L.A. Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward has 22 career interceptions in eight NFL seasons. Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY 

Guys who blanket receivers — the NFL’s shutdown cornerbacks — are among the most invaluable resources in the game today.

We recently dove into the most disruptive pass-rushers in the league, and they tend to get most of the glory on game days. After all, who doesn’t want to see a quarterback get plastered?

But it’s the guys covering the back end who are even more vital to shutting down the passing game. With that in mind, here’s a look at the top-five cover corners in the NFL right now.

5. Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers

As reliable as a Swiss clock, Hayward rarely gets burned. He’s a true technician who smothers his man and rarely gets tested. That probably has to do with the 11 interceptions he tallied in 2016-17 — his first two seasons with the Chargers.

When quarterbacks do go at Hayward, they are rarely successful.

Last season, Hayward was targeted 47 times and allowed only 26 receptions on 512 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

4. Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns

All Ward has done since being selected fourth overall in 2018 is dominate. Still, quarterbacks continue to test the former Ohio State star. Last season, Ward was targeted 77 times. He allowed a reception only 44.9 percent of the time — the best percentage in the NFL.

This kid has phenomenal technique, never gives up on a play and has the athleticism to dominate physically. It shouldn’t be much longer until Ward starts getting the type of treatment typically reserved for the Richard Shermans of the world.

Speaking of which …

3. Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers

The last thing we all remember about Sherman’s 2019 campaign was Sammy Watkins roasting him in Super Bowl LIV to go ahead late in the game. But aside from that, there’s no doubt Sherman is still among the NFL’s elite cover corners.

During the regular season, Sherman allowed one touchdown in 517 coverage snaps. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 46.8 when they threw his way. Sherman also had three interceptions and a pick-six (watch here).

He was absolutely dominant for the 49ers last year.

2. Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills

Here’s a bonkers stat for you: Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 38.9 when they targeted this young star last season. White is just three years into his pro career but is already one of the most feared defensive backs in the league.

Last season, White drew 84 targets. That type of attention may not continue much longer, because he came up with six interceptions and 17 passes defended. Even more impressive, per Next Gen Stats, White's tight-window percentage was a jaw-dropping 28.6 percent and he earned a 20.2 percent ballhawk rate.

1. Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Gilmore, was utterly dominant in 2019.

Gilmore broke up 20 passes (No. 1 in the NFL), had six interceptions (T-1 in the NFL) and forced 15 incompletions (No. 4 in the NFL).

He also did not allow a single touchdown. The dude was a veritable brick wall in coverage. He is clearly the best shutdown cornerback in the NFL at this time.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.



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MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Can you name the NFL players with the most interceptions between 2011 and 2017?

An asterisk (*) indicates player last played in 2016. Two asterisks (**) indicates player last played in 2015. 

SCORE:
0/26
TIME:
5:00
32 / SEA
Richard Sherman
27 / OAK
Reggie Nelson
23 / BAL
Eric Weddle
21 / TB
Brent Grimes
21 / ARZ
Patrick Peterson
21 / DET
Glover Quin
20 / CAR
Kurt Coleman
20 / LAC
Casey Hayward
20 / SEA
Earl Thomas
19 / JAX
Tashaun Gipson
19 / KC
Marcus Peters
19 / DEN
Aqib Talib
18 / CAR
Mike Adams
18 / LAR
Trumaine Johnson
18 / OAK**
Charles Woodson
17 / IND
Vontae Davis
17 / CHI
Quintin Demps
17 / MIA
Reshad Jones
17 / NYG
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
17 / MIN
Harrison Smith
16 / NE
Stephon Gilmore
16 / PHI
Corey Graham
16 / DEN
Chris Harris
16 / NYG
Janoris Jenkins
16 / GB*
Sam Shields
16 / ARZ
Tramon Williams

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