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10 best cornerbacks of all time: Find out where Richard Sherman stands

Who are the 10 best cornerbacks of all time in the NFL? It’s been a point of discussion recently. It’s also hard to gauge considering some of the vastly different eras these candidates played in.

The best CB of all time can potentially be found in a certain former Patriots and Raiders cornerback who dominated in the 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps, a more modern player in Richard Sherman tops the list. What about Deion Sanders?

Below, we provide you with our 10 best cornerbacks of all time heading into the 2023 NFL season.

Related: Ranking NFL defenses in 2023

10. Lester Hayes

best cornerbacks of all time: lester hayes
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  • Lester Hayes stats: 39 interceptions, 4 touchdowns
  • Teams: Oakland Raiders (1977-1981), Los Angeles Raiders (1982-1986)

Opening our list of best cornerbacks is one of the most underrated at his position in the history of the league. A fifth-round pick of the Raiders back in 1977, Hayes put up a two-year span from 1979-1980 in which he recorded a whopping 20 interceptions. In 1980, he earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

While his status as the best CB in the NFL was only short-lived, it’s a crying shame that Haynes has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His ball-hawking ability defined that era of Raiders football.

9. Richard Sherman

best cornerbacks of all time: richard sherman
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  • Richard Sherman stats: 495 tackles, 116 passes defended, 37 INT, 3 TD
  • Teams: Seattle Seahawks (2011-2017), San Francisco 49ers (2018-2020), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2021)

Sherman began his career with the Stanford Cardinal as a wide receiver before it was decided he was better suited to play cornerback. The rest is pretty much history. During a five-year span with the Seahawks from 2012-2016, he was one of the best players in the game on either side of the ball. Sherman earned four All-Pro honors during that span, headlining a Legion of Boom that would ultimately lead the Seahawks to its first ever Super Bowl title.

Even after injuries ended Sherman’s career in Seattle, he went on to put up an absolutely brilliant season for the division-rival 49ers in 2019. That season saw Sherman record three interceptions while giving up a mere 63.0 QB rating when targeted, cementing his status as one of the best cornerbacks of all time.

Related: Ranking the top-10 quarterbacks of all time

8. Mel Renfro

best cornerbacks of all time: mel renfro
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  • Mel Renfro stats: 52 INT, 3 TD
  • Teams: Dallas Cowboys (1964-1977)

“My whole game was beating the man in front of me…it was a matter of studying the opponent as well as you can and knowing the tendencies. You had to have the speed, agility and quickness to get the job done.”

Those are the words of one Mel Renfro. And he lived up to them with perfection during a 14-year career in Dallas. One of the anchors on a defense that helped Dallas to two Super Bowl titles, Renfro earned 10 Pro Bowl appearances during his time in Big D. He led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1969, the year before he transitioned from safety to cornerback. During the Cowboys’ 1970 run to the Super Bowl, he recorded three postseason interceptions, too.

7. Willie Brown

best cornerbacks of all time: willie brown
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  • Willie Brown stats: 54 INT, 2 TD
  • Teams: Denver Broncos (1963-1966), Oakland Raiders (1967-1978)

In what was still a surprising move, the Broncos traded Brown to their bitter division rival after four seasons. In Denver, Brown earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. But it’s what he did in Northern California that stands above the rest. That includes a game-clinching pick-six of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl XI.

All said, Brown earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first seven seasons with the Raiders. He was named a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame team of the 1970s and found himself inducted into Canton in his first year of eligibility.

6. Darrell Green

best cornerbacks of all time, darrell green
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  • Darrell Green stats: 1,202 tackles, 54 INT, 8 TD
  • Teams: Washington: 1983-2002

Longevity is not the only thing that stood out for Green during his 20-year run in Washington. He led the organization to two Super Bowl titles, including a win over the Buffalo Bills in which he intercepted Jim Kelly.

Throughout his two decades with the ‘Hogs, he picked off three passes or more a whopping 12 times. He’s also tied with the aforementioned Brown for 21st on the all-time list of interceptions with 54.

Related: Top 100 NFL players of 2023

5. Charles Woodson

best cornerbacks of all time: charles woodson
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  • Charles Woodson stats: 1,220 tackles, 183 passes defended, 13 TD
  • Teams: Oakland Raiders (1998-2005, 2013-2015), Green Bay Packers (2006-2012)

A heisman winner during his days at Michigan, it always seemed as if Woodson was destined for stardom. As the No. 4 pick of the Raiders back in 2001, that came to fruition immediately. He earned Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl honors in his first season with Oakland.

This began a span in which Woodson was among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Once he moved on to the Green Bay Packers in 2006, that was taken to a whole new level. From his first season in Green Bay to 2011, Woodson recorded a whopping 37 interceptions during a six-year span. While he would ultimately transition to safety, there’s very little question that Woodson is one of the best cornerbacks of all time.

4. Mel Blount

best cornerbacks of all time: mel blount
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • Mel Blount stats: 57 INT, 4 TD
  • Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1970-1983)

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.

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings

3. Rod Woodson

best cornerbacks of all time: rod woodson
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  • Rod Woodson stats: 1,158 tackles, 71 INT, 20 forced fumbles, 13 TD
  • Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1987-1996), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Baltimore Ravens (1998-2001), Oakland Raiders (2002-2003)

Yes, Rod Woodson is one of the best corners of all time. Yes, he’s also among the best safeties to play the game. He also earned Pro Bowl honors with three different teams during a brilliant 17-year career.

What made Woodson so special was his ability to consistently take the ball away. He recorded four interceptions or more a whopping 10 times. It led to 11 Pro Bowl appearances and six All-Pro honors.

2. Mike Haynes

best cornerbacks of all time: mike haynes
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  • Mike Haynes stats: 46 INT, 11 forced fumbles, 8 TD
  • Teams: New England Patriots (1976-1982), Los Angeles Raiders (1983-1989)

Haynes tops our list of the all time best cornerbacks from previous eras in which NFL rules made it harder for those in coverage. He earned Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors as a rookie in 1976. It began a stretch of five consecutive seasons in which Haynes was honored as one of the best defenders in the game.

Opposing wide receivers had a heck of a time finding any type of opening against Haynes during his career, leading to him being one of the best cover guys of his era.

Related: 2023 NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

1. Deion Sanders (best cornreback of all time)

best cornerbacks of all time: deion sanders
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  • Deion Sanders stats: 512 tackles, 53 INT, 19 forced fumbles, 10 TD
  • Teams: Atlanta Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-1999), Washington (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2004-2005)

Topping our list of the best cornerbacks in NFL history, Primetime was the ultimate ballhawk during his time in the league. He was also the first true shutdown corners of the modern era. That is to say, quarterbacks largely avoided throwing in Sanders’ direction.

In 1994 with the San Francisco 49ers, Sanders intercepted six passes for 303 yards while returning three for touchdowns. He picked off Stan Humphries in the 49ers’ blowout of the Chargers in the Super Bowl, too. The following season then saw Deion help Dallas to a Lombardi Trophy. An eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Sanders is the best CB of all time.

Who is the best CB in history? Honorable mentions

best cornerbacks of all time: ken riley
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We focused on the top-10 here, but there are others who are deserving of being mentioned. Ken Riley of the Cincinnati Bengals is a name that stands out. He’s tied with Charles Woodson for fifth on the all-time list with 65 interceptions. Riley also intercepted 18 passes in his final three seasons before retiring. Here’s a look at some others.

  • Dick LeBeau: Detroit Lions
  • Dave Brown: Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers
  • Emmitt Thomas: Kansas City Chiefs
  • Bobby Boyd: Baltimore Colts
  • Everson Walls: Dallas Cowboy, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

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