There is a saying once you become nothing in someone’s eyes, you become invincible.
Cornerback Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins proves he will overlook the doubters who passed on him and remain seen for the work he puts on the football field.
The NFL Top 100 is an annual list that features the top one hundred players in the National Football League, as chosen by fellow NFL players. The rankings are based on an off-season poll organized by the NFL, whereby players vote on their peers based on their performance for the recent NFL season. Only players that are not retired in the next season are eligible for consideration. In the ten-year history of the countdown, only Tom Brady has been voted No. 1 multiple times and the only one who has been voted No. 1 in back-to-back years (2011, 2017, 2018).
Howard did not even make the NFL Top 100 last season; the players decided he was worthy this season and was ranked 17th, the highest ranking for a defensive back. He delivered the best plays for the Dolphins every Sunday and occasionally on Thursday night.
“Last year, I would say the C.B. king would be Xavien Howard,” Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey told NFL Network.
The Dolphins led the NFL in takeaways in 2020 with 29. The All-Pro defensive back accounted for ten of them. He is the first player since 2007 to have double-digit interceptions.
“He is physical; he is in your face the whole game,” Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs told NFL Network. “He is one of the corners who plays true bump and run. I respect his game. I like seeing him out there.”
It is one thing to lead the NFL in interceptions; however, Howard’s career-high 20 pass breakups were the best in the league in 2020.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Diggs added. “He gets his hands on the ball a lot.”
Howard, also called “X,” was the number 38th pick by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft; evidence again, draft position is not a guarantee for success. Only six of the last 50 players taken first overall have won Super Bowls with the teams that drafted them.
“He was one of the toughest corners I had to go against this year,” Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf told NFL Network. “He was the one who followed me around the whole game. He is very physical and has the don’t care attitude.”
Howard can easily be one of the least talked about defensive backs because he is not flashy moreover underrated. He is a fantastic player who is not invincible to someone’s eye.
“They try to null me to sleep, and I try to make something happen,” Howard said after week one win over New England. “Finding the ball being around the ball, that is my main thing.”
Howard was named an All-Pro the first time he earned that honor (he had been a 2nd-team All-Pro in 2018). In July 2021, Howard announced that he had requested a trade from the Dolphins due to feeling undervalued and underpaid, also stating, “I am just here so I don’t get fined,” regarding him reporting to training camp.
“Every down, I feel like I have to make something happen for the team and get the ball back to the offense,” Howard said after the week one win versus New England after forcing a fumble. “My mindset was get the ball out. We needed it, and it was crucial.”
The Dolphins agreed to restructure Howard’s contract after the request. Howard, 28, also received assurances that the Dolphins will renegotiate a new deal in the offseason in line with the market based on his health and his performance in the 2021 season, according to the sources.