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In an increasingly pass-happy NFL, coverage defenders have never been more important. As the league becomes more focused on high-octane passing offenses, the onus falls on the players on the back end to deny opposing quarterbacks’ attempts to move the ball through the air. Among the highest-paid defenders in the league, top cornerbacks rightfully command recognition for their exceptional coverage skills. But who truly stands out as the best in coverage?

We turn to Next Gen Stats for a comprehensive analysis of the top coverage football players of the 2022 season. To qualify for consideration, players needed a minimum of 300 coverage snaps, 40 targets as the nearest defender, and a catch rate allowed below expectation. Additionally, they had to demonstrate a negative targeted expected points added (EPA), a tight-window percentage of at least 20, and a maximum passer rating allowed of 80. Now, let’s dive into the results!

Parameters for Identifying Top Coverage Football Players

Before we delve into the rankings, let’s understand the parameters used to distinguish the best coverage defenders from the rest. Next Gen Stats provides a wealth of information, thanks to advanced tracking technology on NFL fields. However, it’s important to note that NGS cannot assign responsibility for coverage directly. Instead, tracking data for the defender nearest to the targeted pass catcher is used for quantification.

In our evaluation, we’ll focus on how tightly defenders covered targeted pass catchers. We’re particularly interested in players who effectively and consistently blanketed opposing weapons, preventing them from making big plays and denying scoring opportunities.

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The Dominance of Cornerbacks in Coverage

Unsurprisingly, top 10 lists of coverage players are often dominated by cornerbacks. These skilled defenders play a pivotal role in pass defense, shutting down receivers and making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Let’s shine a spotlight on some of the top cornerbacks who made it into the elite list.

Player 1: Carlton Davis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Carlton Davis secured the 10th spot on the list with impressive metrics, including a passer rating allowed of 75.4 and a catch rate below expectation of -8.2%. He displayed exceptional skills in man coverage, boasting the second-best targeted EPA in the league. Davis’ ability to make plays on the ball contributed to his success, with 12 passes defensed and one interception.

Player 2: Darious Williams (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Darious Williams demonstrated excellent coverage prowess, allowing a passer rating of just 70.8 and a catch rate below expectation of -12.2%. Despite a targeted EPA of -11.7, Williams displayed a high tight-window rate and 16 passes defensed, indicating his effectiveness in limiting opponents’ passing game.

Player 3: Kristian Fulton (Tennessee Titans)

Despite appearing in only 11 games, Kristian Fulton impressed with a passer rating allowed of 76.2 and a catch rate below expectation of -7.4%. His coverage success rate was particularly noteworthy, making him one of the top 10 defenders in this aspect.

Player 4: Jonathan Jones (New England Patriots)

Jonathan Jones’ performance earned him the seventh spot, with a passer rating allowed of 65. He managed to limit opposing passers to one of the lowest ratings in the NFL, thanks to his success rate of 63.4%. His four interceptions and 11 passes defensed were instrumental in his strong showing.

Player 5: Jaire Alexander (Green Bay Packers)

Jaire Alexander stood out with a passer rating allowed of 66.4 and a catch rate below expectation of -1.7%. His tight-window rate of 29.1% showcased his ability to force quarterbacks into difficult throws. With 14 passes defensed and five interceptions, Alexander’s performance was truly noteworthy.

Standout Safeties: Breaking the Top 10 Barrier

While cornerbacks often dominate the top 10 coverage players list, safeties occasionally make their mark. Due to the nature of their position and the limited total targets, safeties face additional challenges in earning a spot. However, the presence of a safety in this elite list is a testament to their exceptional performance.

Player 6: Ryan Neal (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Ryan Neal became the lone safety to break into the top 10. His coverage success rate of 74.5% marked a significant improvement from the previous season. Despite limited interceptions, Neal’s targeted EPA ranked among the top five, highlighting his effectiveness in shutting down opponents’ passing game.

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The Remarkable Newcomer: Sauce Gardner’s Impactful Debut

One of the most exciting stories of the 2022 season was the debut of Sauce Gardner with the New York Jets. The Defensive Rookie of the Year made a strong case for the accolade, impressing with his shutdown coverage skills.

Player 7: Sauce Gardner (New York Jets)

Gardner’s impact was evident from the start, with a passer rating allowed of just 62.9, the lowest among all qualifying defenders. His ballhawk rate of 24.7% and 20 passes defensed made him a formidable presence on the field. Gardner’s exceptional performance earned him the second spot on the list.

James Bradberry: The Unrivaled King of Coverage

Finally, we come to the undisputed king of coverage in the NFL. James Bradberry’s outstanding performance with the Philadelphia Eagles set him apart from the rest.

Player 8: James Bradberry (Philadelphia Eagles)

Bradberry’s overall metrics were unrivaled, with a passer rating allowed of 54.7, the lowest among all qualifying defenders. His catch rate below expectation of -12.5% demonstrated his ability to consistently disrupt opponents’ passing game. Bradberry’s performance showcased why the Eagles were wise to add him to their roster.


As we wrap up our analysis of the top coverage football players of 2022, it’s evident that these defenders play a crucial role in the success of their teams. From cornerbacks to safeties, each player showcased exceptional skills in shutting down opposing passing attacks. Next Gen Stats has provided us with valuable insights into the performance metrics of these defenders, allowing us to appreciate their impact on the game.

As we look ahead to the 2023 NFL season, we eagerly anticipate the emergence of new talent and the continued dominance of these elite coverage players. Football fans can expect thrilling performances and intense battles on the field as these exceptional defenders seek to cement their place among the best in the league.

Remember, coverage football players are the unsung heroes of the game, silently influencing the outcome of every pass, and we are here to celebrate their remarkable talent!


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