Ranking the Top Three Secondaries in the NFL

By Luke Ervin
Jul. 01, 2020

The evolution of the passing game in the NFL has changed the way you build a football team. Up until recently, it would be most important to fill your defense with run-stuffing linebackers and big defensive tackles. Now, the secondary is one of the most important position groups in the NFL. A secondary is crucial to the success of the defense. In this article, I'll look at the top three secondaries in the NFL.

Patriots

Starters: CB Stephon Gilmore, CB J.C. Jackson, CB Jonathan Jones, FS Devin McCourty, SS Patrick Chung

The Patriots had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season. A big part of their success was their secondary. The secondary only allowed 180.4 passing yards per game, good for second in the NFL. Top corner Stephon Gilmore, ran away with Defensive Player of the Year. The strength of the secondary wasn't just Gilmore though. J.C. Jackson is one of the most underrated corners in the NFL. After going undrafted in 2018, Jackson has time and again proved the NFL wrong. Last season, Jackson held quarterbacks to a league-low 35.6 passer rating when targeting him.

After the two-star corners, the Patriots have slot corner Jonathan Jones and backup Jason McCourty. McCourty gets overlooked but his 2018 season with the Patriots was the best of his career. His battle with injuries last season held him back.

At safety, the Patriots have Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung. McCourty had a career year last season with five interceptions. He's undoubtedly the leader of the defense. Chung can still play but new signee, Adrian Phillips, will be a huge help at strong safety. On top of all that, the Patriots spent a second-round-pick on safety, Kyle Dugger. The entire secondary is versatile and deep. Expect the Patriots secondary to be one of the best in the NFL once again.

Ravens

Starters: CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters, CB Tavon Young, FS Earl Thomas III, SS Chuck Clark

The Ravens are one of the deepest teams in the NFL. With virtually no major holes on the roster, it's easy to overlook their secondary. The Ravens held offenses to 207.2 passing yards a game; good for sixth in the NFL.

One of the best moves made this past season was the Ravens trading for Marcus Peters. He played phenomenal last season. Peters had five interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. Peters is the ultimate playmaker. Across from Peters, the Ravens have breakout superstar, Marlon Humphrey. Both Peters and Humphrey achieved First-Team-All-Pro for their play last season.

The other corners on the roster include Tavon Young and veteran Jimmy Smith. Young missed last season which makes the secondaries' performance all the more impressive. Young will be back this season playing in the slot. As for Smith, he may not be what he used to be, but having him as a backup is extremely valuable.

At safety, the Ravens have more playmakers. Headed by Earl Thomas III, the Ravens have one of the best safety groups in the NFL. Thomas continues to make plays all over the field. There aren't many safeties that play the middle of the field better than Thomas. Next to Thomas, the Ravens have Chuck Clark. Clark had 9 passes defended and 73 tackles last season. He's a solid player, and entering his fourth season he could take a leap forward. The Ravens have one of the best playmaking secondaries in the NFL.

Chargers

Starters: CB Casey Hayward Jr., CB Desmond King II, CB Chris Harris Jr., FS Nassir Adderley, SS Derwin James

You may not hear about the Chargers secondary all that much, but they are loaded with talent. The Chargers held offenses to 200.3 yards per game last season; good for fifth in the NFL.

Casey Hayward Jr. continues to be one of the most underappreciated corners in the NFL. After coming over from Green Bay in 2016, Hayward has proved to be a tremendous free agency signing. Along with Hayward, the Chargers have Desmond King II. King can play both safety and corner. King had a great 2018 season, but his 2019 season was average. He had 51 tackles and two and a half sacks a season ago. A big key to their success will be based on King's play.

The big improvement the Chargers made to an already good secondary was Chris Harris Jr. Harris, a former Denver Bronco, signed a two year deal in free agency. Harris is one of the best slot corners in the NFL. He'll be a great complement to Hayward and King.

At safety, the Chargers add to their talent in the secondary. Derwin James missed most of the season last year with an injury, but his rookie season in 2018 was remarkable. James made the All-Pro-Team in his rookie year. I expect him to have the same impact when he's back healthy. At free safety, the Chargers aren't quite as strong but they have talent. Like James, Nasir Adderley missed most of the season last year with an injury. He should be ready to go this season, but if not, the Chargers have backup Rashawyn Jenkins and Desmond King, who can help out at safety. It's quite impressive how good the Chargers secondary was last season with all their injuries.

Which secondary do you think is the best in the NFL?