It's hands down the best compliment a cornerback at any level of football can receive, Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, considering his defensive prowess, and how he dominated the NFL in 2019. Time and again, Gilmore found a way to make a big play and/or take the ball away from the opposing offense, and it's in large part due to how intense his preparation for each game is, which led Kurt Warner to put him right up against Sanders in that category.. To be compared in any fashion to Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders means you're not only doing something right -- it means you're doing something to a level far above anyone else around you. That's a fair nod to
"He reminds me of Deion Sanders the way he studies his craft and is a student of the game," Warner said, via ESPN. "That's what Deion was so good at -- the technique, the little things, and the ability to understand the game. Obviously, Deion was ridiculously talented. But he understood the game in such a way, especially playing man coverages, strengths and weaknesses, reading body language and doing all that stuff.
"That reminds me a lot of Stephon, the way he plays the game."
To be clear, Warner isn't saying the former 10th overall pick matches up with Sanders physically, but that clarification isn't a knock to the former. The bottom line is few have ever entered the NFL with the abilities Sanders was blessed with -- a player who changed games as a cornerback, returner and even a wide receiver (at times with the Dallas Cowboys). But what Gilmore does in the one role he's assigned is elite, having never gone a complete season without reeling in at least one interception, and grabbing a career-best six INTs in 2019 to return them for 126 total yards.
"Maybe not the top-end athleticism that Deion had," Warner said. "Maybe not the speed that Deion had. But the same kind of craft he plays with, so he would probably be the guy. Deion was a guy who would get up in your face a lot."
Gilmore is known for not backing down from key matchups and instead, much like Sanders, demanding to cover to best receiver on the opposing team on a weekly basis. And when the three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro gets his wish, he delivers more often than not. That's all Warner needs to see, along with how he prepares, to compare him with arguably the best cornerback of all time.
No one in the Patriots organization would disagree.