Best NFL defensive backs: Top cornerbacks, safeties at 17 skills

I'm rolling out my seventh annual edition of the Shutdown Index, in which I pick the NFL's best defensive backs in 18 different categories and the league's best overall secondary. That means the top ball hawks, best DBs in run support, most rangy safety and standout cornerbacks in press and zone coverage. Established stars like Jalen Ramsey make the 2022 list, but there are also plenty of fast emerging young defensive backs, including Tariq Woolen (currently tied with C.J. Gardner Johnson for the league lead in interceptions). And we'll close it all down with three under-the-radar playmakers.

With seven seasons of experience in an NFL secondary, I look for specific traits when breaking down cornerbacks and safeties, including physicality, range over the top, coverage traits, consistency, versatility and, of course, the ability to make plays on the ball. So I pored over the game tape and found the players who stand out most in those key areas. Here are the best of the best in every area that matters for defensive backs, and we begin with the league's top overall secondary unit this season.

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Best secondary