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2020 AFC North Positional Rankings: Cornerback

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As the dog days of the NFL offseason continue to settle in, each team’s roster is pretty much set with free agency and the draft in the rear view mirror. Therefore, it’s an opportune time to detox with our annual positional rankings for the AFC North.

Having already knocked out most of the position groups on each team’s roster, we’ll continue winding down here with the cornerback spot. In this division, it’s a very talented position featuring a few of the league’s top duos.

You can check out last year’s rankings here, along with the following 2020 editions:

Check out the listing below, vote on the corresponding poll and join in on the conversation!


1) Baltimore Ravens

Starters: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young

Depth Chart: Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall

After trading for Marcus Peters last season and giving him a three-year contract extension in free agency, the Ravens now have two All-Pro cornerbacks under contract - the other being Marlon Humphrey.

Peters was a seamless fit as a press-man, boundary corner in Baltimore’s defensive scheme, where he graded out with a 83.2 mark from PFF. Peters coralled a total of five interceptions, highlighted by two pick-sixes after joining the Ravens, and broke up several passes. When targeted, Peters allowed a passer rating of just 63.2.

Humphrey’s third career season was his best so far. Playing 98% of the team’s defensive snaps, he posted 65 tackles, forced two fumbles and caught two interceptions. He made several game-changing plays throughout the season and showcased his versatility by playing more in the slot and around the line of scrimmage.

In the slot, the Ravens are banking on a return to form and full health from Tavon Young, who missed the 2019 season with a back/neck injury. Young’s return will add another dimension to the team’s defensive backfield and help offset the loss of Brandon Carr.

The Ravens also re-signed veteran Jimmy Smith and are returning a pair of youngsters in Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall.

Poll

Where would you rank the Ravens in the CB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    First
    (540 votes)
  • 1%
    Second
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Third
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Fourth
    (6 votes)
558 votes total Vote Now

2) Pittsburgh Steelers

Starters: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton

Depth Chart: Justin Layne, Alexander Myres, Cameron Sutton

While maybe not quite on the level of the Ravens, the Steelers boast a solid cornerback duo in their own right of Joe Haden and Steven Nelson.

Nelson is the lesser-known player of the two but staked his claim as one of the position’s most underrated players in 2019. Nelson’s PFF grade of 80.5 ranked sixth among all cornerbacks and of the 500 snaps he played in coverage, he allowed only 33 catches.

On top of that, Nelson racked up 68 combined tackles and corralled an interception.

Haden may not be the same player from a few years ago but he’s still plenty capable of performing at a high level. Haden’s five interception mark in 2019 was tied for third-most in the NFL and he allowed a passer rating of only 70.0 for the season.

In the slot, the Steelers have Mike Hilton. Hilton has played in all but one game in his three-year tenure with Pittsburgh and in 2019, he posted 65 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and an interception.

Poll

Where would you rank the Steelers in the CB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    First
    (15 votes)
  • 54%
    Second
    (170 votes)
  • 35%
    Third
    (110 votes)
  • 4%
    Fourth
    (15 votes)
310 votes total Vote Now

3) Cleveland Browns

Starters: Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams

Depth Chart: Kevin Johnson, Tavierre Thomas, Robert Jackson

Cleveland’s cornerback group is headlined by Denzel Ward who, at just 23 years old, is one of the league’s premier young talents at the position.

Ward’s issue through two career seasons hasn’t been producing on the field but rather staying on the field, as he’s missed seven total games. Last season, he was targeted 83 times and allowed a completion percentage of just 48.2% and passer rating of 62.2.

Opposite Ward is rising sophomore Greedy Williams, who appeared and started in 12 games for the Browns during his rookie season. Williams racked up 47 tackles but saw his share of ups and downs in coverage, as many first-year corners do. He gave up 38 completions on 62 targets and allowed a passer rating of 84.9, finishing with a PFF grade of 54.6.

With another year of experience under his belt, though, Williams should be able to iron out some of last season’s inconsistencies and emerge as a solid No. 2 alongside Ward.

Poll

Where would you rank the Browns in the CB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    First
    (4 votes)
  • 41%
    Second
    (118 votes)
  • 45%
    Third
    (130 votes)
  • 10%
    Fourth
    (31 votes)
283 votes total Vote Now

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Starters: Mackensie Alexander, William Jackson III, Trae Waynes

Depth Chart: Darius Phillips, Tony Brown, Leshaun Sims

Like they did at the linebacker position, the Bengals overhauled their cornerback room this offseason by adding a pair of Minnesota Vikings in free agency.

Cincinnati inked Trae Waynes to a three-year, $42 million contract before adding his former teammate Mackensie Alexander to a one-year deal. Additionally, they also signed Leshaun Sims, but he profiles as more of a depth piece than legitimate contributor.

Waynes and Alexander should help a Bengals’ secondary that was putrid last season and has been for quite some time, now. However, it’s worth noting that neither player is coming off a patricualrly impressive campaign.

In 2019, Waynes allowed a completion percentage of 74% and passer rating of 107.9 when targeted. Alexander, who primarily plays in the nickel spot, was targeted far less (58 times compared to Waynes’ 96) but gave up 38 catches. Both players had one interception.

Returning to the fold is William Jackson III, who has started 29 games for the Bengals over the past two seasons combined. He finished 2019 with a PFF grade of 53.6.

Poll

Where would you rank the Bengals in the CB ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    First
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Second
    (12 votes)
  • 10%
    Third
    (27 votes)
  • 83%
    Fourth
    (224 votes)
269 votes total Vote Now