I don’t know the order, and I can only take a decent guess at the names, but I do know for sure that next week’s two-hour TV special unveiling the top 10 of the NFL’s Network’s ranking of the league’s top 100 players for 2016 will not feature a defensive back.
Because if Josh Norman ended up No. 11 on the list — which was voted on by NFL players — that means no other cornerbacks or safeties are left.
During his breakout pro season, Norman was the league’s most celebrated and talked-out DB outside of Charles Woodson. But because Woodson, a future Hall of Famer, had announced his retirement and was in his farewell season with the Oakland Raiders, he wasn’t eligible for the 2016 edition of the top 100.
While Woodson was saying goodbye, Norman was introducing himself to the mainstream audience as a legit star. In his fourth season out of Coastal Carolina, Norman made his first Pro Bowl and received his first AP All-Pro first team selection. He recorded 56 tackles, 18 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He intercepted four passes and took two of those back for touchdowns.
Norman was the marquee defensive player on a Carolina Panthers squad that went 15-1 and made it to Super Bowl 50, where they would lose to an even better defense belonging to the Denver Broncos.
During a strange offseason in which the Panthers put their franchise tag on Norman, then rescinded it and released him after the NFL’s initial free-agency rush was over, he quickly negotiated and signed a five-year deal with Washington worth $75 million. Norman is now the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback.
You can watch the NFL Network segment on Norman HERE, and check out a highlight reel below:
Overall, there were 15 defensive backs on this year’s NFL top 100 list; eight safeties and seven cornerbacks. While the highest-ranking safety was Tyrann Mathieu at No. 28 (and he plays some corner), there were four corners in the top 25. The entire list of DBs:
11. Washington CB Josh Norman
18. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson
20. Seahawks CB Richard Sherman
24. Jets CB Darrelle Revis
28. Cardinals FS Tyrann Mathieu
32. Seahawks SS Kam Chancellor
34. Broncos CB Aqib Talib
52. Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.
55. Chiefs FS Eric Berry
60. Raiders FS Reggie Nelson
64. Dolphins FS Reshad Jones
65. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters
66. Seahawks FS Earl Thomas
68. Broncos SS T.J. Ward
73. Vikings FS Harrison Smith
Two of the 15 defensive backs on the list changed teams in the offseason. Norman left Carolina for Washington, and Nelson left the Bengals for the Raiders in free agency.
Nelson is the oldest DB on the list at 32 years old, while Peters — the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year — is the youngest at 23.
The majority of DBs on this year’s list (10) didn’t make last year’s list. That includes Norman, Mathieu, Talib, Harris, Berry, Nelson, Jones, Peters, Ward and Smith.
Seven DBs who made the list in 2015 weren’t on the list in 2016. They are Raiders FS Charles Woodson, Lions FS Glover Quinn, Ravens FS Eric Weddle, Jaguars FS Tahsaun Gipson, Colts CB Vontae Davis, Bucs CB Brent Grimes and Browns CB Joe Haden.