1. Captain Munnerlyn – Carolina Panthers
Munnerlyn was a part of one of the best defenses in the NFL, and although the Panthers’ front 7 was incredible, Munnerlyn, who is known for his aggressiveness, led the great play of the secondary.
Munnerlyn had 4 sacks on the season, which is quite impressive for a cornerback, as well as 2 interceptions and 7 pass deflections.
That defense should be dominant for years, and although Munnerlyn is not the focal point of that defense, his great play in the secondary is a big reason why the Panthers can succeed.
The front 7 can only do so much; it’s the secondary’s role to be in place to make the plays, and Munnerlyn made some great plays this year. That should only continue to happen going forward.
2. Desmond Trufant – Atlanta Falcons
Desmond Trufant was the Falcons’ first round pick, and despite the fact that their defense was horrendous, Trufant was one of the lone stars on the team. Trufant was outstanding in coverage and was manned with the duties of going up against No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, and stood tall the majority of the time.
His 15 pass deflections are tied for the most in the NFL, and he had 2 interceptions to go with that. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked in the top 7 amongst all cornerbacks in terms of overall ability (coverage, run stopping, and penalty accumulation).
Going forward, the Falcons should try to build their defense around Trufant, because he put up incredible numbers for a rookie. He will only get better and the defense will as well, which is scary.
3. Jason McCourty – Tennessee Titans
I don’t think there was a better cornerback tandem than Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner this year. Verner got the majority of the recognition, and should get a hefty deal this offseason, but Jason McCourty was the perfect compliment to him. McCourty is the type of player that doesn’t necessarily excel in one area, but is consistently good everywhere.
He can tackle (61 tackles) and cover (9 pass deflections). Teams ended up throwing towards Verner, who would end up intercepting the passes or making plays. McCourty is still very young and will only get better in this league, but out of the 5 guys on this list, he’s the only boom or bust player going forward. He will either succeed with the Titans or falter going forward, but I think he’ll succeed and that’s why he’s on this list.
4. Walter Thurmond – Seattle Seahawks
With Brandon Browner most likely gone, it means that Walter Thurmond will get a much bigger role going forward, and it makes sense, he had a great year. He played well in big games, and considering this is his first year getting a good amount of playing time, that’s very impressive.
It seems like he’s only getting better, and with that Seattle defense, the pressure won’t be on him. He should be a quiet star for that team for years to come. He is a free agent, but odds are, he’ll stay, and if he doesn’t, some team will give him a juicy deal.
5. Brandon Boykin – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been looking for years for a true No. 1 cornerback (since Asante Samuel in his prime), and it seems that they have found him. Brandon Boykin had a fantastic year with the Eagles, and he is only getting better in this league.
According to Pro Football Focus, he had the best coverage rating out of any cornerback in the league. Looking at the game film, he’s all over the field and he manages to stick tight to his receivers and makes overly aggressive quarterbacks pay. He took a huge step forward this season, and he should only get better.