Xavier Rhodes in his fourth season drew league-wide attention throughout 2016.
Rhodes' performance earned him his first career Pro Bowl nod, and the numbers backed him up.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com took every team's top cornerback and then used Next Gen Stats cornerback coverage statistics to determine the league's top 10. By Harmon's system, the ranking was determined by passer rating allowed in coverage.
Rhodes came in at No. 1 with just a 39.2 passer rating allowed. Harmon said that while the Vikings struggled midseason, Rhodes was "one player who never lost momentum."
It's also worth noting that a passer who attempts one pass that is incomplete, as running back Jerick McKinnon did on a trick play this season, receives a passer rating of 39.6.
[The 2016 season] saw the Vikings top corner, always a solid player, join the elite group of NFL cornerbacks. Opposing quarterbacks targeted Rhodes 79 times in 14 games. It proved to be a fruitless endeavor, as Rhodes gave up an NFL-low 41.8 percent catch rate. In addition to not allowing plays to the opposition, he made plenty for the Vikings, as well. Rhodes picked off five passes this year, after registering just two in his first three seasons. One of his interceptions came against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals in Week 11. Rhodes ran the pick back for a touchdown and covered 121.03 yards of distance and clocked in at 22.4 miles per hour on the runback.
Coming in at second and third place were Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward, who allowed a 46.7 and 49.0 passer rating, respectively. Hayward was targeted 100 times during the regular season, the most of any cornerback on Harmon's list, and led the league with seven interceptions.
Newman named best CB at limiting YAC
Rhodes wasn't Minnesota's only cornerback to impress.
According to Pro Football Focus, 38-year-old Terence Newman was the NFL's top cornerback at limiting yards after catch.
Newman allowed an average of just 1.07 yards after catch, breaking the previous single-season record of 1.25 set by Nnamdi Asomugha during the 2008 season. Michael Renner wrote the following of Newman:
Newman surrendered a ridiculous 31 total yards after the catch all season long. That number is almost the exact same as a receiver catching the ball and then falling forward on every reception. At 38 years old, Newman was among the top 10 CBs for passer rating (62.0), completion percentage (51.8), and yards surrendered (245).
Thielen tabbed as Vikings 'unsung hero'
With the Pro Bowl taking place a little over a week from now, "Around the NFL" writer Conor Orr took a look at one player from each NFC team who didn't earn the all-star honors and yet deserves recognition.
Orr named wide receiver Adam Thielen as Minnesota's "unsung hero." Orr wrote:
The former undrafted free agent from Minnesota State broke away from underdog status midway through the season and nearly posted a 1,000-yard campaign in 2016. He enters the frustrating (and often unfair) world of restricted free agency this offseason, with a long-term payday potentially another year away.
The other NFC North unsung heroes on Orr's list were Lions center Cody Whitehair, Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker and Packers safety Morgan Burnett.