our top NFL cornerback rankings of 2022, and Kenny Moore II is the best in the league at what he does. He’s been solid in all four seasons of his Colts career, but 2021 was arguably his most productive campaign yet.
In 17 games, Moore picked off four passes and broke up 13 more. He allowed 6.3 yards per target and a 67% completion rate while being selected to his first Pro Bowl. Moore was exceptional despite facing the most targets (125) of any defender in the NFL.
The 5’9″, 190-pound more exudes physicality on the field. Moore can blitz from the slot, make a stop in the run game, or cover all types of opposing pass catchers. He’s the ultimate competitor, and his football intelligence is apparent in every game he plays.
Top NFL CBs in 2022 | 11-32
11) Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles
12) Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13) Stephon Gilmore, Indianapolis Colts
14) Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos
15) Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys
16) Chidobe Awuzie, Cincinnati Bengals
17) Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18) James Bradberry, Philadelphia Eagles
19) Byron Jones, Miami Dolphins
20) Adoree’ Jackson, New York Giants
21) Mike Hilton, Cincinnati Bengals
22) Casey Hayward Jr., Atlanta Falcons
23) Kendall Fuller, Washington Commanders
24) Charvarius Ward, San Francisco 49ers
25) Marcus Peters, Baltimore Ravens
26) Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers
27) Taron Johnson, Buffalo Bills
28) Greg Newsome, Cleveland Browns
29) Darious Williams, Jacksonville Jaguars
30) Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears
31) Jonathan Jones, New England Patriots
32) William Jackson III, Washington Commanders