Matt Bowen's 12 favorite NFL defensive backs, and where they thrive

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Earlier this week, we projected the top 100 players for the 2020 NFL season in our annual NFL Rank. I immediately look for defensive backs on those kinds of lists, and I loved seeing Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore jump into the top 10. He was followed by 17 other cornerbacks or safeties throughout the top-100 ranking, all of whom have elite-level traits including coverage ability, instincts, ball skills and versatility.

It got me thinking about some of my favorite defensive backs in the game today -- not necessarily a ranking of the best of the best but rather a look at the guys I'd love to coach and players I'd build a secondary around. These are my favorite corners and safeties to watch play the game. Here are 12 who jump off the game tape for me, and what makes each so special and fun to watch.

Jaire Alexander, CB, Green Bay Packers

Best trait: Competitive play style

Give me guys who love to compete and challenge wide receivers. That's what I see with Alexander on film. Whether he is aligned in press or breaking on the ball at the top of the route, the 2018 first-rounder has active hands and is extremely sticky in coverage.

In his first two pro seasons, Alexander has already produced 24 pass breakups. And although he has only three interceptions on his résumé, the traits are there for Alexander to develop into one of the league's premier cover corners. I'm talking about guys who travel with and shadow the opposing team's No.1 wide receiver. And I believe Alexander's production will jump if the Packers shift to a more man-heavy approach with more pressure.

Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints

Best trait: Short-area speed