For the second straight season, we have researched all 704 NFL Starters to get a full picture of the helmets, cleats and gloves worn by NFL football players. While completing this research is a tall task, it provides us with valuable information about what the world’s best football players wear. We have calculated the brand share and even honed in on some of the specific models these pros are wearing. For this article, we’ll be focusing on some of the league’s most athletic defenders, the linebackers.
About the Research: This research focuses on the helmets, cleats and gloves of the 704 NFL Starters. We tracked 352 Offensive Players (32 QB’s, 32 RB’s, 96 WR’s and 160 OL) and 352 Defensive Players (64 DE’s, 49 DT’s, 64 OLB’s, 47 ILB’s and 128 DB’s). For this research, injuries were not considered, the best players at each position were selected. We used both ESPN and OurLads as a resource for our depth charts. The research was conducted from Week 15 to Week 17 (Dec. 20 – Jan. 2).
Our final note is to remember that players switch equipment all the time (sometimes even at halftime), so there is no way to ensure 100% accuracy throughout the season. Our findings still offer the best representation available of what brands and models are most popular among NFL Starters.
Helmets Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Defensive back is one of the toughest positions on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerbacks and safeties make up the back end of the defense and can make or break a football team. These typically smaller, speedy athletes are expected to lock down the opposing teams’ wide receivers and come up to make stops in the run game. To play DB in the NFL, you have to play fast, physical and confidently. Defensive backs usually opt to wear a safe, lightweight helmet that allows them to be fully protected and keep up with the offense. Let’s take a peek at the most popular helmet brands and models worn by NFL starting DBs during the 2021-22 season.
Riddell | Worn by 57% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
The most popular helmet brand amongst NFL starting defensive backs is Riddell. This past season we saw 57% of starting DBs wearing Riddell – most of them in the Riddell Speedflex. The ‘flex is the most popular helmet across all levels of football because of it’s sharp looks and top notch safety ratings. The 5-star rated helmet does an incredible job absorbing contact with the small panel on the front, the facemask and the actual shell. It’s one of the best helmets on the market and worn by some of the league’s most talented ballhawks, including Jalen Ramsey, Jaire Alexander and Xavien Howard. You can grab a Riddell Speedflex from Riddell for about $470.
The other popular Riddell helmet worn by 4 starting DBs, is the Riddell Speed. Once upon a time, the speed was the most popular helmet in the game, but following the release of the Speedflex, it’s usage has dropped rapidly. The Speed remains a 5-star rated helmet and is worn by Tyrann Mathieu and Darius Slay. You can still get a Riddell Speed from Riddell for about $370 ($100 cheaper than the Speedflex).
Schutt | Worn by 41% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Coming in second, we have Schutt, making up 41% of the helmet brand share among NFL starting DBs. The most popular Schutt model is their Schutt Air XP Q11. This, to most, will come as a huge shock because it’s such an “old-school” looking helmet. Despite its’ classic appearance, the Air XP Q11 is a 5-star rated helmet and one of the lightest on the market – weighing only 4.1 pounds. This helmet looks absolutely incredible on DBs and is worn by Tre’Davious White, Joe Haden and JC Jackson. The Schutt Air XP Q11 is currently a pro-model only, but you can get the similar Schutt Air XP Q10 for $450 from Schutt.
The second most popular Schutt helmet is the Schutt F7. The F7 is the newest and safest helmet in Schutt’s lineup and scores a perfect 5/5 on the VT Helmet Rating Scale. The key to the F7’s success is the “tektonic plates” on the top of the helmet. These unique panels actually move independently from the rest of the shell to help disperse rotational force. Basically, the helmet does an excellent job of preventing the impact from reaching your head. This helmet is a super common choice among DBs because of it’s lightweight design and low-profile look. This past season we saw lock-down corners including Denzel Ward and AJ Terrell, in the F7. You can check out the Schutt F7 from $550 – $750 on Schutt’s website.
Vicis | Worn by 2% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Lastly, we saw 2 starting DBs in Vicis helmets – Adrian Phillips and Eric Rowe. Both of these guys were in the 5-star rated, Vicis Zero2. The Zero2 is the safest helmet ever tested by the VT Helmet Rating Scale, but has unique “bobble-head” appearance. So, despite it’s incredible safety specs, it’s a pretty unpopular helmet among NFL DBs. Check out the Vicis Zero2 for yourself on Vicis.com, starting at $700.
Cleats Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Aside from helmets, cleats may be the most important piece of equipment for a defensive back. Cleats allow DBs to keep up with speedy WRs and cut on a dime to jump a route. DBs almost always roll with a pair of lightweight, low-cut cleats with plenty of traction. Let’s see what cleat brands and models were most popular among DBs in the 2021-22 season.
Nike | Worn by 78% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Last season, Nike led the way with an impressive 78% of the total cleat brand share among NFL starting DBs. The most popular cleat model was Nike Vapor Edge 360 Speed. The 360 Speed is the latest vapor cleat from Nike and is built for skill players, like DBs. The cleat is low-cut, lightweight and features the “edge” traction plate. The “edge” plate is a 2-piece construction with sharp studs on the outermost parts of the plate. These studs allow DBs to cut on a dime to break up a pass or stuff an outside sweep. These are perfect cleats for both cornerbacks and safeties, so it’s no surprise they are the most popular. We saw Kevin Byard and Pat Surtain II in these last season. You can grab a pair for $95 from Dicks.
The other popular Nike cleat is one of the older models, the Nike Vapor Untouchable Speed 3. These released back in 2018 and are incredibly similar to the Vapor Edge 360 Speed. These are a simple, low-cut cleat that weighs very little. These also have the “speed” traction plate which resembles the studs of a track spike. These are a great option for all defensive backs and worn by Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore. Since they’re over 4 years old, they’re tough to find so check out Ebay.
Adidas | Worn by 16% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
The second most popular cleat brand among NFL starting DBs was Adidas. We saw a total of 20 starting DBs living the “Three Stripe Life” and the most common model was the Adidas Adizero 11.0. The Adizero 11.0 is currently the latest skill cleat from Adidas and one of the lightest cleats in the game. The 11.0 has a fresh traction plate with sharp, triangle studs that provide plenty of traction. These are great for DBs because they allow you to cut fast and react to the football. This past season we saw Jalen Ramsey in the Adidas Adizero 11.0 Primeknit and JC Jackson in the regular 11.0. You can grab the Adidas Adizero 11.0 for $120 from Eastbay.
Jordan | Worn by 3% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
This past season, we saw 3% of NFL starting DBs wearing Jordan Brand football cleats. Over the past couple years, we’ve seen more and more Jordan Brand on the gridiron. These older basketball silhouettes have become pretty popular in the NFL. Jordan Retro cleats provide plenty of support, a wide traction plate and tons of swag. Jordan Brand athletes, Jamal Adams, Tyrann Mathieu, and Joe Haden, all wore a plethora of Jordan Retro cleats this past season. If you want a pair of Jordan cleats, we suggest you check StockX and GOAT.
Under Armour | Worn by 3% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Lastly, we have Under Armour making up the final 3% of the brand share. The most popular UA model amongst NFL DBs was the Under Armour Spotlight. The Spotlight is UA’s most popular skill cleat and is low-cut and lightweight. Certified pick-artist, Xavien Howard has been wearing these for years. You can grab a pair from Eastbay for $120.
Gloves Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Defensive backs are notorious for dropping interceptions, but something that can help is a pair of football gloves. When you watch the NFL, every player in the secondary is usually wearing a pair football gloves. Football gloves can both help protect your hands and help you reel in tough interceptions. The best gloves for DBs are receiver gloves. These gloves are lightweight with maximum grip on the palms. Let’s take a look at what glove brands and models NFL starting DBs are rocking.
Nike | Worn by 76% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
The most popular, by a wide margin, is Nike with an astounding 76% of the brand share among NFL starting DBs. The most popular glove among them is the Vapor Jet 6.0, the latest receiver glove from Nike. The VJ6 is a tight fitting glove that provides plenty of ball feel. These gloves also feature Nike’s “magnigrip” palms which are the stickiest in the game. These are simply, the best option for DBs and worn by some of your favorites, including Jevon Holland, Trevon Diggs and Byron Murphy. You can get the Nike Vapor Jet 6.0 from Dicks for $45.
The other popular Nike glove model was the Nike Superbad 6.0. The SB6 has the same elite “magnigrip” palms but has some lightweight padding on the back of hand. These are a great option for physical defensive backs or anyone who just wants a little extra hand protection. Justin Simmons, Marlon Humphrey and Stephon Gilmore wore these this past season. You can get the Superbad 6.0 from Dicks for $55.
Adidas | Worn by 13% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Coming in second, we have Adidas making up 13% of the total glove brand share among NFL DBs. The most popular Adidas model was the Adidas Adizero 11.0. These are an excellent lightweight option with sticky, Adidas’ “griptack” palms. These will help you snag the football and hold onto it. This past season we saw Jalen Ramsey and Jaire Alexander in these gloves. You can grab a pair from Eastbay for $45.
Cutters | Worn by 9% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
This past season, we saw 9% of starting NFL DBs wearing Cutters gloves. The most popular model among them was the Cutters Rev Pro 4.0. The Rev Pro 4.0 boasts a lightweight back of hand and super tacky “c-tack” grip. The grip on these is super durable and we saw Xavien Howard, James Bradberry and Budda Baker in these gloves. You can grab the Cutters Rev Pro 4.0 for $45 from Eastbay.
Jordan | Worn by 2% of NFL Starting Defensive Backs
Finally, to wrap things up, we have Jordan Brand representing the final 2% of glove share among NFL starting DBs. Jordan Brand athletes, Jamal Adams, Tyrann Mathieu and Joe Haden wore Jordan gloves this past season. These gloves are identical to Nike gloves, just with different branding. If you want Jordan branded football gloves, Dicks just released the Jordan Jet 7.0 for $55.
There you have it… the gear worn by the best defensive backs in the world! Let us know what you think about our report in the comments below!