Thanks to today’s NFL media climate, in which Twitter beef can generate more attention than an All-Pro selection, Kevin Byard made as much of a name for himself online as he did on the field.
In his second pro season and his first as a full-time starter, Byard established himself as one of the best safeties in the league while being chosen as a Pro Bowler and first team All-Pro. He helped the Tennessee Titans make it to the playoffs and advance to the AFC divisional round, where they would lose to the New England Patriots.
Byard’s efforts were good enough to get him voted into the No. 80 slot on the NFL Network’s Top 100 player ranking for 2018, a list that is determined by NFL players. Continue reading
One sign that cornerbacks are getting more respect and recognition in the NFL these days is that, on the 2018 edition of the NFL Network’s Top 100 ranking, the 12 cornerbacks listed tied with defensive end for the most popular defensive position.
Another sign is that when Marshon Lattimore was voted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this past season, he became the second cornerback in the last three years to win the award.
Before that, the last corner to earn DROY honors was Charles Woodson in 1998. Prior to Marcus Peters winning DROY for 2015 and Lattimore winning it for 2017, only five other cornerbacks had their names on the trophy. Continue reading
Chris Harris Jr.
Last season was another typically unimpressive one for Chris Harris Jr. in terms of statistics. But anyone who is familiar with his work knows that the Denver Broncos’ veteran cornerback is defined by the lack of numbers he puts up.
Harris recorded 40 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble in 2017.
Those numbers are what they are in large part because Harris is such an effective cover corner that quarterbacks often don’t throw in his direction. That means he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to make tackles or get picks. Continue reading
If you were wondering how much team success or failure can impact an individual athlete’s reputation, look no further than New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and strong safety Landon Collins.
During the 2016 NFL season, when the Giants went 11-5 and made it to the playoffs, Manning was being talked about as a future Hall of Famer, and he won the NFL’s Man of the Year award. Collins received first team All-Pro honors, and he was heavy in the conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2017, the Giants went 3-13 and finished with the second-worst record in the league. Continue reading
Malcolm Jenkins is apparently too good to get blackballed.
The two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro safety for the Philadelphia Eagles was right there on the front lines with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in 2016 when those two former San Francisco 49er teammates began kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, a move that sparked a movement of NFL players publicly protesting police brutality and racism in the United States.
Jenkins, who is widely recognized as the heart and soul of the Eagles, chose to protest by raising his fist during the anthem — similar to track and field icons John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics. His version of silent, yet powerful protest drew its share of headlines and support and criticism.
But while Kaepernick’s stand against injustice appears to have cost him his NFL career, and Reid has inexplicably (and blatantly) gone unsigned on this year’s free agent market — both players have filed grievances against the NFL, accusing team owners of collusion — Jenkins hasn’t gone anywhere. Continue reading
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Beginning in 2011, the NFL Network has surveyed NFL players to compile an annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players. The list is unveiled in a multi-part series during the offseason, with each episode profiling 10 players on the countdown to the No. 1 spot.
Because the ranking is decided by players and not the media or fans, those who often don’t get mainstream attention receive their just due: e.g., offensive linemen, linebackers who don’t get a lot of sacks, guys who standout on bad or small-market teams.
That’s good for defensive backs. Continue reading
Sorry if I’m not so sorry about the plight of the football player who slides a few picks lower than expected in the NFL Draft.
While there are some truly unfortunate bigger-picture areas of concern — e.g., would Heisman-winning QB Lamar Jackson have been chosen much higher than 32nd overall if he weren’t Black? — for the most part, a guy who had top-10 dreams but winds up at the end of the first round or going in the second round is still in very good shape for his pro career moving forward.
My sympathy lies more with the players who are still waiting for that life-changing phone call on Day 3 of the draft. The ones who weren’t picked in the first three rounds, who go into the final day of the draft having to confront the possibility that they may not get selected. Continue reading
The NFL Draft is an opportunity for some teams to change the direction of their franchise with one superstar selection. Other teams who don’t need a savior can stay among the upper echelon by simply adding depth to a position that is already a strength. Other teams that are a few pieces away from contending can use the draft to give an entire position group a makeover.
On Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers used their second-round pick on Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson; that came after the Packers used their first-round pick on Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander.
For a team that finished 31st in the league last season in Passer Rating allowed, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed and 23rd in passing yards allowed on its way to missing the playoffs, placing an emphasis on improving the secondary was a must. Continue reading
In the months leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward was widely considered the best cornerback in the pool. Cornerback also happens to be one of the most coveted positions in the NFL.
So why was it such a surprise — drawing a harmonized “Whoa!” from the NFL Network’s TV panel of experts — when Ward was the first defensive back chosen in Thursday’s first round?
Probably because in a vast majority of mock drafts, the first defensive back to come off the board was a safety: Either Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, or Florida State’s Derwin James. That Ward went No. 4 overall to the Cleveland Browns was also a surprise, as many prognosticators had the Browns taking NC State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb in that spot. Continue reading
The final day of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine was the most busy in terms of action on the field, as a group of 70 defensive backs (43 cornerbacks, 27 safeties) performed drills and showcased their skills in preparation for this year’s NFL Draft.
There were more defensive backs at the Combine than players at any other position, and it was the largest group of DBs in the event’s history.
According to the majority of reviews and recaps I’ve read, and after watching most of the DBs do their thing on TV, the biggest fish in the big pond was Florida State safety Derwin James. Continue reading