Stephon Gilmore

Top 50 NFL players: Where Patriots' Stephon GIlmore ranks on Pro Football Focus' list

Top 50 NFL players: Where Patriots' Stephon GIlmore ranks on Pro Football Focus' list

The New England Patriots roster has undergone quite a transition this offseason due to several key players leaving Foxboro, with longtime quarterback Tom Brady being the most notable departure.

There's no question free agency hit the Patriots hard, especially on defense, but there are still plenty of talented players left on the team's roster. The best player might just be cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who won last season's AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

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Pro Football Focus has been unveiling its top 50 NFL players ranking over the last few days. Spots 50 through 12 have been revealed (as of this writing), and the only Patriots player who's made the cut is Gilmore. PFF ranked him as the 12th-best player in the league, just ahead of Houston Texans defensive end J.J.Watt (No. 13), San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 14) and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (No. 15).

Gilmore signed a huge free agent contract with the Patriots after the 2016 season and he's lived up to the deal in every way.

He's earned back-to-back first-team All-Pro selections, in addition to being the only cornerback to earn an "elite" grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018. Gilmore played very well in the Patriots' win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, including an interception in the fourth quarter that led to the game-clinching field goal. 

The veteran cornerback followed up his 2018 performance with an even better 2019 season. Gilmore led the league with 20 passes defensed and tied for the lead with six interceptions last year. His exceptional play was among the primary reasons why the Patriots pass defense ranked among the league's best in 2019.

The Patriots have brought back most of their secondary entering the 2020 season, and Gilmore is without question the best and most important player in that group.

Patriots' place in new 2020 NFL Power Rankings might surprise you

Do Patriots have two lockdown cornerbacks? This stat says they do

Do Patriots have two lockdown cornerbacks? This stat says they do

It's not easy to find a team with a better secondary than the New England Patriots.

After all, cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner.

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The group also consists of other talented veterans, including safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, both of whom have won three Super Bowl titles in New England. Let's not forget veteran cornerback Jason McCourty has been a very good addition to the secondary since his arrival via trade in 2018.

One player who doesn't receive enough credit is J.C. Jackson, who's quickly rising to stardom at the cornerback position. Jackson just completed his second season with the Patriots after joining them as an undrafted free agent in 2018. 

He tallied five interceptions last season, which was tied for the second-most of any defensive player. It wasn't his only impressive stat from 2019, though. Check out the Pro Football Focus tweet below for one area where Jackson actually led the league last year.

Jackson is one of the best values in the league with a 2020 salary cap hit of only $753,334, per Spotrac. His raise could be coming soon, though, as he's able to become a restricted free agent after next season. 

DeVante Parker's praise for Stephon Gilmore causes beef with Michael Thomas

DeVante Parker's praise for Stephon Gilmore causes beef with Michael Thomas

Stephon Gilmore found himself in the middle of a war of words between Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker and New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas on Monday night.

It all started when the "NFL on FOX” Instagram account asked the question, "Is it tougher to catch a pass against New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore or break up a pass while guarding New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas?"

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Which is tougher to do?

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The correct answer to that question is "none of the above." However, Parker commented "A," meaning he believes catching a pass against Gilmore is the tougher task. Parker caught eight passes for 137 yards while matching up against Gilmore in Week 17, so perhaps that was just his way of patting himself on the back for his stellar performance.

That didn't sit well with Thomas.

The Saints star responded, "For you yes. Go run some numbers up. Then you can talk I lapped you and you been in the league longer then me first rounder.”

It was on from there. You can read the full exchange in the tweet below:

Gilmore hasn't gotten involved in the back-and-forth, but it's likely providing the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year some entertainment.

Both Gilmore and Thomas had sensational seasons at their respective positions. Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and tallied 20 passes defended. Thomas, the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year, had an NFL-record 149 catches for a league-leading 1,725 receiving yards.

Parker had his best season as a pro so far, finishing with 72 catches for 1,202 yards.