The Best Players in the NFL – Top 5 Safeties

26 Feb


This is the first part of my top 5 rankings for every position in the NFL. It will culminate in an overall top 10 players in the NFL list.
This is arguably this weakest position in the league. It is suprising when the position has become so valuable in recent years with the opening up of the NFL passing attack. Maybe it is for that very reason. It is hard to play safety at a high level consistently for many years because you have to be able to play the pass and tackle in the open field at a very high level. I can name former all-pros whose bodies are now catching up with them (Adrian Wilson and Brian Dawkins), and safeties that have inconsistent seasons (Jairus Byrd, Kerry Rhodes, Laron Landry). Although lacking depth, the elite safeties (positions 1 and 2) are two of the best players in the league and two of the best in their positions in the history of the game:

5. Antrel Rolle (New York Giants)

Adrian Wilson, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Kerry Rhodes could have been picks here but Antrel Rolle just takes it. He’s a good player but only makes this list due to lack of other options. He thinks he is better than he actually is. He is very good in run support, but can make mental errors that lead to big plays in the passing game. He has very good games and then a bad game. I do appreciate that he is a very good playmaker and very dangerous when he has the ball in his hands.

4. Antoine Bethea (Indianapolis Colts)

Underrated and a very good player for the Colts. He is the perfect Colts defensive player; a reliable, athletic, football-smart player that flies to the ball. In his 5 seasons in the NFL, he has had two 100 tackle seasons and two 90+ tackle seasons, fantastic for a safety. He is arguably the surest tackling safety in the league. Although it would be nice to see him develop into a better playmaker especially his ball-hawking skills, he was worth the $27 million (4 year) contract extension he got in June 2010.

3. Nick Collins (Green Bay Packers)

Coming off a Superbowl where he had a huge pick-six, he gained the national attention that his play over the last few years have warranted. In my opinion, he is by far the 3rd best safety in the league. He does play in a very good defence but he has played on average to poor defences in the past and he played at a high level then. He is an above-average tackler and has outstanding range and ball skills. When he gets the ball in his hands he is dynamic too. Very good all-round safety entering his prime.

2. Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens)

Ed Reed is the probably the best deep zone ball-hawking safety in the history of the NFL. His range in the passing game is unbelievable and he has probably the best hands for any defensive back in the league. He rarely drops an interception opportunity. He is also known to be a big hitter and his open-field tackling is solid. His returning is one of the best the league has ever seen for a defensive player. He has 54 INTs and judging by his 8 INTs (to lead the league) in only 10 games last season, he will add a lot more to that tally. A certain hall of famer.

1. Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)

My favourite player in the league. You cant go wrong with either Reed or Troy but I chose Troy for his impact and versatility. There is nothing he can’t do. He is a tremendous blitzer, he makes crazy interceptions and (although he isn’t the classic big hitter) he is a crunching tackler, who specialises in below the knee wipeouts. He is the definition of a playmaker and his closing speed is unbelievable. The first quarter and a half of the 2009 season opener was the most impactful individual half-game performance I have seen. The fact that he can have such an impact on an already amazing Steelers’ defense is a credit to his unique talent.

Other Awards:

Overrated: Brandon Merriweather (Patriots) – He lost his starting job for the Patriots mid-season but made the pro bowl.

Underrated: Patrick Chung (Patriots) – The best safety on the Patriots and a less dynamic version of Nick Collins. A good all-round safety.

One for the future: Eric Berry (Chiefts) – Earl Thomas is a possibility here but Eric Berry just has more natural talent that Thomas does. Berry reminds me of a more talented Antrel Rolle. Future perennial pro-bowler.

Best of all time: Ronnie Lott (Longest Tenure: 49ers)– No arguments expected

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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in NFL, Sports


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