- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ESPN.com Power Rankings for cornerbacks are out and the NFC South has been shut out.
Not a single cornerback from the division made the top 10 and only three even received votes. Two of those votes came from me. I had New Orleans’ Jabari Greer at No. 7 and Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson at No. 9. Those were the only votes those two guys received.
In a bit of a surprise, AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky put Atlanta’s Brent Grimes at No. 8 on his ballot and AFC North partner Tim Graham had Grimes at No. 9. Their votes put Grimes as the highest-rated NFC South cornerback, finishing in a tie for 12th place.
I can’t speak for Graham and Kuharsky but, heck, I’ll offer up my theories on their votes. I’m thinking Graham looked at Grimes’ 11 interceptions over the last two seasons and based his vote on that. Kurharsky, like Grimes is a bit vertically challenged, so I think he might have felt a bond with this vote.
Is Grimes the best cornerback in the NFC South? No. He’s pretty good and he makes up for his lack of size with incredible athleticism. But he gets beat at times and teams throw at him frequently because they usually try to throw away from Robinson.
In his first season after signing a big contract with the Falcons, Robinson had only one interception. But he did a solid job in coverage overall and that helped Atlanta’s defense. I’d rank Robinson as the second-best cornerback in the division.
Greer is definitely No. 1 in my eyes. He’s had some durability issues. But, when healthy, he and Tracy Porter form the best cornerback tandem in the division.
Would I put Grimes at No. 3 in the division? Probably not. I’d probably drop him down to No. 5 and put a couple of Tampa Bay guys at third and fourth.
I’ll put Aqib Talib at No. 3. In terms of pure physical talent, he’s at least on par with Greer and Robinson. But Talib missed one game last season with a suspension and suffered a season-ending injury. He’s also had some off-field troubles and that doesn’t help his stock. He’s talented, but part of what makes for a good cornerback is being dependable and Talib has yet to do that over the long haul.
His teammate, Ronde Barber, has done it over the long haul and that’s why I would rank him as the fourth-best cornerback in the division, even at a very late stage in his career. If we were doing these rankings a few years earlier when Tampa Bay’s defense was in the middle of its glory days, Barber probably would have made the top 10 with ease. Speaking of guys who might have made the top 10 in previous years, let's at least touch on Carolina's Chris Gamble. There was a time when I thought this guy was real close to making it big. But Gamble fell out of favor with former coach John Fox last year, was even benched for a time and now has to redeem himself.