Press coverage, jumping routes, punishing receivers as they go up for the catch, there’s a variety of paths to becoming a top-notch cornerback. The battle for the top spot was tightly contested between two stalwarts of the 90s, Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders. Sanders eventually got the nod for number one, but Woodson has a strong case too.
My name is David, and as a former quarterback, cornerbacks were the bane of my existence, and let’s just say there’s a reason my playing career ended in high school. But as quarterbacks continue to shatter passing records and defensive rules become more restrictive, I’m becoming more sympathetic to how hard it must be to play cornerback at the highest level.
In this article, we’ll sift through decades of NFL history to choose the 10 greatest cornerbacks of all time. Each player has their own in-depth player profile, including accolades, highlights, and a summary of their career’s best season.
#10: Richard Sherman
Best Season: 2012 – 8 interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, First Team All-Pro.
The face of Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense paved the way to back-to-back Super Bowls in 2013 and 2014. Sherman set the tone with his physical brand of press coverage, man-handling defenders and daring officials to throw the flag.
This physical style helped make up for Sherman’s subpar speed that included a mediocre 4.54 40-time at the combine. 
But Sherman’s long arms, mental preparedness, and ability to anticipate routes and offensive concepts more than made up for the lack of speed.
Like many great cornerbacks, Sherman’s interception numbers decreased as his career went along as quarterbacks targeted his side of the field less. But Sherman still finished his career with 33 total interceptions including eight in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. 
A five-time All-Pro selection, Sherman is more than deserving of the number ten spot on our list, and could probably have been higher if not for a rapid decline that caused him to retire after his age-33 season. 
#9: Champ Bailey
Best Season: 2006 – 10 interceptions, 21 passes defensed, 86 tackles, 2nd in DPOY.
In the golden era of the Madden video game, my friends and I had a rule: you couldn’t play as Washington because Champ Bailey would intercept anything thrown his way. While he wasn’t quite as dominant in real life, Bailey was the premier coverage corner of the early ‘00s for Washington and later with the Denver Broncos. 
Unlike Sherman, quarterbacks targeted Bailey more frequently, leading to 52 career interceptions including ten in 2006 when he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year Voting. 
While many corners decline quickly, Bailey wrecked the aging curve, and was selected to his final All-Pro team in 2012 at the age of 34. 
In total, Bailey made seven All-Pro teams, scored four career touchdowns, and was the subject of plenty of thrown Playstation controllers in my house.
#8: Darrelle Revis
Best Season: 2009 – 6 interceptions, 1 touchdown, 31 passes defensed, 22 AV, 2nd in DPOY.
While Revis didn’t have the longevity of Champ Bailey, he put up perhaps the best individual season by a cornerback in decades. Pro Football Reference uses an all-in-one statistic called Approximate Value (AV) to help measure a player’s contribution regardless of position, and during the ‘09 season, Revis led the entire NFL in the category. 
That season, Revis posted 6 interceptions and another 31 passes defensed, paving the way to a second-place finish in Defensive Player of the Year voting. So began the era of “Revis Island” with the New York Jets leveraging their superstar corner, leaving him in single coverage against the other team’s top target, and shifting extra defenders to the other side of the field.
In the end, Revis was out of the league by the age of 32 as he fell victim to cornerback’s early aging curve. But he still made four All-Pro teams and it’s hard to find a cornerback with a higher peak than Revis had between 2008 and 2011. 
#7: Darrell Green
Best Season: 1991 – 5 interceptions, 79 tackles, First Team All-Pro.
From one of the highest peaks to one of the longest-tenured, Darrell Green was a survivor, spending his entire year with Washington and retiring at 42. 
In most circumstances, I favor a player’s peak over their longevity, but when that longevity includes 20 years in the league, I’m willing to make an exception.
Green never had a run of All-Pro appearances and was only selected to three. 
But the diminutive 5’9” was a steady presence in Washington’s secondary for two decades. His reputation as a shutdown corner somewhat depressed his career interception numbers, but his 54 career picks is still good enough for 21st all-time to go along with six total interceptions. 
#6: Mel Blount
Best Season: 1975 – 11 interceptions, DPOY.
Blount was enjoying a solid but unspectacular career as a starter for Pittsburgh’s famed “Steel Curtain” defenses of the 1970s. But that all changed in 1975, his age 27 season when Blount took the NFL by storm, leading the league in interceptions with 11, winning Defensive Player of the Year, and making his first All-Pro team. 
After intercepting just twelve passes his first five seasons, Blount proved that 1975 wasn’t a fluke, coming back with six more in 1976 and making the Pro Bowl. 
Blount continued to rack up interceptions during the second half of his career, retiring in 1983 with 57 career picks, good enough for 13th all-time.
#5: Mike Haynes
Best Season: 1976 – 8 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, two punt return touchdowns, DROY.
The premier cornerback of the late 70s, Haynes burst onto the scene as a first-round pick of the Patriots in 1976, picking off eight passes, winning defensive rookie of the year, and leading the Patriots to the playoffs for the first time since 1963. 
Haynes posted a series of excellent seasons that was rewarding with second-team All-Pro selections every year from 1976-1980.
Haynes was a feared punt returner during his first five years in the league including a pair of punt return touchdowns in his rookie year. 
While known as a coverage corner, Haynes could do more than intercept passes, forcing eleven fumbles over those five seasons and recovering ten more. 
After three injury-plagued seasons threatened to derail his career, Haynes found a second life with the Los Angeles Raiders, posting back-to-back All-Pro first-team seasons in 1984 and 1985 along with being a member of the team’s 1983 Super Bowl Championship.
#4: Charles Woodson
Best Season: 2009 – 9 interceptions, 3 touchdowns, 2 sacks, DPOY.
Few corners struck fear into the hearts of quarterbacks like Charles Woodson. From 1998-2015, Woodson made a career out of jumping routes and baiting quarterbacks into throws. In an era where quarterbacks were turning the ball over less and less, he finished his career fifth on the all-time interception list with 65. 
Woodson’s accolades follow a strange pattern. He was selected to the Pro Bowl each of his first four seasons in the league, including a pair of All-Pro selections. Injuries and average seasons over the next six years seemed to indicate that Woodson would follow the familiar cornerback path of an early peak and quick decline. 
But his career found a second wind with the Packers in 2008. Between the ages of 32 and 35, Woodson ripped off four straight All-Pro seasons including Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009. 
This peculiar career with two unique peaks along with Woodson’s ability to play until he was 39, propels him from above-average corner to one of the best to ever play the game.
#3: Dick “Night Train” Lane
Best Season: 1952 – 14 interceptions (NFL Record), 2 touchdowns, 1 safety, 298 return yards.
The first great cornerback in NFL history and touting one of the best nicknames ever, the Night Trains career marks still sit near the top of the leaderboard and his 68 career interceptions are still the third most all-time. 
We don’t have much footage or advanced analytics to break down Night Train’s career. But testimonials and videos like this make it clear that he was one of the most fearsome tacklers and hitters ever.
The Night Train came roaring onto the scene his rookie year in 1952. His 14 interceptions that year remains the single-season record, all the more impressive is that he did it in just a 12-game season. Incredibly, Night Train was not named to the All-Pro team that season, though he would go on to make it six times in his career. 
#2: Rod Woodson
Best Season: 1993 – 8 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, 95 tackles, DPOY.
With a peak that rivals Derelle Revis, Woodson remained a reliable cornerback until he was 33 before transitioning to free safety for five more excellent seasons. Woodson is third on the all-time interception list with 71. 
But creating turnovers wasn’t enough, Woodson’s all-time leader in interception returns for touchdowns with 12. 
Woodson was at his best between 1989 and 1994 as a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary. He was a first-team All-Pro five times, DPOY once, and a runner-up second, while leading the entire NFL in Approximate Value in 1990 with 20. 
1995 likely would have been just as dominant, but Woodson tore his ACL in week 1, missing the rest of the season. 
While Woodson would go on to another top-ten finish in DPOY and two more All-Pro selections as a safety, his reign as the best cornerback in the league was at an end. 
Nevertheless, Woodson’s dominant run and impressive comeback from his torn ACL pushes him to number two on the list and makes a compelling case for number one.
#1: Deion Sanders
Best Season: 1994 – 6 interceptions, 303 return yards, 3 touchdowns, DPOY, 3rd in MVP.
Sanders garnered so much attention for his charisma and showboating, it’s easy to forget that he was also the most dominant cornerback for much of the 90s. With stints in Atlanta, San Francisco, and Dallas, Sanders ripped off a nine-year stretch that included 8 All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1994. 
While he didn’t receive the same recognition in 1996, that year might be even better with an Approximate Value of 23, the best in the league that year despite picking off just two passes. 
His nickname of “Prime Time” became the modern-day “Night Train” as the most iconic and recognizable moniker in the league. It’s hard to imagine we get this without Deion Sanders:
Statistically, Rod Woodson can make a compelling case for number one on this list. But when it’s this close I’m going to go with the player that defined my childhood in the 90s and was part of two Super Bowl titles.
From “Night Train” to Richard Sherman, NFL history is peppered with fantastic cornerbacks who deserve recognition. While I chose not to include active players in the list, there are a few cornerbacks that may deserve a spot on this list in the years to come. Jalen Ramsey has three All-Pro selections to his name, While Jets rookie Sauce Gardner was named first-team All-Pro and seems to be on his way to a celebrated career. 
Who could they bump off this list? And who would you have included that missed the cut? Let us know in the comments below.