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Chris Harris believes he is the best cornerback in the NFL, and his stats back him up

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Coming off his best season, Chris Harris believes that he is the best CB in the NFL and aims to reach the Super Bowl in 2015.

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For nearly a decade, the Broncos boasted of having one of the NFL's best cornerbacks in Champ Bailey. Today, a year after Bailey left the team, Denver has another top cornerback in Chris Harris, Jr.

"I definitely think I’m one of the best corners in the league," Harris said during a phone interview last week. "There’s a lot of good corners — (Darrelle) Revis, (Richard) Sherman, Joe Haden, Vontae Davis, and (Aqib) Talib — there’s a lot of good corners in the league, but I feel like when I step on the field that I’m always the best. That’s just how I feel."

Harris's stats back him up.

Last season, Harris was the No. 1 ranked corner by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required). Harris earned a plus-28.4 overall grade from PFF, nearly 7 points higher than any other CB. He allowed just 0.57 yards per coverage snap, which also ranked first.

stats

"The numbers don’t lie. When you look at them, I gave up zero touchdowns and a lot of these cats have given up as many touchdowns in one season as I have given up in my whole career," he said.

Since entering the NFL as a college free agent with Denver in 2011, Harris has allowed 6 touchdown passes (zero last season), according to PFF. That's fewer than Sherman (8), Revis (9), Brent Grimes (12), Davis (14), Haden (19), and Patrick Peterson (24), who are among the best — and highest paid — CBs in the NFL.

Harris finally gained recognition from the national media in 2014, but his remarkable season was not surprising to those that have followed his career.

"I’ve been playing at an elite level for more than just a year. I think I’ve graded in PFF's top 10 every year except my rookie season. A lot of guys don’t do the things that I do. I play the pass, I play the run, I can play multiple positions, and I move everywhere around on the field during the game. So, I think I’m just unique compared to all those other corners."

Over the past four seasons, Harris has recorded 252 tackles and 3.5 sacks, broken up 49 passes, notched 10 interceptions, and forced a fumble.

"I just want to continue to be consistent and I do a lot of things that are unique."

Harris played all three defensive back positions — cornerback, nickelback, and safety — while at the University of Kansas, and he has continued to be a versatile player in Denver. He played 40 percent of his snaps covering the slot in 2014, and played three positions in this year's All-Star game in Glendale, AZ.

Harris was in danger of not making the Pro Bowl this year, despite his No. 1 PFF ranking. He was not among the top ten fan vote-getters at cornerback, but the fan vote only accounted for one-third of the voting. Players and coaches determined the final vote.

He ended up being among an NFL-high nine Broncos players voted into the game (two others, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson, were later added to the Pro Bowl roster as alternates).

"It showed that the coaches and the players understood; they liked my game," he said.

In 2014, Harris was targeted 95 times, allowing 47 catches (49.5 percent) for 378 yards (8.0 yards per catch), and zero touchdowns. Quarterbacks averaged 46.7 passer ratings when targeting him (for comparison, Peyton Manning had a 101.5 passer rating in 2014).

TDs

Denver rewarded Harris for his versatility and production in December, signing him to a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension. Harris, of course, deserved every single penny included in the contract, a deal that received rave reviews from NFL executives.

"Now I have even more responsibility — it makes you have to play at even a higher level," Harris said of his new deal. "That’s something that I think, getting that extension, motivates me go out there and make even more plays."

His wallet now heavier, Harris will return to the team's Dove Valley headquarters next week to participate in the team's offseason program (full offseason schedule here). One of his teammates, three-time Pro Bowl receiver Demaryius Thomas, will not be there.

Thomas, hoping to receive a long-term deal, does not want to play under his one-year, $12.823 million franchise tag. Harris is not alarmed about Thomas's potential holdout.

"DT’s not doing something any different than any other guy that’s been tagged before," Harris said. "They usually don’t come back until training camp — that’s usually when they get their deal done. I know DT’s working. He’s working to be the best, and he knows we want to win a Super Bowl."

Whenever Thomas returns, it will be beneficial for more than just Denver's offense.

"I think we both get better from going against each other every day. It’s a competition."

Going up against Pro Bowl receivers like Thomas and Sanders in practice makes Denver's secondary better, and they look forward to DT's return just as much as Manning.

"I know he’ll be ready whenever he comes back."

Harris will again be a key part of Denver's secondary this season. He will be playing across from Talib at cornerback with T.J. Ward at safety. The other safety and nickelback positions are still being finalized.

Rahim Moore signed with the Texans last month, leaving Denver without a free safety.

The Broncos signed safety Darian Stewart in free agency, and special team's ace David Bruton believes he is ready to be a starter. There have also been reports that Denver may consider moving Kayvon Webster or Bradley Roby, who played nickel last season, to play safety.

"I think they’re both capable of doing that. Roby had a lot of special play everywhere this season — nickel and corner — and Kayvon played, too," Harris said. "The thing about us, we have a lot of good corners that can play multiple positions. So I think either of those guys could make that switch. It’s about having the best guys out there. We play sometimes with three safeties and three corners, so you have to get the best six DBs out there on the field."

Wade Phillips, Denver's defensive coordinator, and Joe Woods, the team's secondary coach, will finalize the back end of Denver's secondary this summer. Harris is just one piece of the puzzle.

Off the field, Harris has stayed busy as a family man and foundation sponsor. Harris launched the Chris Harris Jr. Foundation in 2013 and he and his wife, Leah, had a daughter last October.

His foundation hosts annual "underdog" camps for young athletes each summer.

"Being an underdog myself, (starting the foundation) was something I wanted to do. I get all these children out here and they are underdogs, too. We do it in Denver, Oklahoma, and also in Dallas."

Harris will host camps in Denver and Oklahoma this summer (the dates are still being finalized), and he will be joined by Webster and former teammate Wesley Woodyard.

Harris said his favorite part of the camps is educating the kids and their parents.

"Some of the parents don’t understand what these kids can do by going to college and being eligible to play. We’re able to educate the children, and also the parents. We have these things called success programs that we have all these children under where they get points by doing chores, or getting good grades, or doing their exercises, things like that they get points for.

"I want to win a Super Bowl — that's always been the main goal." — Chris Harris

"The best thing is they’ll get a chance to go out to eat with me. I’ll take them out to eat and play video games with them. We’ll do that all around to add more motivation for them."

Back on the field, Harris has four main goals for this coming season:

"I want to be an All-Pro, one of the leaders on the team, win the division, and win a Super Bowl."

Getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it remains Harris's focus.

"That’s always been the main goal."

Poll

How good is Harris?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    No. 1 CB.
    (2191 votes)
  • 29%
    Top 3 CB.
    (1130 votes)
  • 10%
    Top 5 CB.
    (396 votes)
  • 2%
    Top 10 CB.
    (89 votes)
  • 0%
    He's not a top 10 CB.
    (30 votes)
3836 votes total Vote Now