We've reached the "arbitrary list" point of the NFL offseason, which means it's time to hotly contest every single list that gets put out there. That's why they're put out there in the first place, isn't it? One debate that has gone unaddressed for far too long is the debate about the best cornerback in the NFL right now. The correct answer is Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II, but folks in the NFL media world would have you think it's reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner of the New York Jets.
Sauce is an excellent player, and the Broncos got a firsthand look at him last year. Coming out of Cincinnati, Gardner had an unbelievable stat to his name, not giving up a single touchdown all throughout his college career. That's unreal, and he brought the kind of swagger to the NFL that you might expect from a guy who didn't give up a touchdown all throughout his college years. Let's get one thing clear: Sauce Gardner is a great player...
...but he's also maybe the most overrated player in the NFL right now.
When I say the Denver Broncos experienced Sauce Gardner in 2022, what I mean is that they got the full Sauce Gardner experience. And that is to say, they fell victim to a long string of "highlight reel" plays from Gardner that weren't called for pass interference or defensive holding. Gardner seemingly got away with a wide variety of penalties last season in coverage and it was simply considered great coverage.
Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, right?
Everybody could see that while Sauce Gardner played great for much of the season, he also seemingly benefitted more than any other NFL defensive back from whistles not being blown. The number one cornerback in the NFL?
That's certainly a take.
It's a distinction that belongs with Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II, a technician at the position and first-team All-Pro who happens to have played his first two NFL seasons on a bad team. Not that the Jets were great last year, either, but Surtain is being overlooked largely because it's the "in" thing for NFL media right now to clown the Denver Broncos.
But the real ones know.
You've got Surtain, a model of humility, and then you've got Sauce Gardner, whose Twitter profile name reads "D'ROY GARDNER". There's nothing wrong with being confident in yourself and your abilities, and there's nothing inherently better about someone who operates in quiet confidence. But there's something to be said about Surtain's self-assurance without needing the recognition.
He's still a first-team All-Pro, he's still a Pro Bowl corner, and he's still being recognized as a top-3 cornerback by most people these days. But the reality is, if you had the chance to take any corner in the NFL to build your team around, you'd be a fool to choose anyone but Pat Surtain II. He's the NFL's CB1 at the moment, and he does it without needing Broncos fans coming to his defense over pass interference penalties that weren't/should have been called.