B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Strong Safeties

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 23, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 32 Strong Safeties

0 of 32

    When you think of a strong safety you might think of a punisher. Someone who sits back in the secondary and when the ball is revealed he crashes through the ball carrier like a Mack truck. And while that is part of what a strong safety does, it's not quite all of it.

    We've set out to find the best strong safeties in the NFL, based on how well they tackle, stop the run, cover deep and come up to take on blockers.

    To find out who's best, we've determined what makes up a great strong safety and how well each 2011 starter represents those traits. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The new series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    B/R 1,000 rankings don't assess who had the best year, or even who has the most potential. Rather, players—in this case, strong safeties—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based solely on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season.

    After hours spent scouting every starter and potential starter, the top 32 strong safeties have been scored on 10 criteria (more on the criteria here). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

     

    Note: Some players lined up at both free and strong safety during the 2011 season. Players were ranked at the position they played most, according to game tracking done by our friends at ProFootballFocus.com

32. Antrel Rolle, New York Giants

1 of 32

     

    Agility

    10
    A great all-around athlete with elite quickness and change-of-direction skills. Rolle does a great job in space and has the quickness GMs love.

    Run Defense

    7.5
    Good enough, but there is room for improvement. Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose.

    Blitz

    4
    Can be easily re-routed by running backs. Doesn’t close well on the ball. Not a great open-field tackler.

    Range

    4.5
    Could improve awareness by not being looked off by the quarterback.

    Coverage

    2
    Close to being a bottom-barrel player in coverage. Rolle has to work on awareness and reaction time.

    Tackle

    6
    Is a good tackler, but will whiff as well by being too high and not closing in to take on the ball-carrier.  

    Ball Skills

    6
    Capable of using his raw talent to disrupt pass plays, but is not always on the ball.

    Speed

    9
    Has legit 4.4 to 4.45 speed on film. Is able to close on the ball at any distance. Has the speed to be a factor in pursuit.

    Completion Percentage

    1
    Based on opponents' completion percentage (not completions allowed), was among the worst in the NFL when passers targeted his player or zone.

    Health

    10
    A solid, reliable player.

    Overall

    60
    Rolle is well known, but his actual play on the field doesn't back up his reputation. The Giants could look for a better strong safety who is more of a factor in coverage.

31. Dawan Landry, Jacksonville Jaguars

2 of 32

     

    Agility

    6
    Slightly above average, would be a higher score with a shiftier frame and better open-field moves. Can be slow to react.

    Run Defense

    5
    Not great, and not horrible. Will make tackles in the run game but also misses too many and will be left hugging air at times. 

    Blitz

    7
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of getting to the quarterback isn’t good enough to warrant a higher grade.

    Range

    5
    Has average closing speed, and could benefit from better flexibility to quickly flip his hips and run.

    Coverage

    5
    Allows a fair amount of completions, but can be a good player in coverage. Much better sitting back in a zone than being asked to lock up one on one.

    Tackle

    8
    Strong at the point of attack but doesn’t have the elite technique to earn a higher score. Doesn’t make many mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Above average when asked to go get the football. Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and his average interception and pass-defense numbers reinforce what we saw on film. He’s good, but not a playmaker. 

    Speed

    6
    Above-average speed, but this is not an area of strength. Can be outrun to the corner and will struggle to cover ground.

    Completion Percentage

    2
    Quarterbacks may actually look for Landry in coverage and throw at his man. Did a poor job getting between the ball and the receiver.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game with injury in 2011. 

    Overall

    60
    Landry has good overall skills, but his lack of impact in coverage is a big trouble spot. As NFL teams move to more spread-out offenses, strong safeties must be able to hold their own against backs and tight ends. Landry, as of now, does not.

30. James Ihedigbo, New England Patriots

3 of 32

     

    Agility

    6
    Doesn’t always play under control, but the quickness and balance is there. Shows poor body control at times.

    Run Defense

    7
    Good enough, but there is room for improvement. Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose. Lack of agility and speed can be an issue.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer.

    Range

    5.5
    Has average closing speed and could benefit from more agility in changing direction. Not a liability.

    Coverage

    7
    Has the tools to be a difference maker in coverage but could be better at staying with his man. Will lose concentration at times, resulting in completions.

    Tackle

    5
    Merely average at finding the ball, dropping his weight and running through the ball-carrier. Could improve with better speed and more experience.

    Ball Skills

    4
    Runs a bit hot and cold. Will make a big play one game, but may disappear for a few after that. No interceptions and just two passes defensed all year.

    Speed

    5
    Purely average at the position, Ihedigbo probably would have a 40 time of 4.55 to 4.60 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Struggles with burst.

    Completion Percentage

    5
    Average at finding the football in zone coverage. Could do a better job reaching for the ball when locked up in man coverage.

    Health

    10
    Always ready to go.

    Overall

    62.5
    Ihedigbo played well down the stretch for the Patriots, but he's not a long-term option as a starter. Will be a nice sub-package safety and an ace on special teams.

29. Jordan Babineaux, Tennessee Titans

4 of 32

     

    Agility

    6
    Would be a higher score with a shiftier frame and better open-field moves. Can be slow to react.

    Run Defense

    7.5
    Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is solid. 

    Blitz

    6
    Is a player the team is comfortable blitzing, but needs to show better awareness and agility to change direction and attack the passer. 

    Range

    6
    Is more likely to get there in time for the tackle, not the interception.

    Coverage

    6.5
    Will lose concentration at times. Can be a difference maker, but has also been exploited.

    Tackle

    4
    Would like to see improvement here, as too many attempts are arm tackles or the big “kill shot” that results in fines and missed tackles.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and his average numbers in interceptions and passes defensed reinforce what we saw on film. 

    Speed

    5
    Not much burst and average straight-line speed.

    Completion Percentage

    5.5
    Above average numbers and play in 2011. He needs to be a second quicker at reading the ball and making his jump on the route.

    Health

    10
    No meaningful injuries in 2011. 

    Overall

    62.5
    Babineaux is very average in every category. He is a solid player, but no one thing wows you on film. His run defense comes in handy in the AFC South.

28. Mistral Raymond, Minnesota Vikings

5 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    A good, but not great athlete. Would score higher with better quickness and more fluid movements in space.

    Run Defense

    3
    Will attempt weak arm tackles on occasion, but often disappears and looks disinterested in run defense. Has to get better here to ever be a long-term option as a starter.

    Blitz

    8
    Has all the qualities of an athlete who can attack the line but needs to improve his tackling in the open field.

    Range

    6.5
    Has the instincts and tools in the open field to make plays on the ball consistently.

    Coverage

    9
    There’s a lot to like here. Could do better pivoting to run with would-be receivers, but that’s being incredibly picky.

    Tackle

    4
    Too many arm tackles and fine-tempting shots. 

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there, but is not a big factor in interceptions or passes defensed.

    Speed

    6
    Can be outrun to the corner and can't cover enough ground.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Above average numbers and solid play, but sometimes a step slow.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game with injury in 2011. 

    Overall

    64.5
    A solid up-and-comer, Raymond graded out very well when asked to lock down a player in coverage. Once he improves as a run stopper and increases his awareness, Raymond's stock will be on the move up.

27. Chris Crocker, Cincinnati Bengals

6 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    A good athlete. Stiff hips and heavy feet at times. 

    Run Defense

    3
    Doesn't appear to give his all in run defense, limiting his future as a starter in a run-heavy division.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer. Needs to improve his tackling in the open field.

    Range

    6.5
    Shows good change-of-direction skills to adjust and make plays on the ball. 

    Coverage

    9
    Close to perfect, Crocker would have a “10” if he was just a little better at staying with tight ends and backs in man coverage. His zone play is exceptional.

    Tackle

    4
    Would like to see improvement here, as too many attempts are arm tackles or the big “kill shot” that results in fines and missed tackles.

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there, but is not a big factor. 

    Speed

    6
    So-so speed limits his range and ability to get to the corner.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Needs to be a second quicker reading and reacting.

    Health

    10
    Reliable in 2011.

    Overall

    64.5
    Crocker has the potential to be much better than his 2011 season indicated. Many times he was close to making a big play or a saving tackle, but just missed. If the Bengals roll with Crocker at strong safety in 2012, they'll be okay.

26. Sean Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    Lacking something in the quickness department, but overall solid.

    Run Defense

    3
    Biggest weakness. Needs to assert himself here and offer more than weak arm tackles.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. Can attack the line, but needs to improve his tackling in the clear.

    Range

    6.5
    Shows good change-of-direction skills, but slow hips lower his score.

    Coverage

    9
    There’s a lot to like here. Only lacks the speed to turn and run with elite receivers.

    Tackle

    4
    Would like to see better technique, smarter tackling. Arm tackling and "kill shots" lead to misses and penalties.

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there. 

    Speed

    6
    Can be outrun to the corner and will struggle with his range due to a lack of speed.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Lack of quickness, awareness impairs his ability to jump routes.

    Health

    10
    Injury-free in 2011.

    Overall

    64.5
    Jones had a decent year, and is one of those under-the-radar players who won't receive big headlines but plays well enough to remain a starter. Would like to see better tackling, but he did great in coverage when asked to lock down tight ends and backs.

25. Laron Landry, New York Jets

8 of 32

     

    Agility

    10
    A great all-around athlete with elite quickness and change-of-direction skills. Landry does a great job in space and has the quickness GMs love. How he recovers from a torn Achilles will be the difference maker.

    Run Defense

    10
    A lock-down tackler who lives around the football. Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack the ball.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer.

    Range

    6
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of making plays on the ball could be higher. Is more likely to get there in time for the tackle, not the interception.

    Coverage

    4.5
    Allows a fair amount of completions, but can be a good player in coverage. Much better sitting back in a zone than being asked to lock up one on one.

    Tackle

    8
    Strong at the point of attack, but doesn’t have elite technique. Doesn’t make many mistakes. Violent at times. 

    Ball Skills

    1
    Is simply not a factor to make plays on the ball and come away with an interception. 

    Speed

    10
    Sprinter-style speed, Landry timed below 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash. 

    Completion Percentage

    3
    Near the bottom in terms of completion percentage allowed. Has to be more aware and do a better job getting in position. Ideally, an in-the-box safety.

    Health

    5
    Landry suffered an Achilles injury in 2011 that shut him down for eight games.

    Overall

    65.5
    Landry's limited 2011 will put his 2012 season in question now that he's a member of the New York Jets. Landry has world-class talent, but he needs to concern himself more with technique and film than being a body-builder.

24. Major Wright, Chicago Bears

9 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    There is a lot to like, but needs to consistently show better hips and feet to bump his score higher. 

    Run Defense

    7
    Good enough, but there is room for improvement. Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose.

    Blitz

    8.5
    Does a great job closing on the ball. Has the quickness, strength and fire to attack the quarterback.

    Range

    6
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of making plays on the ball could be higher.

    Coverage

    6
    Grades out above average in coverage, but runs hot and cold. 

    Tackle

    8
    Strong and aggressive. Technique is a weak spot.

    Ball Skills

    7
    Had solid numbers in 2011, but missed on some opportunities due to limited speed and range.

    Speed

    7
    Has enough speed for most plays, but can’t always chase from behind. 

    Completion Percentage

    3
    Too often out of position.

    Health

    7
    Wright sat out four games in 2011 with injury.

    Overall

    66.5
    A player I had expected to grade out higher, Wright has very good potential, but his coverage skills and range hurt his overall score. As did the four games he missed with injury.

23. Charles Godfrey, Carolina Panthers

10 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    A very good athlete, but not quite at that elite level. 

    Run Defense

    8
    A good inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid.

    Blitz

    6.5
    A solid blitzer when asked to go, but doesn't always demonstrate an ability to get to the passer.

    Range

    6.5
    Quicker hips would improve his score.

    Coverage

    4
    Can be picked on by good quarterbacks. Is easy to look off and get running away from the target.

    Tackle

    4
    Would like to see improvement here, as too many attempts are arm tackles or the big “kill shot” that results in fines and missed tackles. 

    Ball Skills

    7
    Solid in 2011, but missed on some opportunities due to limited awareness and range. 

    Speed

    9
    Has legit 4.4-4.45 speed on film. His speed is a major benefit to the team.

    Completion Percentage

    5
    Average at finding the football when in zone coverage. Could do a better job reaching for the ball when locked up in man coverage.

    Health

    9
    Godfrey missed one game during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    67
    Had a solid 2011 season, but he's yet to really improve. A player with his speed and agility should be making more plays than Godfrey did for the Panthers last year.

22. Chris Harris, Detroit Lions

11 of 32

     

    Agility

    9
    A top-tier athlete with few peers. Grades out near perfect with his only flaw being slow feet at times in changing directions.

    Run Defense

    6
    A solid run defender, but will miss tackles you expect a player of his caliber to make. Can be a factor, but isn’t consistent.

    Blitz

    1
    What we consider a “reject” grade at the position. Not a factor in blitz packages.

    Range

    8
    Shows very good range. Has no trouble extending 10 yards once the play is read to break up a pass or shut down the run.

    Coverage

    9
    Close to perfect, Harris would have a “10” if he was just a little better at staying with tight ends and backs in man coverage. His zone play is exceptional.

    Tackle

    2
    Will let too many players run through weak arm tackles. Has to be stronger at the point of attack. 

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there, but is not a big factor. 

    Speed

    9
    Able to successfully close on the ball at most any distance. 

    Completion Percentage

    8
    Getting close to the top of the NFL. With more experience, a higher score is possible in 2012.

    Health

    10
    No issues.

    Overall

    67
    A coverage safety with good range and awareness, Harris' biggest weakness is his tackling ability and run defense. He's great when you're asking him to fade back and break on the ball, but you don't want him creeping into the box.

21. T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns

12 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    A  “plus” level player.

    Run Defense

    7
    Can be dominant, but there is room for improvement. Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose.

    Blitz

    4.5
    Would like to see more aggression at the point of attack. Can be easily re-routed by running backs. 

    Range

    6.5
    Shows good change-of-direction skills to adjust.

    Coverage

    6
    Can be a difference maker, but has also been exploited at times.

    Tackle

    10
    A pure hitter who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and jar the ball loose. The best in the game at the safety position.

    Ball Skills

    1
    Is simply not a factor to make plays on the ball. A tackler, not a coverage guy.

    Speed

    10
    Ward timed below 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash. 

    Completion Percentage

    8
    Has the skills and range.

    Health

    6
    Ward missed six games due to injury during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    67
    A fierce tackler who has a knack for knocking receivers senseless over the middle, Ward needs to take the next step and develop as a cover man. To date, he is a great athlete with tackling skills. 

20. Charlie Peprah, Green Bay Packers

13 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    There are few flaws to note, but could improve his pivots in coverage.

    Run Defense

    6.5
    Can be passive.

    Blitz

    7
    Gives the effort, but doesn't get the results often enough.

    Range

    6
    Is more likely to get there in time for the tackle, not the interception.

    Coverage

    4
    Can be a liability in coverage. Doesn’t always keep up with his man. 

    Tackle

    8
    Strong at the point of attack, but doesn’t have the elite technique to earn a higher score. 

    Ball Skills

    8
    Can go up and wrest the football from the receiver. 

    Speed

    5
    Struggles with burst.

    Completion Percentage

    5
    Average at finding the football when in zone coverage.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game with injury in 2011.

    Overall

    67.5
    Peprah is a solid backup strong safety for Green Bay, and given a chance, he could see a bigger role in nickel packages. Peprah isn't great, but he's better than many starters in the NFL today. 

19. Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions

14 of 32

     

    Agility

    8

    Would be just about perfect if he could change directions more quickly.

    Run Defense

    7
    Good enough, but should be more aggressive.

    Blitz

    7
    A threat here, but rarely delivers.

    Range

    7
    Shows good change-of-direction skills to adjust and make plays on the ball. 

    Coverage

    8
    Doesn’t allow many completions when he’s in the area.

    Tackle

    3
    Lacks skills to make a play in the open field.

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a big play one game but may disappear for a few after that.

    Speed

    7.5
    Has enough speed to make an impact, but can’t always chase from behind. 

    Completion Percentage

    8.5
    Delmas has very good coverage skills and enough speed to get in the way of a quarterback's plans.

    Health

    8
    Has struggled to stay healthy and missed time in 2011.

    Overall

    69
    More of a free safety, Delmas played at strong safety in 2011. He has a load of potential, now it's time to realize it. He does a good job staying around the ball, but doesn't make many big plays. He is also poor in tackling and in attacking the run game. 

18. Yeremiah Bell, Miami Dolphins

15 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    Lacks the quickness and fluidity of an elite player.

    Run Defense

    6.5
    Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose.

    Blitz

    7
    Doesn't get to the quarterback enough, but gets close.

    Range

    6.5
    Quicker hips would improve his score.

    Coverage

    8
    Has the speed to turn and run with tight ends and backs.

    Tackle

    6.5
    Is a good tackler, but will whiff being too high or too passive.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and his average numbers reinforce what we saw on film.

    Speed

    7
    Tardy in pursuit, but otherwise does the job. 

    Completion Percentage

    5
    Rarely makes the big play.

    Health

    10
    Injury-free.

    Overall

    69.5
    Recently released by the Miami Dolphins, Bell is a solid, middle-of-the-road starter who could be an upgrade for most teams. He's a solid athlete who can make his fair share of plays, but will also give up yards and big plays.

17. Deon Grant, New York Giants

16 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    Better than adequate but could be quicker and more fluid.

    Run Defense

    8
    A good inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid.

    Blitz

    6
    Is a player the team is comfortable blitzing, but needs to show better awareness and agility to change direction and attack the passer.

    Range

    7
    Usually can change direction and get to the ball in time, but his skills may be beginning to regress.

    Coverage

    9
    There’s a lot to like here. Would want to see better hips to flip and run with would-be receivers, but that’s being incredibly picky. Grant can be a major factor in coverage.

    Tackle

    4
    Would like to see improvement here, as too many attempts are arm tackles or the big “kill shot” that results in fines and missed tackles.

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there, but is not a big factor or a player you would ever expect to lead the NFL in interceptions or passes defensed.

    Speed

    8
    Excellent burst at the snap, but not elite straight-line speed. Would put Grant in the high 4.4 range. There aren’t many players he can’t catch.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Above average numbers in 2011, needs to be a second quicker at reading the ball and making his jump on the route.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game in 2011.

    Overall

    70
    Among the better players in the NFL at staying with his man, Grant is more likely to make the tackle immediately after the catch than to make a great play on the ball. He's an underrated athlete who was a much better player than the more hyped Antrel Rolle in 2011.

16. Steve Gregory, New England Patriots

17 of 32

     

    Agility

    6
    Slightly above average, would be a higher score with a shiftier frame and better open-field moves. Can be slow to react.

    Run Defense

    7
    Good enough, but there is room for improvement. Doesn’t always attack the ball and can be slow to diagnose.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer.

    Range

    6.5
    Decent ability to get where he needs to.

    Coverage

    7.5
    Strong enough to play in press coverage. There aren’t many quarterbacks who successfully challenge Gregory. 

    Tackle

    8
    Strong at the point of attack, but doesn’t have the elite technique to get a higher score. Doesn’t make many mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Above average when asked to go get the football. He’s good, but not a playmaker.

    Speed

    7
    Grades out in the low 4.5 range if he were to run a 40-yard dash today. Can't always catch carriers from behind.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Slightly better than average, Gregory needs make his read and get his jump more rapidly.

    Health

    9
    Gregory missed one game during the 2011 season with an injury.

    Overall

    71
    Gregory is the type of all-around safety NFL teams want. He has above-average skills in every category and is a talented blitzer and run defender.

15. Bernard Pollard, Baltimore Ravens

18 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    There is a lot to like, but stiff hips and heavy feet at times keep his score from being higher. 

    Run Defense

    8
    A good inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid.

    Blitz

    7
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of getting to the quarterback isn’t good enough to warrant a higher grade.

    Range

    7
    Shows good change-of-direction skills to adjust and make plays on the ball.

    Coverage

    7
    A nice coverage safety, and perhaps underrated, Pollard is quick to react and has the footwork to make plays on the ball.

    Tackle

    6
    Is a good tackler, but will whiff as well by being too high and not breaking down to take on the ball-carrier.

    Ball Skills

    5
    Will make a play here and there, but doesn't scare any defenses.

    Speed

    7
    Never a burner. Has enough speed to be an impact, but can’t always chase from behind. 

    Completion Percentage

    8
    Getting close to the top of the NFL, Pollard has very good coverage skills and the range to be a factor. 

    Health

    10
    No problems to speak of.

    Overall

    72
    A hard hitter and intimidator in the secondary, Pollard does a great job separating receivers from the ball. He lacks elite speed, but has good range and instincts once the ball is snapped.

14. Kurt Coleman, Philadelphia Eagles

19 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    Given time in an NFL weight room, he could improve.

    Run Defense

    8
    A good inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid.

    Blitz

    7.5
    Has all the qualities of an athlete who can attack the line but not in space.

    Range

    7
    Added experience will help.

    Coverage

    7
    Has the tools to be a difference maker in coverage

    Tackle

    6
    Technique needs work.

    Ball Skills

    8
    Can go up and get the football, and has a good skill set to separate the defender from the ball. 

    Speed

    7
    Can get into position, but not always an asset in pursuit. 

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Coleman needs to anticipate pass plays better.

    Health

    9
    Coleman missed one game due to injury.

    Overall

    72.5
    Coleman was thrown to the wolves during the 2011 season, and the results weren't always pretty, but his overall ability shows he's ready for a rebound in 2012. He is athletic enough to compete with elite tight ends, and strong enough to be a factor in the run game.

13. William Moore, Atlanta Falcons

20 of 32

     

    Agility

    9
    Exceptional athlete who shows some small stiffness when changing direction. Still, one of the best in the game among safeties.

    Run Defense

    7.5
    Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid. Attacks the ball.

    Blitz

    6
    Is a player the team is comfortable blitzing, but needs to show better awareness and agility to change direction and attack the passer.

    Range

    7.5
    Has the speed in the open field to make plays on the ball consistently. Does a good job finding angles on the fly.

    Coverage

    7
    An up-and-comer. A nice coverage safety, and perhaps underrated, Moore is quick to react and has the footwork to make plays on the ball.

    Tackle

    7.5
    Strong at the point of attack, but doesn’t have the elite technique to have a higher score. Doesn’t make many mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    7
    Had solid numbers in 2011, but missed on some opportunities due to limited experience.

    Speed

    10
    Sprinter-style speed, Moore timed below 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Has the burst and speed teams fall in love with; has the speed to catch players from behind.

    Completion Percentage

    5
    Average at finding the football when in zone coverage. Could do a better job reaching for the ball when locked up in man coverage to limit receptions.

    Health

    7
    Moore missed four games during the season with an injury.

    Overall

    73.5
    William Moore is one player I would be willing to bet is higher next season. Moore's 2011 season was marred with injury, but when he was on the field, big things happened. As he learns and grows in the Atlanta system, Moore has the potential and athleticism to be elite.

12. Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts

21 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    A very good athlete, but not quite at that elite level. Is still an advantage for his team and a “plus” level player.

    Run Defense

    9
    Not afraid to lower his shoulder and jump into the hole, Bethea is among the best in the game at shutting down the run. 

    Blitz

    4
    Has some ability as a pass-rusher, but don’t expect many sacks or takedowns behind the line of scrimmage.

    Range

    7
    Shows good change-of-direction skills to adjust and make plays on the ball. Quicker hips and better angles would improve his score.

    Coverage

    7.5
    Has the speed to turn and run with receivers. Does a good job recognizing routes and keeping himself in position to make a play on the ball. Doesn’t allow many completions when he’s in the area.

    Tackle

    9
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, he can take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    4
    Runs a bit hot and cold. Will make a big play one game, but may disappear for a few after that. Gambler.

    Speed

    9
    Has legit 4.4-4.45 speed on film. Is able to successfully close on the ball at any distance. His speed is a major benefit to the team. Has the speed to be a factor in pursuit.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Above-average numbers and play last year, Bethea needs to be a second quicker at reading the ball and making his jump on the route.

    Health

    10
    A solid, reliable player.

    Overall

    73.5
    One of the few bright spots on a terrible season for the Colts, Bethea could benefit greatly from a better supporting cast. Often times he was left stretching to make plays to cover up for poor support from his teammates. Bethea is on the right track for a great 2012.

11. Brian Dawkins, Denver Broncos

22 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    A very good athlete, but not quite at that elite level. Is still an advantage for his team and a “plus” level player. Impressive considering his age.

    Run Defense

    8
    A good inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Not afraid to lower his shoulder and jump into the hole.

    Blitz

    10
    Among the best in the game at coming off the edge to disrupt the backfield. A player who strikes fear in the opposition.

    Range

    6.5
    Is more likely to get there in time for the tackle, not the interception.

    Coverage

    8.5
    Has the speed to turn and run with receivers. Does a good job recognizing routes and keeping himself in position. Doesn’t allow many completions when he’s in the area.

    Tackle

    8.5
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, Dawkins can take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    2
    Dawkins is a hitter who plays in the box. Doesn't drop into deep coverage very often. 

    Speed

    7.5
    Dawkins has seen his speed regress slightly, but makes up for this with great awareness.

    Completion Percentage

    7
    Does a good job breaking on the ball and can separate passes, but isn’t quite a top-tier player in this category anymore.

    Health

    8
    Dawkins missed three games during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    74
    An all-time great at the position, age has started to take its toll on Dawkins' ability. He's still a player to be feared, but Dawkins' impact is not what it once was.

10. Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints

23 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    A good, but not great athlete. Would score higher with better quickness and more fluid movements in space.

    Run Defense

    10
    A lock-down tackler who lives around the football. Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack the ball.

    Blitz

    10
    It's impressive just how good Harper is at getting to the quarterback. Among the best in the game at coming off the edge to disrupt the backfield.

    Range

    6
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of making plays on the ball could be higher. Is more likely to get there in time for the tackle, not the interception.

    Coverage

    6
    Does a fair job attacking the ball and limiting completions, but can be sought out by quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to challenge him.

    Tackle

    7
    Will duck his head too often, but is otherwise solid in the open field. Can be a good chase tackler.

    Ball Skills

    3
    Gambles too often, resulting not only in completions, but often in big yardage after the catch. 

    Speed

    6
    Above average speed, but this is not an area of strength. Can be outrun to the corner and will struggle with his range due to a lack of speed.

    Completion Percentage

    9
    Just shy of the elite category. Does a very nice job in coverage, better than expected even. Can be a factor at knocking down passes, intercepting the ball, and even limiting the chances a quarterback will take.

    Health

    10
    Good to go.

    Overall

    74
    An elite safety when asked to stop the run and blitz, Harper isn't much help in coverage. The Saints need a hard hitter in the box, and that's what Harper does best. He could improve his range and awareness in 2012.

9. Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears

24 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    A good, but not great athlete. Would score higher with better quickness and more fluid movements in space. There is a lot to like, but stiff hips and heavy feet at times keep his score from being higher.

    Run Defense

    8
    Solid inside/out tackler who has the range and speed to find the ball and attack at an angle. Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid.

    Blitz

    7.5
    Upper-level success rate of getting to the quarterback, but isn’t quite good enough to warrant a higher grade.

    Range

    7.5
    Has the talent in the open field to make plays on the ball consistently. Shows good awareness and quickness in the open field.

    Coverage

    7
    A nice coverage safety, and perhaps underrated, Steltz is quick to react and has the footwork to make plays on the ball.

    Tackle

    9
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, Steltz can take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    7
    Had solid numbers in 2011, but missed on some opportunities due to limited speed and range.

    Speed

    6
    Above average speed, but this is not an area of strength. Can be outrun to the corner and will struggle with his range due to a lack of speed.

    Completion Percentage

    7
    Does a good job breaking on the ball and can separate passes, but isn’t quite ready to be a top-tier player. Is among those on the verge of being elite. 

    Health

    9
    Battled a hip injury early in the year.

    Overall

    75
    One of the most underrated players at his position, keep an eye on Craig Steltz in 2012 as he moves into a full time starting role. Steltz has the ability to be a shutdown playmaker at the strong safety position.

8. Quintin Mikell, St. Louis Rams

25 of 32

     

    Agility

    7
    Can be a bit stiff-hipped. A good overall athlete who isn't exposed often.

    Run Defense

    8
    Will miss a few, and can struggle to chase at times, but is very solid. A hard hitter who enforces the middle of the field.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer. Has all the qualities of an athlete who can attack the line, but needs to improve his tackling in the open field.

    Range

    7.5
    Has the speed in the open field to make plays on the ball consistently. Has no trouble extending 10 yards once the play is read to break up a pass or shut down the run.

    Coverage

    9
    His zone play is exceptional; there’s a lot to like here. Would want to see better hips to flip and run with would-be receivers, but that’s being incredibly picky.

    Tackle

    5
    Has very good impact, but is merely average at finding the ball, dropping his weight and running through the ball-carrier.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and his average numbers reinforce what we saw on film. He’s good, but not a playmaker.

    Speed

    7
    Has enough speed to be an impact, but can’t always chase from behind. Grades out in the low 4.5 range if he were to run a 40-yard dash today.

    Completion Percentage

    8
    Getting close to the top of the NFL, Mikell has very good coverage skills and the range to be a factor. With (better) support and more experience, a higher score is possible in 2012.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game with injury in 2011.

    Overall

    75.5
    Quintin Mikell had a down year in his first season with the Rams, but expect a comeback in 2012 once he's familiar with the system and more in tune with the play-calling. Mikell is a freelancer, and he took too many gambles with a poor supporting cast in 2011.

7. Gerald Sensabaugh, Dallas Cowboys

26 of 32

     

    Agility

    9
    Exceptional athlete who shows some slight stiffness when changing direction. Still, one of the best in the game among safeties.

    Run Defense

    5
    Not great, and not horrible. Will make tackles in the run game, but also misses too many and will be left hugging air at times. 

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher, would like to see a little more flexibility in his hips to turn the corner. An attacking blitzer.

    Range

    7.5
    Shows very good range. Has no trouble extending 10 yards once the play is read to break up a pass or shut down the run.

    Coverage

    8
    Has the speed to turn and run with receivers. Does a good job recognizing routes and keeping himself in position to make a play on the ball. Doesn’t allow many completions when he’s in the area.

    Tackle

    7.5
    Will duck his head too often, but is otherwise solid in the open field. Can be a good chase tackler.

    Ball Skills

    6
    Above average when asked to go get the football. Doesn’t stand out from the crowd, and his average numbers reinforce what we saw on film. He’s good, but not a playmaker.

    Speed

    9
    Has legit 4.4-4.45 speed on film. Is able to successfully close on the ball at any distance. His speed is a major benefit to the team. Has the speed to be a factor in pursuit.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Above-average numbers and play this year, Sensabaugh needs to be a second quicker at reading the ball and making his jump on the route.

    Health

    10
    No issues.

    Overall

    76
    Sensabaugh won't receive mention on all-pro teams, but breaking down the film of what he actually accomplished in 2011, and you see a player who played at least on an above-average level in every area. 

6. Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers

27 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    There are few flaws to note, but he could be quicker at changing direction and more fluid in flipping his hips.

    Run Defense

    8.5
    Not afraid to lower his shoulder and jump into the hole, Whitner is among the best in the game at shutting down the run. 

    Blitz

    7
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of getting to the quarterback isn’t good enough to warrant a higher grade.

    Range

    7
    Nearing the top level for the position, Whitner shows good awareness and quickness in the open field.

    Coverage

    6.5
    Grades out above average in coverage, but runs hot and cold. Can be a difference maker, but has also been exploited at times.

    Tackle

    9
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, can take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    7
    Had solid numbers in 2011, but missed on some opportunities due to limited chances as an in-the-box safety.

    Speed

    10
    Sprinter-style speed, Whitner has been timed below 4.40 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Has the burst and speed teams fall in love with. Has the speed to catch players from behind.

    Completion Percentage

    4
    Will give up too many completions when in man coverage. Lack of coverage experience is an issue, and NFL quarterbacks know it.

    Health

    10
    No meaningful injuries in 2011.

    Overall

    77
    Whitner enjoyed the best season of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, who finally let him be the dominant in-the-box safety he is built to be. Whitner was a force against the run, and were it not for disappointing coverage numbers, he would have been a top three strong safety.

5. Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks

28 of 32

     

    Agility

    8
    A very good athlete, but not quite at that elite level. Is still an advantage for his team and a “plus” level player.

    Run Defense

    10
    A lock-down tackler who lives around the football. Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack the ball.

    Blitz

    8
    A very good pass-rusher who is an attacking blitzer. Has all the qualities of an athlete who can attack the line, but needs to improve his tackling in the open field.

    Range

    7.5
    Shows very good range. Has no trouble extending 10 yards once the play is read to break up a pass or shut down the run.

    Coverage

    8.5
    There’s a lot to like here. Would like to see better hips to flip and run with would-be receivers, but that’s being incredibly picky.

    Tackle

    7.5
    Can be a factor in stopping the run, but would like to see better skills when making attempts in space. Will go for the hit over the tackle at times.

    Ball Skills

    8
    Doesn’t show great hands for the interception, but is able to get between the receiver and the ball to defend passes.

    Speed

    5
    Purely average at the position, Chancellor projects to a 40-time of 4.55 to 4.60 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Struggles with burst.

    Completion Percentage

    7
    Does a good job breaking on the ball, and can separate passes, but isn’t quite ready to be a top-tier player. Is among those on the verge of being elite.

    Health

    9
    Sat out one game due to injury during the 2011 season.

    Overall

    79.5
    An elite run stopper and blitzing artist, Chancellor's lack of elite speed is the biggest concern to date. He plays more like an outside linebacker in the Seattle defense, so his limited range isn't as much of an issue. If he can extend his range through experience and awareness, watch out.

4. Tyvon Branch, Oakland Raiders

29 of 32

     

    Agility

    10
    A great all-around athlete.

    Run Defense

    9
    Not afraid to lower his shoulder and jump into the hole. He is among the best in the game at shutting down the run. 

    Blitz

    7.5
    Can attack the line, but needs to improve his tackling in the open field.

    Range

    8
    Has the speed in the open field to make plays on the ball consistently.

    Coverage

    5
    Allows a fair amount of completions, but can be a good player in coverage. Much better in a zone than man on man.

    Tackle

    10
    A pure wrap-up tackler who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and disrupt the player from the ball. The best in the game at the safety position.

    Ball Skills

    4
    Will make a big play one game, but may disappear for a few after that.

    Speed

    10
    Has the speed to catch players from behind.

    Completion Percentage

    6
    Not great at anticipating and getting there ahead of the ball.

    Health

    10
    Played all 16 in 2011.

    Overall

    79.5
    Branch received the franchise tag from the Oakland Raiders, showing just how committed the Silver and Black are to their strong safety. Branch, as may be expected, is an elite athlete with the range to cover the entire field. As he improves, there's plenty of room to grow.

3. Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals

30 of 32

     

    Agility

    9
    Exceptional athlete who shows some stiffness when changing direction.  

    Run Defense

    10
    Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack the ball, which he does.

    Blitz

    7
    Does everything you’d want at the position, but his success rate of getting to the quarterback isn’t good enough to warrant a higher grade.

    Range

    8.5
    Like a great center fielder, he will sit back and read the ball and then attack. It’s a rush to watch him operate in space.

    Coverage

    10
    Able to be a shutdown force in coverage. Keeps opposing quarterbacks from attempting to throw into his zone. Is a player teams game-plan around due to his ability in man coverage.

    Tackle

    6
    Is a good tackler, but will whiff as well by being too high and not breaking down to take on the ball-carrier.

    Ball Skills

    7
    Had solid numbers in 2011, but missed on some opportunities. Can go up and get the football, and has a good skill set to separate the defender from the ball. 

    Speed

    7
    Wilson has seen his speed regress slightly, but makes up for this with great awareness and toughness.

    Completion Percentage

    10
    Does a great job limiting completions when he’s in coverage. Near the best in the game at keeping quarterbacks in check.

    Health

    10
    Clean bill of health.

    Overall

    84.5
    Long recognized as one of the elite safeties in the NFL, Adrian Wilson still has it. He's a versatile threat who can punish receivers and also lock down tight ends in coverage when needed. Few players have his all-around ability.

2. George Wilson, Buffalo Bills

31 of 32

     

    Agility

    10
    Able to quickly shift direction and close on the ball. Shows ability with the ball in his hands, too.

    Run Defense

    10
    A lock-down tackler who lives around the football. Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack.

    Blitz

    6

    Is a player the team is comfortable blitzing, but needs to show better awareness and agility to change direction and attack the passer.

    Range

    9
    Is able to chew up yards when going to the football—both on the ground and through the air. Has very good closing speed.

    Coverage

    7.5
    Strong enough to play in press coverage. There aren’t many quarterbacks who successfully challenge Wilson. 

    Tackle

    9
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, Wilson can take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes.

    Ball Skills

    8.5
    Can go up and get the football, and has a good skill set to separate the defender from the ball. Shows great hands for the interception.

    Speed

    10
    Wilson is much faster than many may notice. 

    Completion Percentage

    7
    Does a good job breaking on the ball and can separate passes, but is only on the verge of being elite. 

    Health

    8
    Wilson missed two games during the 2011 season with injury.

    Overall

    85
    Wilson's first half of 2011 was one of the best performances by a safety I've seen in the last few years. And then his play started to slip as offenses figured out the Bills scheme. Wilson's overall ability shouldn't be marred by the play of his team. He's an elite safety with his sights set on becoming the best.

1. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

32 of 32

     

    Agility

    9
    A top-level athlete who stands apart from the crowd, shows some small stiffness when changing direction. Still, one of the best in the game among safeties.

    Run Defense

    10
    A lock-down tackler who lives around the football. Has the speed and instincts to quickly attack the ball. Ideal when playing up around the line of scrimmage.

    Blitz

    9
    When the quarterback sees Polamalu coming on a blitz, an audible or protection change will be called. Is a threat to get to the backfield and make plays.

    Range

    9
    Patient and deadly. Will sit back and read the ball and then attack. It’s a rush to watch him operate in space.

    Coverage

    8.5
    Does a good job recognizing routes and keeping himself in position to make a play on the ball. There’s a lot to like here. Would want to see better hips to flip and run with would-be receivers, but that’s being incredibly picky.

    Tackle

    9
    A clean tackler who doesn’t let many players get by him, can easily take down guys in the open field without issue. Very few mistakes. A big hitter.

    Ball Skills

    10
    Polamalu is a player who is always around the ball. Whether it’s an interception, a pass breakup or a tackle right after the catch, he’s always there.

    Speed

    8.5
    Doesn’t have world-class speed, but is among the faster players at his position. Runs at a solid projection of a high 4.4 in the 40-yard dash.

    Completion Percentage

    8
    Getting close to the top of the NFL, Polamalu has very good coverage skills and the range to be a factor. With (better) support and more experience, a higher score is possible in 2012.

    Health

    10
    Did not miss a game with injury in 2011. A solid, reliable player.

    Overall

    91
    Simply the best. Polamalu has set the tone for what a strong safety in the NFL should look like (minus the hair) and how they should play. His overall ability, be it against the run or deep in coverage, is what NFL scouts and general managers look for in the position.