If Stephon Gilmore had to pick one of the top players in the NFL, he knows exactly whom he would choose.
“I would pick myself,” the Patriots cornerback told NFL Network.
Gilmore’s confidence comes as no surprise, and after his performance last season, he has solidified himself as the best cornerback in the NFL.
The numbers speak for themselves: He finished the season with a career-high six interceptions (tied for the league lead) and led the league with 20 passes defended. He earned All-Pro honors and was named the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year (the first Patriot to win the award).
On NFL Network Wednesday night, Gilmore was ranked in the top 10 of the “NFL Top 100” players of 2020, earning the No. 9 spot as the top defensive back and the No. 2 defender. The rankings were determined by a poll of players.
He was the only current Patriots player to be included on the list. Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, now with the Buccaneers, was ranked No. 14, while another former Patriots QB, San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, was No. 43.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was ranked No. 90 last year, earned a spot just outside the top 100, at No. 101.
The top 10 were: Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson coming it at the No. 1 spot, followed by Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, Rams DT Aaron Donald, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Saints WR Michael Thomas, Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, 49ers TE George Kittle, Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins, Gilmore, and Titans RB Derrick Henry.
Though Gilmore is on the quieter side, his teammates raved about his ability to dominate on the field.
“When you have a shutdown corner, you always hear from him that he’s a shutdown corner, but Steph doesn’t say a whole lot,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said on the Top 100 reveal show. “He takes a lot of pride in not giving up anything, whether it’s a walk-through, whether it’s practice, and obviously in the game.
“It’s been fun to see him become the best corner in football.”
Tight end Ben Watson thinks Gilmore’s best performance of 2019 was in the 13-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. While matched up against Amari Cooper for 26 of his 30 routes, Gilmore held him to zero catches — and made a spectacular play in the second quarter to snag an interception.
“The best one was the Dallas game, where he intercepted with one hand,” Watson said. “Steph somehow undercuts the receiver and then catches the ball with one hand.”
Added Slater, “That would have been a tough catch for a receiver, let alone a DB. I think that was a play that really summed up the kind of year he’s had.”
Not only has Gilmore earned the respect of his teammates, but his competitors as well.
“His technique is flawless,” said Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes. “Staying in front of a receiver, being aggressive when you need to be aggressive. He’s a ball hawk.”
“His tape speaks for itself, his numbers speak for itself,” said Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. “He’s a guy that I watch. When they played Cincinnati, he made a pick-6 playing Cover-0 and outside coverage. You know how hard that is?”
Gilmore said in the video that his goal is simple: challenge everyone.
“I challenge guys each and every play, make it hard on them,” he said. “Shut guys down this year, that’s what I did.”