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Bowen's Shutdown Index: The best defensive backs in every category

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Who is the best corner in the NFL? (1:22)

John Fox, Tim Hasselbeck and Dan Graziano make their picks for the top cornerback in the NFL. (1:22)

This was a tough year for the Shutdown Index, the third straight season I've picked out the NFL's best defensive backs at several distinct categories. And that's because defensive back play is down overall.

After playing seven NFL seasons in the secondary, I look for specific traits when breaking down DBs. Physicality to challenge routes. Eye discipline to bait quarterbacks into poor throws. Range over the top to recover from missteps. Technique to win matchups at the line of scrimmage. Consistency to show he plays the same way in every game. And I want a ball hawk who's going to intercept passes and take them to the house.

Let's run through the best of the best in every area that matters for defensive backs: ball skills, range, press coverage, versatility, run defense and much more:

Jump to a category:
Best secondary | Best range
Biggest hitter | Best ball hawk
Best closing speed | The next generation

Best overall cover corner

Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

I thought Peterson's film dipped a bit last season. But this year? He pops on tape. Playing on a sub-par team, Peterson is once again at the top. He's a complete cover man, too. That means he can win by playing multiple techniques. You want to see Peterson challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage? No problem. Play off-man, weave and then close with speed? Sure. Or, watch his eyes, his transition ability and the skill set to strike as a zone defender. It's all there.

Peterson has a loaded toolbox, which would allow him to play in any system. Man, Cover 3, Quarters, Tampa 2. Just give him a helmet and watch him work. And while Peterson doesn't have the stats that jump off the page -- two interceptions, five passes defended this season -- the tape doesn't lie. Peterson, in his eighth year in the league and already with three first-team All-Pro appearances, is the best corner I've studied in 2018.

Honorable mention: Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots


Best monsterback

Jamal Adams, New York Jets

Adams has elevated his production under new Jets safeties coach Steve Jackson this season, and he's playing multiple roles as a monsterback in the Jets' system. Adams has posted 90 total tackles, three forced fumbles, three sacks, one interception and 12 passes defended. I see some star potential with the former No. 6 overall pick.

Playing that hybrid role, Adams has disrupted 14.5 dropbacks. That's a big number for a defensive back. And just take a look at the snap counts here heading into Week 16 to get an idea of how Adams is generating an impact from multiple spots on the field:

  • Safety: 383

  • Outside linebacker: 321

  • Slot: 102

  • Cornerback: 65

  • Inside linebacker: 38

The film? Adams has some Troy Polamalu to his game. Just watch No. 33 blitz and take down Deshaun Watson in the animation from NFL Next Gen Stats below. Yeah, that's a lofty comparison, but I look at the body control, the physicality to strike ball carriers and the ability to create chaos at the second or third level of the defense. He's a unique talent who plays with high energy.

Honorable mention: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers


Best secondary