Jets Dee Milliner says he's NFL's best CB, plans to prove it

Dee Milliner had an up and down rookie season but finished with a flourish. (USATSI)
Dee Milliner had an up and down rookie season but finished with a flourish. (USATSI)
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At the very least, give Dee Milliner points for speaking his mind. The Jets 2013 first-round pick was asked Saturday about the NFL's best cornerback. His response was refreshingly honest, if unconventional.

"The best corner in the league? Me," he told the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta. "I ain't gonna say that somebody else is better than me."

We can appreciate Milliner's confidence even if his rookie season didn't quite reflect it. (And, really, what else is he supposed to say?)

"I'm not going to say somebody that plays the same position is better than me," Milliner continued. "Don't care if they've been in the league 10 years and I've been here five months. That's how it's going to go. I'm the best. I'm not going to say that another man that plays the same position ... and say he's better than me? I can't do that."

In 13 games, the ninth-overall pick in the '13 draft made 12 starts, defended 17 passes and had three interceptions. Solid numbers for a rookie but Milliner ranked 68th among all cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

But a closer look reveals that Milliner improved as the season progressed; four of his five best games came in the final month, with his best effort coming in Week 17 against the Dolphins when he had five passes defended, two interceptions, and was solid in run support.

And it's Milliner's improvement down the stretch that sticks with coach Rex Ryan, who benched the rookie more than once early in the season.

"We criticize Dee because I benched him," Ryan said. "Well, I benched great players before in the past. ... I've benched them all at one point or another. Because sometimes they need to sit down and take a look. Then you put them back out there. What I noticed from him is that he grew. As the season wore on, he knew that he could play in this league.

"Did he go through growing pains? Absolutely. But he was in the fire," Ryan added. "So, right now, it's nothing to him. He's out there. Let's go."

With Antonio Cromartie in Arizona, Milliner -- ready or not -- is now the leader in the secondary.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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