Editor's note: This is the 10th installment in Bleacher Report's NFL 1000 for the 2013 season. This signature series runs through April 24, with NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller ranking the best players at every position. You can read more about the series in this introductory article. See the NFL 1000 page for more rankings.
The safety position continues to evolve in the NFL. With each evolution, the men playing as the last line of defense become more and more important.
Need to stop the read-option? Get yourself a free safety with range and tackling ability. Need to slow down Calvin Johnson? Bracket coverage—a safety over the top and a cornerback underneath—is your only hope. No matter the offensive system, the best recipe for stopping it usually involves a great safety.
So who is the best safety?
You might prefer a rangy, athletic player like Earl Thomas. Or maybe you want a crushing hitter like Donte Whitner. No matter your preference, when you put them all together, it’s fascinating to see just who comes out on top. That’s what the NFL 1000 aims to identify. Throw out the narratives and the fantasy football stats, and dig into the film. Then we’ll see who is the best.
The B/R 1000 metric is based on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance, on a 100-point scale.
Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.
Safeties are judged on coverage (40 points), run defense (15), speed (25), tackling (20) and all of the technique, athletic ability and football intelligence needed to play the position.
In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.
Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators, with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.
All statistics from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Players' heights, weights and seasons from NFL.com.