Cornerback is the hardest position to predict for fantasy, as they are more reliant upon targets and playing time than other positions, and are the most volatile-stable position (1-and done, top names-heavy) season-to-season. Many teams start three corners — two on the outside receivers and one in the slot, with the CB1 being the team’s “shutdown” corner, the CB2 being the one who reaps the benefits from playing opposite the shutdown, and the slot corner responsible for playing the middle of the field and keeping in front of the offense’s 3rd receiver on the field. The slot corner is often the best tackler of the three corners and must take good angles to stop the receiver in his track. While many CB1s are not useful in many fantasy leagues, those counting passes defensed (PD) give added values to most CB1s and CB2. Also, pay close attention to the punt and kick returners on each team, as many corners double as return man in the kick and/or punt return game.
1.) Alterraun Verner (TB) – Those leagues that count passes defensed will want Verner high on list of corners. In addition to being a ballhawk, Verner will provide a healthy dose of passes defensed in a Tampa Bay defense that is getting scary. (Photo courtesy of tennesean.com)
2.) Charles Tillman (CHI) – This might be an aggressive ranking for Tillman, but he’s going to be very valuable. If he didn’t miss the final 7 games, he would have challenged for top CB honors after amassing 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions in only 8 games. Add in his propensity for forced fumbles, and you got yourself a fantasy stud.
3.) Desmond Trufant (ATL) – Trufant will finish as a top 3 CB this season, and I’ll put money on that. He had a solidly respectable rookie season in Atlanta and will play top dog at safety. Trufant doesn’t shy away from contact and looks poised for a breakout campaign in his sophomore season.
4.) Lardarius Webb (BAL) – The only knock on him is his lack of big plays. He is a passes defensed monster, however, and should be near the league lead in PDs again. While he’s lean on the interceptions, which hurts his value, he hits hard and leaves nothing on the field.
5.) Patrick Peterson (ARZ) – Last season was Peterson’s floor, and while he’s not likely to post four scores again in a season (rookie season, 2011), 7 interceptions and around 20 passes defensed in a season consistently wouldn’t be surprising from him. Those counting return yardage should make sure he’s in your lineup every week, as he’s the best dual threat CB-return man in the game. (Photo courtesy of csnbayarea.com)
6.) DeAngelo Hall (WSH) – The past 10 seasons Hall has been the Gold Standard for fantasy CBs and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He doesn’t have much upside left, but when you draft Hall, you know you’ll be getting a top 6 CB. PDs and picks are his game, with forced fumbles always in the mix.
7.) Prince Amukamara (NYG) – Prince is the most reliable secondary fantasy asset the Giants have. He just has to stay on the field. He might be lean on the interceptions (I see 2-3 this season), but he will help in tackles and passes defensed. Playing opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a paper-thin Giants secondary could boost Prince’s value this season.
8.) Brandon Boykin (PHI) – Boykin seems to pose a serious threat to lead the league in interceptions, the only problem is Sherman may have something to say about that. In a fast-paced, Chip Kelly led team, Boykin should continue his emergence and threaten to be a perennial top 5 CB going forward. If you can find tackles elsewhere in your secondary, then Boykin will be sure to impress with his interruption and passes defensed totals.
9.) Tyrann Mathieu (ARZ) – Play the duo game with Peterson and Mathieu in the revamped Cardinals defense, and you will be handsomely rewarded. Now that his off-field issues are behind him, Mathieu is fully focused on football. Mathieu will begin the season on the PUP list, but upon return from his torn ACL and LCL, Mathieu will continue to punish opposing receivers and running backs and should see an uptick in picks. Peterson is the better all-around fantasy option, but Mathieu has some serious upside as well. Note: Mathieu will play both free safety and slot corner this season, so check your league’s eligibility on him.
10.) Richard Sherman (SEA) – Does your league count smack talk? If so, bump him up. Yep, the Sherminator is going to continue picking passes off at an elite clip, and be in Crabtree’s face at every opportunity. He only has 16 picks the past 2 seasons, and will be a PD wizard again this season, so grab him early. As an added bonus, he’ll throw in some forced and recovered fumbles on his way to putting lickings on opposing fools. (Photo courtesy of cdn29.elitedaily.com)
11.) Tramon Williams (GB) – Williams might be aging, but it doesn’t appear to be affecting his game. The Packers are looking to become more aggressive in the secondary, as evidenced by the drafting of Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, and Williams should help Green Bay’s secondary improve. He’s a hard-hitting, high tackling, decent INT guy who you want on your fantasy squad.
12.) Leodis McKelvin (BUF) – McKelvin is a high tackle motor CB who won’t pick many passes off, will get around 20 PDs a season, but gets a nice boost in value due to punt return yardage. He is not the sexiest nor most desirable CB to own, but he is sure to be a solid asset year in year out. Be aware, if your league does not count return yardage, McKelvin will lose tremendous value.
13.) Tim Jennings (CHI) – The other Bears corner, Jennings is slightly younger, but nearly the same product of Tillman. The 9 picks from 2012 are an outlier, however Jennings is still a 3-4 INT guy who will also give you a good amount of passes defensed footballs on the turf. Like Arizona, the Bears continue to put out two very fantasy friendly CBs and their scheme will only lend to that trend continuing, as they continue to rely upon their pass defense while their run defense is in need of rebuilding.
14.) Joe Haden (CLE) – The problem with Haden is that he is too good at defending the pass, and is essentially a shutdown corner. Things could get very interesting in the Browns secondary with the addition of Justin Gilbert to the secondary, but Haden will continue to frustrate opposing receivers with around 20 passes defensed and a healthy dose of interceptions. If Gilbert turns out to be the answer on the opposite side (currently battling Buster Skrine), then Haden’s value may see a slight boost, as Gilbert is also a ballhawk and possesses big play potential.
15.) Josh Wilson (ATL) – Sometimes it appears as if Wilson is trying to take other players heads off with some of his hits as opposed to just the ball. The corners in Atlanta have a history of the same inclination (ask DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin), so it is a good fit for Wilson. Playing opposite second year corner, Trufant, should afford Wilson some added opportunities for picks and passes defensed, which should vault him to around CB1 or 2 status. He’s not the same hawk he used to be early in his career, but he’s one that will certainly not leave you disappointed with his production as forced fumbles and recovered fumbles are a big part of his game. (Photo courtesy of thescore.com)
16.) Marcus Cooper (KC) – The Chiefs and Andy Reid are looking for a new identity under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s cover scheme, as evidenced by the release of Brandon Flowers, and Cooper, at 6’2″ fits the bill perfectly. Cooper is not going to be a high-tackle nor elite interception corner, but with his size, he’ll be able to challenge the taller receivers and rack up the passes defensed. He also brings nastiness to the game, which bodes well for owners looking for added values from fumbles.
17.) Brandon Carr (DAL) – With the state of the Dallas defense, someone other than Church is going to need to step up for the Cowboys to have any shot of getting out of the defense cellar. Without Sean Lee for the season, the Boys will continue to struggle defensively, meaning more potential for fantasy players. Other than Church, the man to own on the Dallas defense is Carr, as he will surely net you 4 interceptions, a nice amount of passes defensed recovered fumble.
18.) Dee Milliner (NYJ) – Sleeper alert! If you’re looking for a corner to grab later in your drafts that won’t go when the big names do, grab Milliner. He amassed 3 INTs, 17 PDs, and 45 solo tackles in 13 games last season as a rookie. Look for the Jets to turn him loose on defense this season, as the Jets suck offensively, and I hate stating the obvious, but I had to, meaning the Milliner should be able to pick-off at least 5 passes this season and get around 25 PDs.
19.) Darius Butler (IND) – Butler may not be listed as starter, but he’ll be on the field a ton, given his big play ability and vitality to the Colts defense. With Davis and Toler on the outside, Butler will be left on the slot receivers, and he will have his way with them as he has great ball skills and covers routes real well. He won’t lead your team in any category, but he’ll contribute across many.
20.) Justin Gilbert (CLE) – I got my money on Gilbert being the more fantasy-friendly second corner in Cleveland, rather than Skrine, as Gilbert will get more picks, plays more physically, and is more explosive. Gilbert will likely play in nickel packages and as slot corner to begin the season, but by season’s end he’ll be starting opposite Haden, covering the WR2. The upside is real here, and look for 4 picks and a nice PD count from Gilbert in his rookie season. (Photo courtesy of thesportspost.com)
I fully expect to see some argument for other names in the top 20, but these rankings are for MLFF and similar leagues, meaning these rankings were based upon PDs, return yardage, and other variables. I would do 30, but I see a ledge coming in CB drop off, so that’s why I cut it to 20, instead of leaving on an odd number like 23 or something. As always, feel free to comment, like, or share as we are a growing site and need all your loyal support. Hit up @MetalhammerBen on Twitter for more fantasy help.
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