The 21st-century Buffalo Bills have a longstanding tradition of cornerback excellence, in part because they were so willing to spend high draft picks on the position. In the past decade, that included two first-round picks (Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White) and two second-round picks (Aaron Williams and Ronald Darby). The group was also bolstered by savvy free-agent additions throughout the years.
It’s time for each of the top cornerbacks to make their case for a roster spot. Let’s take a look.
McKelvin joined the Bills as a first-round pick in the 2008 draft, and played six seasons for the team during the decade. An athletic cornerback who often played well at every part of the play except the occasional lapse at the catch point, McKelvin was an off-and-on starter who compiled a good stat sheet by the end of his career.
He was also a dynamic kick and punt returner, but we won’t consider that for ranking him in this position.
After the 2015 season, the Bills went ahead with Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore as their starting tandem. McKelvin was waived, and would sign a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He ultimately played one more season before his career came to an end.
Overall stats: 51 games started, 274 combined tackles, four TFLs, three forced fumbles, 58 passes defended, 11 interceptions.
Florence, known for his physical brand of play, joined the Bills as a free agent in 2009, and played with the Bills for two seasons in the past decade. He’s fondly remembered for his pick-six against Tom Brady in 2011—a play that helped clinch an end to Buffalo’s consecutive losing streak to the New England Patriots. That play landed Florence on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
With Terrence McGee’s career on the downswing as injuries took their toll, and the young McKelvin still finding his footing, Florence was the stable force in the secondary at the start of the decade.
Overall stats: 32 games started, 108 combined tackles, two TFLs, one forced fumble, 27 passes defended, six interceptions (two for touchdowns).
While these days he plays for a hated rival, Gilmore played a full five seasons for the Bills and was their most productive cornerback during the past decade. Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2012, Gilmore flashed his athletic talent and potential early on, when the Bills made him their top cornerback in his rookie season. Early in his career, Gilmore deflected plenty of passes, but wasn’t able to change those into turnovers. It didn’t help that he fractured his wrist at the start of his sophomore season, and missed five games recovering.
Gilmore thrived within Rex Ryan’s defense. Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he deflected 30 passes and intercepted eight of them. This culminated in Gilmore’s first Pro Bowl selection after the 2016 season.
When head coach Sean McDermott took over in Buffalo, the Bills declined to place a franchise tag on Gilmore, who became a free agent. Gilmore signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the New England Patriots, and before long turned into a star. He’s been named first-team All-Pro for the past two seasons.
Overall stats: 66 games started, 226 combined tackles, four TFLs, three forced fumbles, 62 passes defended, 14 interceptions.
If Stephon Gilmore impressed with the way he led the secondary out of the gate, White was even more impressive. His rookie year, featuring four interceptions and a fumble recovery touchdown, had him as a finalist for Defensive Rookie of the Year (finishing as runner-up to Marshon Lattimore). His sophomore season didn’t feature the same highlights, with offenses often picking on Phillip Gaines and undrafted rookie Levi Wallace instead—but White still came away with two picks.
It all came together in 2019 for White, who saved multiple Bills games (including wins over the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers) with his high-impact play. He led the league in interceptions with six, allowed a measly 45.0 passer rating when targeted, and shut down top receivers time and again. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection, and more importantly, a first-team All-Pro selection, as a result of that season. Heading into 2020, the goal for White is more of the same, and a new long-term contract extension for the young star.
Overall stats: 47 games started, 181 combined tackles, 8 TFLs, three forced fumbles, 43 passes defended, 12 interceptions.
There you have it: Four options for the best cornerback of the last decade. Which will you choose?
Buffalo Bills 2010s All-Decade team: Cornerback 1
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