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Aqib Talib, Chris Harris rated among top 20 players in the NFL

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Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris greets David Beaty prior to the start of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris greets David Beaty prior to the start of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It’s been several years since Aqib Talib and Chris Harris suited up for the Kansas football team, but they continue to make a big impact for the Jayhawks.

Both Harris and Talib remain actively involved with their alma mater. Harris attended KU's spring football game in April. Two weeks later, Talib went to the team’s meet-and-greet event in Dallas.

On the recruiting trail, the pair of cornerbacks have helped shape an image of KU as one of the top places to develop defensive backs. And their play in the Denver Broncos secondary last season only strengthened that notion.

Pro Football Focus, which grades players on each snap during the season, ranked Talib as the 18th-best player in the NFL and Harris followed in 19th. They were the top two cornerbacks in the league.

Talib, entering his 10th season in the NFL, had one of his most consistent years in the Broncos secondary. He grabbed three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown, and had 12 pass deflections.

“Aqib Talib has always had the potential to be the game’s best cornerback, but in the past, we have only ever seen it in flashes, or for brief stretches before he lapsed and we saw him surrender big plays,” Pro Football Focus wrote. “2016 was the first year he put it all together, and went the entire year without surrendering a touchdown.”

Pro Football Focus noted Talib didn’t allow a catch longer than 26 yards last year. Plus, quarterbacks had trouble completing short passes against him.

“Talib allowed just 53.0 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught, for a passer rating of only 49.5, and for much of the year, quarterbacks were statistically better off just throwing the ball away than they were testing Talib in coverage,” PFF wrote.

Harris, who has been ranked as high as No. 4 by PFF in his career, had another all-pro season where he recorded two interceptions, 11 pass deflections and 57 tackles.

Entering his seventh year with the Broncos, Harris, an undrafted free agent out of KU, continues to make the most of his opportunities when the ball is thrown in his direction.

“Harris allowed an average of only 8.9 yards per reception in 2016, and 126 total yards after the catch, despite being targeted 84 times," PFF wrote.

Harris combined with Talib, and the rest of Denver's secondary, for the top passing defense in the league (185.8 yards per game).

According to PFF, Harris had 28 defensive stops, which was two more than any other cornerback.

Even with all of these all-pro distinctions, Harris doesn’t need to look far to find more motivation for next season.

In a vote from their peers, conducted by the NFL Network, Talib was ranked as the 37th-best player in the league and Harris was 63rd. When Harris was asked by Denver reporters about his ranking, he laughed.

“Just adds more fuel to the fire,” Harris told the Denver Post. “I might be the only first-team all-pro that didn’t make it into the top 50 probably. But, no, I need something like that. Getting all these awards and accolades and things, I guess it’s good to have one thing that keeps me motivated.”

Comments

Thomas Green 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Harris does Jayhawks everywhere proud...Talib, not so much!

Ryan Zimmerman 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Amen! I've always thought the same. Talib was huge during his Kansas tenure, but what a thug on the field. Tired of the antics and cheap play.

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