Defensive backs have always been theatrical players on the gridiron.
Deion Sanders brought defensive backs personalities to life with his ‘Prime Time’ antics and on-field celebrations.
In today’s game, there is no shortage of characters roaming the position. Josh Norman, Richard Sherman, Jalen Ramsey… you get the picture.
But what must not be forgotten is the supreme talent and craftsmanship of these guys. They change the game. Some do so from their rookie season – a rare feat for any player entering a sport full of grown men dressed as gladiators.
Here’s my top 10 defensive backs heading into the new season;
1 EDDIE JACKSON (Safety – Chicago)
Three turnovers returned for scores, 14 passes defenced and 51 bone-rattling tackles from the former Alabama standout saw him land as an All-Pro in just his second season in the NFL. The free safety just makes plays – forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, picks, sacks and tackles. Khalil Mack up front, Jackson in the back end – scary!
2 STEPHON GILMORE (Cornerback – New England)
New England knew what they were doing spending big cash to acquire Gilmore from divisional rivals, Buffalo. Quarterbacks complete just 42% of their passes when targeting Gilmore’s opponent and his play in both Super Bowls was superb.
3 PATRICK PETERSON (Cornerback – Arizona)
Suspended to open the season but he’s one of very few CBs who shadows the top WR every single week. Last season saw the Cardinals play more zone defence which hindered Peterson’s effectiveness. With Vance Joseph now in charge, P2 will be back in his favourite role as a shutdown CB.
4 JAMAL ADAMS (Safety – New York Jets)
Former LSU safety who is carrying a dismal Jets franchise. A master already at forcing stops and also pressuring the QB. He’s a physical presence who could use some help from the remainder of the roster in New York.
5 KYLE FULLER (Cornerback – Chicago)
Tied for total picks and tied for passes defended in past two seasons. Nearly went to Green Bay but Chicago wisely dropped $55m to keep him at Soldier Field.
Joined team mates Jackson and Mack as an All-Pro last season on a star-studded Chicago D.
6 DERWIN JAMES (Safety – Los Angeles Chargers)
Made more than 100 tackles as well as sniffing out a few picks and a few sacks. Was defensive rookie of the year runner-up and looks set for more growth the second time around.
7 DESMOND KING (Cornerback – Los Angeles Chargers)
King and James form a formidable combination in the LA secondary. King’s skills extend to returning punts, highlighting his athletic prowess and ball skills. King batted away 10 passes last season in another strong season for the 24-year-old.
8 XAVIEN HOWARD (Miami)
League-leading 11 picks in past 17 starts means Howard signed a 76.5 million contract making him the highest paid CB in the NFL at the time of signing. A second-team All-Pro last season. With former Patriots defensive coach Brian Flores taking over as head coach, Howard could improve even more.
9 JALEN RAMSEY (Jacksonville)
Two NFL seasons, two Pro Bowl jerseys but his sophomore season was not as dominant as he’d promised. Elite quarterbacks began throwing in his direction. Ramsey’s third season was arguably his worst at pro level but such is his talent, he remains comfortably among the top corners in the game.
10 DENZEL WARD (Cleveland)
Two interceptions on debut signalled the No. 4 overall picks other-worldly talents. Neck/concussion issues derailed his rookie season. Ward rejected 11 passes in 13 games last season and managed three picks. Alongside fellow defensive playmakers in Myles Garrett, Greedy Williams and Olivier Vernon, Ward should continue to excel in the Browns system – fancy saying that a few years back.
Most unlucky: Darius Slay (Detroit), Josh Norman (Washington), Desmond Trufant (Atlanta), Xavier Rhodes (Minnesota), Harrison Smith (Minnesota).