"The Top 100 Players of 2023" -- voted on by the players themselves -- is underway on NFL+! The series concludes with a two-hour live show -- "The Top 100 Players of 2023: The Top 10" -- on Monday, Aug. 7, on NFL+.
Two cornerbacks are among the players ranked between Nos. 60-41. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger provides his ranking of the top 10 cornerbacks heading into the 2023 NFL season.
An undrafted free agent signee out of Middle Tennessee in 2018, Ward is a reasonably unheralded player who has developed into the top cornerback on the league's top-rated defense. All the sixth-year pro has lacked is interceptions (five career INTs), but he really helped solidify the 49ers' secondary last season after being with the Chiefs for his first four pro campaigns. Ward's specialty is understanding the art of man-to-man defense. His great technique doesn't hurt, either.
"Gilly Lock" has been locking up receivers on a weekly basis for more than a decade. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year's deep understanding of the game is paramount to his success. Since 2018, Gilmore has allowed a 72.4 passer rating in coverage, third-lowest in the NFL (min. 150 targets), per PFF. Playing opposite Trevon Diggs in Dallas this fall, he could help elevate Dan Quinn's defense into a top-three unit.
The three-time Pro Bowler is a complete corner who is the only defensive back with at least 10 forced fumbles and five picks since 2020, per NFL Research. He impressively led the league with eight forced fumbles in the 2020 season. He's an excellent tackler and blitzer with the capability to match up with many No. 1 receivers. In a division that features the likes of Ja'Marr Chase and Amari Cooper, the Ravens will look to Humphrey to handle business again this fall.
Throughout his career, Ramsey has been asked to do so much on the back end, whether in playing man, zone or the "Star" position. As a crucial part of premier defenses in Jacksonville and Los Angeles during his first seven years as a pro, Ramsey ranks in the top six among cornerbacks in several major categories during this span, stuffing the stat sheet with 452 tackles (first), 21 tackles for loss (tied for fourth), 92 passes defensed (third) and 19 interceptions (sixth). The three-time first-team All-Pro now joins a talented Dolphins unit after an offseason trade and should generate more eye-popping production opposite Xavien Howard (I'll get to him in a minute). Ramsey has been at his best throughout his career when given the assignment of shutting down No. 1 receivers -- from Julio Jones to Antonio Brown, DK Metcalf, DeAndre Hopkins and more -- thanks to his size, physical play, versatility and a leaping ability that is almost unmatched at the position.
EDITOR'S UPDATE: Ramsey is expected to be out until December after undergoing knee surgery on Friday, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Alexander is coming off his best season, which saw him post a career-high five interceptions to go along with 14 passes defensed and four tackles for loss, while allowing the third-lowest passer rating in coverage (72.0), per PFF. Rising to top-10 status entering 2023, he plays bigger than his 5-foot-10 frame due to his extreme athleticism and strength. You'll rarely see him get pushed around by bigger receivers.
The 5-11, 190-pound Ward also plays bigger than his size and should be the focal point of one of the best secondaries in the NFL this fall. He's sticky, feisty and understands route combinations very well. Ward seems to play his best the closer offenses get to the end zone, thanks to his quick footwork.
Howard's 28 interceptions since entering the NFL as a second-round pick in 2016 are the most in the league during this span, besting other ballhawks like J.C. Jackson (25), Darius Slay (22) and new teammate Jalen Ramsey (19) -- and he's done so while mostly playing sticky man coverage. That's no easy feat. His terrific hands and disciplined eyes put him in ideal situations to create turnovers. It also helps that he often runs the route better than the receiver he's blanketing. Opposing offenses will have their hands full against Howard and Ramsey.
Lattimore was an integral part of the stellar 2017 draft class that completely turned the Saints around, raising New Orleans from a team stuck at 7-9 for three straight seasons to a perennial contender in the final years of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. His competitiveness in man coverage is as good as it gets (SEE: the well-documented rivalry with Mike Evans), yet he's also an excellent tackler, an aspect that separates him from many others at the cornerback position. The 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year and four-time Pro Bowler has the ability to eliminate top-flight receivers from a game, boasting a 19.2 percent forced incompletion rate since 2021 -- the third-highest mark in the NFL (min. 100 targets), according to PFF. The Saints will lean on him to do that in 2023 -- beginning with Tennessee's DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1 -- in their quest to return to the top of the NFC South.
Surtain loves the challenge of traveling with the opposing team's WR1, and he's emerged as an All-Pro cornerback due to his next-level film study, which helps him read receiver releases like a book. I love watching Surtain when he decides to get a two-hand jam on receivers to disrupt timing with the quarterback and restrict the intended route. He's just entering his prime and it's inspiring to watch.
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year has quickly ascended to the top of the NFL ranks at his position, covering receivers down the field with his length like a giant manta ray gliding through the ocean with its huge wings. According to PFF, Sauce allowed the lowest passer rating in coverage (53.9), the fewest receptions (34) and second-fewest receiving yards (361) among all defenders targeted at least 70 times last season. He challenges opponents using flawless technique -- whether in man or zone coverage -- to shut down his side of the field. Plus, he does so without committing many penalties.