Let’s Break This Down

1. Deion Sanders– In the words of Jay-Z: “Primetime, Beat by Deion”. Whenever I see posts like these, I say to myself there’s always one that a lock and that’s Prime. He’s the greatest cornerback I’ve ever seen play this game. He always had a knack for making the big play exactly when his team needed it. The brighter the lights, the bigger the stage, the better he was. He always wanted the other team’s top receiver and he backed up his talk with his play. This guy always shut down an entire side of the football field and forced quarterbacks to throw to the opposite side. You didn’t test him. Out of the four legendary corners, he’s the most versatile on this list. Prime returned kicks, punts and played on the offensive side of the football. Deion also played with an offensive mindset when playing corner. Whenever he went up and got that ball, he was thinking six the entire way. When he high stepped his way into the endzone, that meant he scored. He’s one of the greatest defensive players I’ve ever seen play this game.

2. Charles Woodson– What he was able to do throughout his career was remarkable. His start to greatness started in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a member of the Michigan Wolverines. He helped lead the Wolverines to a national championship in 1997. To date, he’s still the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and he’s the most recent player to win the Heisman that wasn’t a quarterback or running back. After college, he went on to have a storied career in the National Football League. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. During the glory days of the Oakland Raiders, Charles was always the face of that defense. He spent the first eight years of his career in Oakland before signing a seven-year deal with the Green Bay Packers in 2006. With Green Bay, he was a veteran that also became the heart and soul of those Packers teams. He was the one guy you had to circle in on. He had tremendous ball skills, he knew where to be to make a play and no matter where you put him, he played at a high level. He could play corner, safety, nickel and I even remember him loaded up in the box as a linebacker to help stop the run. When he was on the field, he made all the difference. He won the defensive MVP in 2009, a Super Bowl in 2011 and was a nine-time pro bowler. Get his yellow jacket ready for Canton, Ohio.

3. Champ Bailey– One of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I felt this guy was extremely underappreciated during his playing days. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 1999 draft, then was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2004. During his playing days in Denver, Champ established himself as a true shutdown corner. I remember his 2006 season like it was yesterday. He recorded 10 interceptions that season which was tied for the best with Asante Samuel, which is great and all, but what stood out to me most was the fact he didn’t give up a single touchdown that season which speaks volumes. He finished second in voting for the NFL’s defensive MVP behind Jason Taylor. In 2009, he didn’t allow a single touchdown again and remained one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the game. This was the first shutdown corner that opened doors for all the others to come after him (Revis, Sherman, Peterson). I remember him in 2010 shutting down Larry Fitzgerald holding him to three catches for 19 yards. He was a nightmare for any receiver who had to line up against him. As he got older, he became smarter. He knew what play would be ran before everyone else. Champ also didn’t mind defending tight ends. He was selected to 12 pro bowls in his career, the most ever for a cornerback. His 203 passes deflected are the most ever by a corner.

4. Darrelle Revis– He was by far the best cornerback in football from 2009-2011, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. This guy wanted the top receiver, he got him and shut him down. I’ve seen him shut down Steve Smith Sr, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Chad OchoCinco and Andre Johnson. What do each of those five receivers I listed have in common? They were all number one receivers on their depth charts. Seeing Darrelle shut down Calvin Johnson is something I’ll never forget. He was always one of those guys that stood out. Many took trips to “Revis Island” and didn’t enjoy their stay. During his run, each week the headline was who would number 24 line up against? After a few injury-riddled seasons, he signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots in 2014. We saw the “Revis of Old” that year. He helped lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in a decade. Can’t deny his greatness.

So, who goes: This was challenging. I’m giving Revis the boot. The other three were able to dominate for their entire careers, Revis was consistent for a few years, then he struggled. In my opinion, he had a dominant stretch for about 3 years. The others were able to dominate for five or more years. Deion, Champ nor Charles ever declined. They got better with age and were able to add to their games. You didn’t see that from Revis.