NFL defenses have had to adjust schemes and personnel formations as NFL offenses have increased passing tendencies by 63 percent since 1977, per HammerTheOver.com. To combat the increased emphasis on passing to be an effective offense, defensive backs have seen their value go up in recent years.
Since 2002, 18 safeties have been selected in the first-round of the NFL draft. Defensive coordinators have had to use more athletic and versatile safeties to combat spread offenses, which often feature athletic tight ends as glorified receivers.
Not only do top safeties need to be fast and fluid enough to cover slot receivers, but they also need to be big and strong enough to challenge tight ends who run seam routes.
The emergence of bigger, more versatile offensive weapons has caused the safety position to see massive spikes in guaranteed contracts. There are currently 32 safeties in the NFL with $5 million or more guaranteed in their contract, which is the fifth-highest amount of all 22 starting positions.
Only two teams ran the ball for a majority of their snaps in 2013, per Team Rankings, which is less than half of the amount of teams that did so in 2003. Expect that trend to continue as collegiate players enter the league with more experience in spread systems than ever before.
There are a lot of talented safeties in the NFL now that there is a higher emphasis and investment on the position. Let’s take a look at the top 10 most talented tandems in the league. Although statistics are useful, the film is more indicative of where these duos land.