2012 Top Ten Safeties: Woodson Joins Reed and Polamalu in the Elite Safeties
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1. Ed Reed - Ravens
Reed may be the most instinctual and intelligent defender in football, and he still has the athleticism to be the NFL's most accomplished ballhawk. Reed has excellent vision for the entire field, and has a constant effect on a game from a tactical and athletic standpoint.
Polamalu's age and injuries are starting to catch up with him, but he is still is a offensive coordinator's biggest headache. Polamalu's ability to line up all over the place is a huge advantage for the Steelers, and his playmaking instincts and abilities continue to make him one of the best defenders in football.
Still among the best nickel cornerbacks in football, he debuts on the safety list as he will play strong safety in the Packers' base defense. Woodson has lost speed, but he is among the best and most instinctual of defensive backs in run defending and in interior coverage. He projects as an elite safety.
4. Eric Weddle - Chargers
Weddle has emerged in the last few years to be regarded as a Pro Bowl safety. Weddle is well rounded, combining solid tackling with very strong coverage. He is a reliable player who will make few mental mistakes and has no major weaknesses.
5. Earl Thomas - Seahawks
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Thomas's play from last season suggests he may become the best safety in the NFL one day. Thomas has great athleticism, which allows him to be very good in all roles as a free safety. He has strong instincts already, and should emerge as an All-Pro safety with a few more years experience.
6. Eric Berry - Chiefs
Berry suffered a major injury last season, but his outstanding rookie season seems to indicate he may become an All-Pro safety. Berry is the prototypical safety, having the strength to play at the line and the athleticism for a variety of coverage responsibilities.
7. Kam Chancellor - Seahawks
Chancellor is almost a LB/DB hybrid, but performed very well in pass coverage for the Seahawks this season. Combine that with his outstanding size and strength for the position, and Chancellor can be considered an elite NFL safety.
8. Antoine Bethea - Colts
Bethea is among the most accomplished run defenders of NFL safeties, and will be relied on heavily in Indianapolis' rebuilding. Bethea can be relied upon to stop huge gains on the ground. While not an excellent defender in coverage, he has the instincts to not get picked on by QBs.
9. Adrian Wilson - Cardinals
Wilson made a name for himself as a unique safety—an elite box safety with the athleticism to function pretty well in coverage. Wilson will give up some catches, but is excellent in jump ball situations, and can deliver devastating hits.
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10. Dashon Goldson - 49ers
Goldson has improved dramatically recently and has become a very good NFL safety. He is a major contributor to the celebrated 49ers defense, displaying great range and agility in coverage, while also having relatively strong tackling ability.
Jairus Byrd - Bills: emerging safety who is among the NFL's best ballhawks.
Tyvon Branch - Raiders: a well-rounded and reliable safety given a variety of responsibilities.
Danieal Manning - Texans: reliable and effective part in a much improved defense in Houston.
Michael Griffin - Titans: needs consistency, but an excellent safety at his best.
Antrel Rolle - Giants: a well-rounded safety who has been very valuable in the Giants' scheme.
Malcolm Jenkins - Saints: talented young safety with a lot of upside going forward.
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