Best NFL Cornerbacks Of All Time: Top 5 Defensive Legends, According To Fans

Cornerbacks in the National Football League (NFL) are some of the best athletes in the world. Cornerbacks guard wide receivers, who are also some of the best athletes in the world, but corners must mimic a receiver’s movements while running backward. Corners must be precise with their moves. A cornerback can cover a receiver and not allow a catch on 80 plays, but if they give up a big pass and get burned once, that’s all anyone talks about until the next game. Undoubtedly, NFL fans have seen some great corners over the years, but only a few can be considered the best NFL cornerbacks of all time. 

Whether you love great offensive play or stellar defensive efforts, a recent study suggests that simply getting out to watch some football this fall is incredibly beneficial for your mental health. Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University say that attending live sporting events actually helps increase overall mental well-being and reduce feelings of loneliness. A survey of 7,000 adults found that those respondents who attended live sporting events scored better in terms of life satisfaction than those who had not recently attended events. That’s definitely a great reason to get out and watch some football in the fall. 

It’s not like Americans need a reason to get out and watch sports, though. Another study found that the average sports fan is willing to travel to see their favorite team play in person. A survey of 2,000 self-identified sports fanatics examined the lengths people are willing to go to in order to watch their favorite sports team play in person. The survey found that the average fan is willing to travel a whopping five hours and 48 minutes and spend $762.20 on tickets just to see their favorite team play live. It sounds like a great way to spend a vacation and watch your favorite NFL corners impede offenses in the fall. 

So, which cornerbacks are considered to be the greats? StudyFinds did some digging, consulting 10 football and sports-oriented websites in an effort to bring you the consensus best NFL cornerbacks of all time. Our list is comprised of the five most frequently listed athletes from across these sites. Think your favorite corner was left off the list? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! 

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Football (Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash)

The List: Best NFL Cornerbacks, According to Experts

1. Deion Sanders

Easily topping the list of the best NFL cornerbacks of all time is none other than “Prime Time” Deion Sanders. He was one of the most electric and exciting NFL players of any generation. Deion was not only a great cover corner, but he’s arguably one of the greatest return men in the sport. Simply put, when Deion got his hands on the ball, he made magic happen. 

“Deion Sanders, commonly known as ‘Prime Time,’ revolutionized the cornerback position as the greatest lockdown cornerback ever. There was no better man-to-man cornerback in coverage in the history of the NFL. Sanders’ speed was simply unmatched, as he is one of the top 10 fastest NFL players ever. His remarkable agility and quickness allowed him to stay step-for-step with the fastest wide receivers in the league. Sanders’ ability to effortlessly glide across the field and close gaps in an instant made him a nightmare for quarterbacks attempting to throw in his direction,” writes SOG Sports

Quarterbacks eventually stopped throwing in Deion’s direction, and although he wasn’t the best or most willing tackler in NFL history, Deion’s impact on defense can’t be measured. Deion is not only one of the best corners in NFL history, but he’s also one of the best athletes this world has ever seen. 

“There are few athletes in the history of American sports as great as Deion Sanders, making him an easy choice as the best corner in NFL history. He was a natural when it came to blanketing wide receivers, at least when he wasn’t also playing pro baseball. Sanders also had an incredible ego, although he earned it with the way he kept elite wide receivers from making an impact. During his 14 seasons in the league, Sanders made the Pro Bowl eight times, missing out just once between 1991 and 1999. He also earned Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and was a part of two teams that won the Super Bowl,” explains Franchise Sports

Deion was so fast and agile that he could toy with receivers and would-be tacklers in the return game. Deion was also a great baseball player, and he was a star for the Atlanta Braves while he also played for the Falcons. Deion won a World Series with the Braves to go with his two Super Bowl championships as an NFL cornerback—truly remarkable. 

“Sanders is considered by many the greatest at his position. He didn’t just excel at cornerback, either. He spent time as a return specialist and wide receiver. Not to mention, he played nine seasons as an outfielder in Major League Baseball in the midst of his 16-year tenure in the NFL. The dual-sport star competed in multiple Super Bowls and one World Series and gained notoriety for his excellence on the field and his personality off of it. Sanders began his career with the Atlanta Falcons (1989–1993), then jumped to the 49ers for one season, where he helped the team win Super Bowl XXIX. One year later, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, with whom he triumphed in Super Bowl XXX,” furthers The Twinspires Edge

2. Rod Woodson

Next up on the list of the best NFL cornerbacks of all time is the legendary Rod Woodson. He is one of the most complete defensive players of all time. Woodson could cover, tackle, and rush the passer off the edge on corner and safety blitzes

“An 11-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Woodson was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 after recording eight interceptions and 95 tackles. A member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, Woodson rebounded from a serious knee injury in 1995 to play eight more seasons while collecting five more Pro Bowl selections and an All-Pro nod in 2002 at the age of 37. Woodson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who retired with 71 interceptions, played in three Super Bowls with three different teams while helping the Ravens dismantle the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV,” writes 247 Sports

Woodson spent time at both safety and cornerback, making him a true defensive leader and an all-time NFL great. Woodson started his career as corner and moved to safety as he got older. “Woodson played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders from 1987 to 2003 and recorded 71 interceptions in his career. He was an eleven-time Pro Bowler and was named All-Pro six times. Woodson is known for his speed, agility, and ball skills, making him one of the best cornerbacks and safeties in the league. He was also a strong tackler and a leader on the field. He was a key contributor to the Ravens’ Super Bowl win in 2000,” furthers Sportskeeda

Woodson played on some great teams, but that 2000 Ravens team is arguably the best NFL defensive team of all time. Woodson was the leader of the Ravens’ secondary, while Ray Lewis led the front seven. When his career was all said and done, Woodson stood third on the all-time interceptions list. 

“Rod Woodson played 17 years in the NFL and never lost his step. The Hall of Famer was an All-Pro his third year as a cornerback and an All-Pro as a safety in his second to last season 13 years later. Woodson had 71 career interceptions, which is good for third on the all-time list, only behind Emlen Tunnell and Paul Krause. Woodson spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although Pittsburgh went to the playoffs often, Woodson didn’t win a Super Bowl until 2001, when he played safety for the rival Baltimore Ravens,” adds Rookie Road.  

3. Darrelle Revis

The third spot on the list of the best cornerbacks in NFL history belongs to Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis. Revis “Island” was a true lockdown corner who could take away a team’s best wide receiver in a heartbeat. Revis made every defensive unit he was on that much better, and he’s undoubtedly one of the best ever at his position. 

“In the NFL, where film exists everywhere, fear leads to respect for Darrelle Revis. After a 2011 season that featured four interceptions and twenty-one broken-up passes, teams stopped testing Revis in his prime. In fact, eleven of his twenty-nine career interceptions took place after that season. Quarterbacks avoided his side of the field, preferring to force-feed whoever occupied the other side of the field. Revis doesn’t boast the lofty stats of others populating this list. However, scaring quarterbacks and coordinators from looking anywhere near your side of the field is enough to make this list. Remember, some of the better corners will not own interception records as quarterbacks will not try them,” writes Full Press Coverage

Darelle Revis was the perfect example of just how impactful a great cornerback can be on an NFL defense. Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators simply refused to throw at Revis after a few stellar seasons. The result was back-to-back AFC Championship game appearances for Revis’ Jets. 

“Darelle Revis was a dominant man-to-man cornerback during his 11-year career, where he spent most of his time as a New York Jet. With the Jets, Revis had three straight All-Pro seasons from 2009 to 2011. That stretch helped the Jets make the AFC Championship game in back-to-back seasons. During this time, Revis’ style of play became known as ‘Revis Island.’ This was referring to the side of the field, or island, that receivers would be covered on by Revis,” writes Rookie Road

Revis’s stats were impacted by the lack of action he saw on the football field, and that’s why his interception totals are lower than some of the all-time greats at his position. Still, Revis was known for shutting down the opposing team’s best receiver, and in Revis’s day, there were some great receivers. Darelle Revis dominated the likes of Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss, even though Moss had his fair share of big catches against Revis.  

“Revis could shut down any team’s No. 1 receiver, including the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Calvin Johnson. In 2009, the most yards he permitted while guarding a receiver one-on-one was 58, and he held Moss, Owens, Chad Johnson, and Reggie Wayne to no more than five catches or 40 yards that year. He played one season in Tampa Bay in 2013, then signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in 2014 and won a Super Bowl that season. In Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks, Revis recorded a sack and allowed just one reception— though that catch was a three-yard touchdown by Doug Baldwin, who bumped Revis into an NFL official to force an opening for the catch. It was the only time quarterback Russell Wilson targeted Baldwin the entire game,” furthers The Twinspires Edge

4. Dick “Night Train” Lane

Swooping into the fourth spot on the list of the best corners in NFL history is the one and only Dick “Night Train” Lane. He is one of the most revered players in NFL history, and he helped define what it means to be a shutdown corner. 

“With a nickname like Night Train Lane, how could Dick Lane not be considered among the best cornerbacks of all time? His nickname aside, Lane played during the 1950s and 1960s and can still be counted among the toughest players and best tacklers to ever play the game. He played for the Rams, Cardinals, and Lions across his 14 seasons in the league, earning seven Pro Bowl trips and 10 All-Pro selections, including seven First-Team All-Pro nominations. While his clothesline style of tackling eventually became banned, Lane had already established himself as one of the most feared tackles in the league. On top of that, Lane set the single-season NFL record for most interceptions in a season with 14. That record was set during this rookie year and still stands today,” explains Franchise Sports

Night Train Lane amassed impressive stats during an era when NFL teams don’t throw the ball nearly as much as they do today. The lack of opportunities for Night Train Lane speaks to his sheer dominance. However, Night Train was infamous for more than just intercepting passes and covering wide receivers. Night Train Lane was one of the most ruthless tacklers the NFL has ever seen, and his opponents wanted no part of his tackles. 

“In 1952, Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane joined the Los Angeles Rams and immediately etched his name in history. As a rookie, the vicious tackler set the single-season record for interceptions with 14 across 12 games—a mark that will likely never be surpassed, even with today’s 17-game schedule. The seven-time Pro Bowler also led the league in interceptions (10) in 1954 and ranks fourth all time in interceptions with 68. His 1,207 interception return yards are the sixth most by any player in NFL history, and his 298 interception return yards in 1952 were just three yards short of an NFL record at the time. Today, that total ranks seventh best for a single season,” furthers The Twinspires Edge

Night Train Lane set the NFL record for interceptions in one season with 14, and he did that playing in only 12 games. Today, NFL teams play a 17-game schedule, and this record will likely never be touched.  

“Lane struck fear into the hearts of opposing receivers. His physical presence alone was often enough to disrupt routes and force quarterbacks into making errant throws. Lane’s hard-hitting approach redefined the expectations of a cornerback, making him one of the most feared defensive players of his era and one of the hardest hitters in NFL history. Lane’s impact extended beyond his individual achievements. His style of play and success as a ballhawk paved the way for future generations of aggressive and playmaking cornerbacks. There were multiple rules created to attempt to nerf Dick Lane’s physical tackling ability. This man was truly the great pioneer for the position,” adds SOG Sports

5. Mel Blount

Rounding out the list of the greatest corners in NFL history is none other than Steelers legend Mel Blount. Blount picked up where Night Train Lane left off. Mel Blount was big for a corner, and he played the position with a certain physicality and intelligence. 

“How great was Mel Blount? So great that the NFL created the ‘Mel Blount Rule’ in 1978, which prohibited a defensive back’s contact with a receiver. A third-round pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, Blount was a five-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro, and the 1975 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after recording a league-best 11 interceptions in 14 games. Blount, who retired with 57 career regular season interceptions, picked off three passes in Super Bowl competition that included two interceptions off of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Blount retired with four Super Bowl rings,” writes 247 Sports

Mel Blount was so physical and aggressive that the NFL had to implement the aforementioned “Mel Blount Rule.” Beyond his aggressive play, Blount was one of the leaders of the great Steelers’ defenses of the ‘70s

“Mel Blount was the best CB in the NFL during a majority of his career with the Steelers. He might not get a lot of play as a face of the Steel Curtain, but what Blount did in the back end can’t be denied. A fierce hitter and one of the true lockdown corners of his time, Blount won four Super Bowl titles with Pittsburgh. His interception of Roger Staubach in Super Bowl XIII led to Pittsburgh coming away with the game-winning drive over the Dallas Cowboys. All said, Blount earned five Pro Bowls and was the 1975 NFL Defensive Player of the Year during his time in Pittsburgh,” furthers Sportsnaut

Blount played his entire career in Pittsburgh, and he’s easily one of the most beloved athletes in that great city’s history. Mel Blount retired with a staggering four Super Bowl championships and was named Defensive Player of the Year. “Blount played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1970 to 1983 and recorded 57 interceptions in his career. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time Super Bowl winner. Blount is known for his physicality, ball skills, and ability to make big plays in crucial moments. He was also a strong tackler and a leader on the field. He was a key contributor to the Steelers’ dynasty,” adds Sportskeeda

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