1. Stephon Gilmore
Without question, Stephon Gilmore has been the Patriots’ best player on defense this season.
We gave that honor to Jamie Collins after the first four games of the season and then switched it over to Devin McCourty at the midway point of the season. Both of those players have been great these past four games, too – Collins still leads all New England defenders in tackles, and McCourty still leads all New England defenders in interceptions.
McCourty is also the only player who’s made all three editions of this list of defensive MVPs in 2019. Gilmore has a very good chance to join him though in a “three-peat” when we do our final edition of this ranking, especially if he keeps up the elite level of play he’s been at for the bulk of this year – he was our No. 2 spot on the midseason version.
Gilmore is undoubtedly deserving of the top billing at this point though. Not only is he the best player on the Patriots defense, he’s also the best player on the Patriots roster right now in general. Moreover, he’s the best cornerback in the NFL and a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Per ProFootballFocus, Gilmore has allowed the lowest passer rating in coverage among all eligible cornerbacks who have received at least 15 targets this season (43.0). That mark edges out the 49ers’ Richard Sherman (43.2) and Gilmore’s own teammate J.C. Jackson (44.7), and it far surpasses the passer rating mark of his counterpart on the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills, Tre’Davious White (52.0).
Bill Belichick has been able to reliably stick Gilmore on the opposing team’s best wide receiver week in and week out. It’s a rare luxury for a Patriots team that hasn’t had that kind of lockdown corner since Darrelle Revis came over from the Jets for one year back in 2014.