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William Jackson not getting the respect he deserves

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Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 ranking does not do the Bengals’ cornerback justice.

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Detroit Lions v Cincinnati Bengals
Jackson is a shut-down defender
Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

If you are a professional athlete in Cincinnati, you just have to get used to hearing the words “no one has ever heard of.”

A good example is Joey Votto, the best first baseman no one has ever heard of.

Now there is William Jackson, III of the Cincinnati Bengals — the best cornerback no one has ever heard of.

And, if you don’t believe that, just check out Bleacher Report’s recently-released NFL1000: Ranking the Top Outside Cornerbacks of 2017 Season.

Bleacher Report ranks Jackson as only the 11th best outside cornerback in the NFL. Many of the cornerbacks ranked ahead of him are either from big-market teams, or are living off reputations established in previous years.

The Bears, Lions, Ravens and Vikings are all larger markets than Cincinnati, and all three placed cornerbacks ahead of Jackson who, quite frankly, do not belong there.

Jackson was rated as only the sixth-best cover corner, despite the fact that he allowed just 34.9 percent of all passes thrown into his coverage area to be caught. That is the best rate recorded among corners since 2011.

Pro Football Focus rated Jackson as the seventh-best cornerback in football with an overall grade of 89.2.

Jackson was only credited with five starts, but saw plenty of action this year in place of Adam Jones. Twice he faced off against Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, who is considered to be the best wide receiver in the league, and twice, he shut Brown down.

Of the eight passes thrown in Brown’s direction with Jackson in coverage, none were completed, and Jackson broke up four of them.

Kyle Fuller of Chicago was rated as the No. 10 cornerback. Fuller, a former first-round pick and a fourth-year pro, was only the 23rd best cornerback, according to PFF, and received an overall grade of 84.3.

Patrick Peterson of Arizona got the No. 9 rating. Peterson was the fifth overall selection of the Cardinals in the 2011 NFL Draft and is a seven-time Pro Bowler. His skills have clearly diminished through the years, and he is rated only No. 49 by PFF with an overall grade of 79.6.

At No. 8 was rookie Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints. Lattimore’s reputation as a shutdown cornerback was only enhanced by his playoff performance, and his five interceptions and 18 passes defensed resulted in an overall grade of 90.5 from PFF and their No. 5 ranking. There is no question that Lattimore belongs among the elite. But so does Jackson.

Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes was at No. 7, and he received an even better coverage score from Bleacher Report than did either Jackson or Lattimore. Rhodes is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a No. 1 pick of the Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft.

The knock against Jackson is that he only managed one interception, yet Rhodes only had two. PFF grades Rhodes as the 42nd best cornerback with an overall score of 81.1.

At No. 6 was Casey Hayward of the Chargers, and Hayward certainly earned his place among the elite. But Hayward, who is a two-time Pro-Bowler and a second-round selection of the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 NFL Draft, does not have the straight-line speed of Jackson and relies on his physicality to disrupt routes. Hayward is PFF top-rated cornerback with an overall grade of 96.4.

Only one of the Bleacher Report’s top five even deserves to be in the discussion with Jackson, and that is Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey, the cause of the A.J. Green meltdown earlier this year.

Although Jackson may have an edge over Ramsey in coverage ability, Ramsey, who came in at No. 4, finished the 2017 season with four interceptions and 17 passes broken up. Ramsey earned the No. 3 slot from PFF with an overall grade of 91.8.

Marcus Peters, a first-round selection of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2015 NFL Draft and a two-time Pro Bowler, earned the No. 5 spot from Bleacher Report. PFF, on the other hand, considered Peters as only the 17th best cornerback in the league with an overall mark of 85.7.

At No. 2 on the list was Detroit’s Darius Slay, who certainly lacks the speed and fluidity of Jackson. He was, however, the NFL leader in interceptions with eight and passes defensed with 26. PFF rated Slay at No. 10 and gave him an overall grade of 88.1.

Another big-market team, Baltimore, got the No. 2 position with Jimmy Smith, a first-round selection of the Ravens in the 2011 NFL Draft. Smith has played only two full seasons in the NFL and was suspended for four games for PED use. PFF rates him at No. 15 with an overall grade of 86.2.

Bleacher Report’s No. 1 pick was Jacksonville’s A.J. Bouye, who was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans after the 2013 NFL Draft and after a breakout season in 2016 went on to sign a massive deal with the Jaguars in 2017. Bouye, who played across from Ramsey in the Jaguars’ smothering defensive scheme, had six interceptions and 18 pass interceptions in 2017.

PFF was not as impressed, and gave Bouye an overall grade of 88.0, which made him the league’s 12th best cornerback.

So what does all of this mean?

Of the 10 players that Bleacher Report found to be better cornerbacks than the Bengals’ Jackson, only three of them were rated ahead of him according to Pro Football Focus. Jackson has clearly moved himself into the conversation as an elite cornerback, and hopefully will soon begin receiving the respect that he so richly deserves.