Pro Football Focus compiled its list of the top 32 cornerbacks in the NFL entering the 2023 season, and obviously the only candidate for the Seattle Seahawks is Tariq Woolen. The fifth-round draft pick was a sensation as a rookie, tying for the league lead with six interceptions while often playing air-tight coverage when he wasn’t generating turnovers. Woolen ultimately finished 3rd in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind runner-up Aidan Hutchinson and New York Jets star ‘Sauce’ Gardner.
Speaking of Sauce, he’s numero uno in the PFF rankings after a genuinely terrific rookie season, no matter how much the Sauce vs. Woolen debate may soon become a modified version of Darrelle Revis vs. Richard Sherman. Woolen, however, is not in the top-5, top-10, or even the top-15. He comes in at 16th!
16. Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks
Still very young to the cornerback position, Woolen showed as a rookie the stellar potential that his athletic profile puts on the table. Six interceptions flattered his stat line a little, but he showed more than enough to suggest that there is elite play in his future. Woolen allowed just a 72.1 passer rating on the season.
Obviously Woolen had some “Welcome to the NFL” moments, showing some susceptibility to crossing routes and losing his assignment in zone coverage (most notably in the home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, leading to George Kittle’s 2nd half touchdown). But all things considered he was thrust into a starting role on Day 1 and consistently shined.
Now another way to look at this ranking is there are 64 starting outside cornerbacks in the NFL, which means Woolen’s 16th position places him in the upper quartile. If I were to tell you before the start of Week 1 in 2022 that he’d be in this spot as a very good and bordering on elite corner, you’d be jumping for joy.
The 15 corners ranked ahead of Woolen are (in order): Sauce Gardner, Jalen Ramsey (I do not understand this one), Darius Slay, Patrick Surtain II, Jaire Alexander (no relation), Stephon Gilmore, Marshon Lattimore, Trevon Diggs, Jaycee Horn, Jamel Dean, Charvarius Ward, A.J. Terrell, James Bradberry, Denzel Ward, and Tre’Davious White.
I can’t wait for Woolen to be even better this season and in seasons to come.