What makes up a good free safety? Range, speed, being a good tackler, being able to read the quarterback. These are all a big part of what the position requires. But who's the best?
We've set out to find the best free safeties in the NFL—based on how well they tackle, stop the run, cover deep, and come up to take on blockers. Each starter has been assessed as to how he exemplified those traits in 2011. The quest comes as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The 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, free safeties—are judged on their current skills and mechanics, based on film study of the 2011 NFL preseason and regular season only.
After hours spent scouting every starter and every potential starter, the top 32 free 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.