As a new feature in the 2022 Sharp Football Preview Book, the Sharp Football Analysis team ranked positional units across the league for the 2022 season.
The ranking guidelines were up to the specific voter with the only requirement that the focus is on the upcoming season only, not the future outlook.
With a combination of numbers, film, and projections, the rankings were averaged for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive front seven, defensive secondary, and head coach.
Next up: 2022 NFL Defensive Secondary rankings. The entire unit was considered, not just the starters.
2022 NFL Defensive Secondary Rankings, by Unit
|1||Green Bay Packers||97|
|3||Los Angeles Chargers||83|
|6||Tampa Bay Bucs||78|
|9||Los Angeles Rams||67|
|13||New Orleans Saints||59|
|15||Las Vegas Raiders||48|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||44|
|19||New England Patriots||44|
|21||San Francisco 49ers||41|
|22||New York Jets||29|
|31||New York Giants||4|
Score based off average ranks of positional unit (on a 100 point scale) for all 32 teams, from Sharp Football staff voters. If all voters had a team at #1, that score would be 100.
What team has the best secondary in the NFL?
32. Houston Texans
Opponents had no respect for the Houston secondary last year. When the game was within one score, 41% of pass attempts against the Texans were at least 10 yards downfield, easily the league’s highest rate. Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre, provide a nice foundation for the future, but more work needs to be done.
31. New York Giants
The salary cap mismanagement of the previous regime forced the Giants to part with James Bradberry which dealt a significant blow to an already shaky secondary. This unit fell 20 spots since last season, partially due to the loss of Bradberry, but also last season’s disappointing performance.
30. Chicago Bears
If rookies Jaquan Brisker and Kyler Gordon make an immediate impact, it’s possible we’ve underrated Chicago’s secondary. There’s plenty of talent on the unit, but it’s mostly unproven to this point.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona’s secondary remains mostly intact, but we’re not viewing that as a positive, as the unit ranked no higher than 27th on any ballot. The development of cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Marco Wilson could make or break this defense.
28. Atlanta Falcons
A.J. Terrell made huge strides last season and anchors an otherwise weak secondary. Opponents completed 15% of their passes when targeting Terrell in coverage 10 or more yards downfield, and 53% when throwing at anyone else.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
The only notable addition to the Jaguars’ secondary was Darious Williams, who should contribute in coverage in the slot. Jaguars outside corners Tyson Campbell and Shaquill Griffin must improve after allowing 7.8 and 8.7 yards per target, respectively.
26. Minnesota Vikings
Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith should provide some stability for the secondary, but neither is playing at their peak. The success of this unit will ultimately be determined by rookies Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth, who will immediately be thrust into pivotal roles.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Seattle played zone coverage at the league’s second-highest rate, but ranked 20th in yards per attempt allowed while in zone. Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are a formidable duo at safety, but there’s a lack of proven talent at cornerback.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Minkah Fitzpatrick has been a star as a safety and Levi Wallace gives a little more consistency on the outside, but there are some questions just about everywhere else.
23. Detroit Lions
There was far from a consensus on Detroit’s secondary, with votes ranging from 14th to 29th. Jeff Okudah allowed 11.9 yards per target in coverage as a rookie and then missed all but one game in 2021. If he can live up to initial expectations, the ceiling for this unit is high, but he’s unproven to this point.
22. New York Jets
There’s nowhere to go but up for the Jets secondary, which has the potential to take a significant step forward after adding three new starters: Sauce Gardner, Jordan Whitehead, and D.J. Reed. This unit allowed 20 or more yards on 12.4% of opponent pass attempts a season ago, which ranked 32nd.
21. San Francisco 49ers
There’s been significant turnover in the San Francisco secondary, with K’Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, and Josh Norman gone. As a result, there’s some uncertainty with this unit, and votes ranged from 14th to 24th.
20. Indianapolis Colts
Indy overhauled the secondary with Stephon Gilmore and Brandon Facyson likely stepping into the starting outside cornerback roles. Last year’s starting outside corners Isaiah Rodgers and Xavier Rhodes combined to allow 8.1 yards per target 一 Facyson and Gilmore combined to allow 6.9.
19. New England Patriots
The Patriots’ secondary suffered a massive blow when J.C. Jackson signed with the Chargers. Relying on aging veterans such as 32-year-old Malcolm Butler and 35-year-old Devin McCourty is a risky strategy, though they do have enough depth to potentially survive an injury or two.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Votes for the Chiefs secondary ranged from 16th to 22th 一 a wide range due to the personnel turnover. Tyrann Mathieu and Charvarius Ward are gone, but Justin Reid and rookies Trent McDuffie and Bryan Cook provide some hope of improvement for a unit that ranked 24th in yards per attempt allowed.
17. Washington Commanders
Washington’s secondary fell far short of expectations last year, as it allowed a 55.3% completion rate on throws 10 or more yards downfield, the league’s third-worst rate. Starting corners William Jackson and Kendall Fuller combined to allow a disappointing 7.7 yards per target in coverage.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has provided Dan Quinn the types of physical athletes he covets in his secondary, now he just needs to get some consistent production out of them. Dallas allowed 20 or more yards on 10% of pass attempts, the league’s fifth-worst rate.
15. Las Vegas Raiders
While in man coverage, the Raiders ranked dead last in yards per attempt allowed (10.4). The previous regime over-invested in the secondary, so this mediocre unit is an indictment of their talent-evaluation process. However, Tre’von Moehrig showed promise as a rookie and the addition of Rock Ya-Sin should improve the Raiders’ cornerback play.
14. Carolina Panthers
A full season of Jaycee Horn should lead to significant improvement in the secondary. Between Horn and Jeremy Chinn, Carolina has two strong building blocks on this unit.
13. New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo tied for the league lead in receptions allowed at 15 or more yards downfield. Adebo’s inconsistent rookie-year performance can be excused due to inexperience, but it’s been a few seasons since Lattimore lived up to the high standard he set early in his career. Tyran Mathieu was a nice addition, but likely a downgrade from Marcus Williams.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ secondary exceeded expectations last year and improved again this offseason with the addition of James Bradberry. Opponents gained 20 or more yards on just 6.5% of their pass attempts, the league’s second lowest rate.
11. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee’s secondary is loaded with young talent, as it returns the majority of the unit and adds second-round pick Roger McCreary. Now it’s time for the unit to gel and produce at a higher level. The Titans ranked 22nd in the percentage of pass attempts producing 20 or more yards (10%).
10. Cincinnati Bengals
Votes for the Bengals’ secondary ranged from sixth to 15th. For the unit to reach the high end of that spectrum, Cincinnati needs to be more efficient in shutting down the deep passing game. Opponents completed 45.8% of throws 15 or more yards downfield, which ranked 24th.
9. Los Angeles Rams
Jalen Ramsey headlines the secondary, but the incredible depth is what sets this unit in the top tier. Safeties Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller are key contributors and are still only 24 years old.
8. Denver Broncos
There’s been some turnover in the Broncos secondary, but Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons remain elite building blocks. Votes for this unit ranged from fifth to 13th, but the high end of that spectrum is easily within reach if Surtain takes an expected step forward in his second year.
7. Miami Dolphins
Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland are two of the best at their positions and anchor a strong Dolphins secondary. The unit was productive despite regularly being challenged downfield 一 Miami faced throws at 15 or more yards downfield at the league’s third highest rate.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis have become one of the league’s best duos at cornerback. In 2021, Dean allowed a 28% catch rate when targeted at least 10 yards downfield, the league’s fifth-lowest rate.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ secondary was also crushed by injuries, so we’re excusing last year’s struggles. The team ranked dead last in yards per attempt allowed. A return to health, plus the addition of Kyle Hamilton, should make this a formidable unit.
4. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s secondary is overflowing with raw talent though some of it remains unproven. If Greedy Williams can elevate his performance or rookie Martin Emerson emerges, the unit could reach an even higher level.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers’ secondary ranked in the bottom half of our unit rankings last year, partially because Derwin James has played just five games over the previous two seasons. He returned to health to lead a strong secondary last year, which should only get better with the addition of J.C. Jackson.
2. Buffalo Bills
Tre’Davious White allowed -0.26 EPA per target last season and returns to anchor the secondary. The addition of first-round pick Kaiir Elam sets an even higher ceiling for the unit this year.
1. Green Bay Packers
The Packers’ secondary was a unanimous choice as the league’s top unit. Jaire Alexander has been among the elite at his position for a few years, but it was a breakout rookie season from Eric Stokes that helped push this unit to another level. Green Bay allowed 6.7 yards per attempt on the year, but just 5.9 when Stokes and Alexander were on the field together.
Ranking each NFL Unit for 2022:
For all of the team-by-team unit rankings and full team chapters, including a dozen more visuals & info-graphics, defensive breakdown, and detailed Fantasy football implications — plus the other 31 team chapters — pick up a copy of Warren Sharp’s new ‘2022 Football Preview’ book