Player Profiling: NFL Safety Rankings

Thom Cunningham@ThomBhombCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2009

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 18:  Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at the M&T Bank Stadium on November 18, 2007 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Ranking the leagues best players at the safety position, entering the 09' season

1. Ed Reed (BAL)

I believe Reed should've won league MVP last season. Baltimore's success last year obviously came from the defensive side of the football. Although Lewis is the true leader of that defense, Reed is the biggest play maker. He is a threat to pick any ball off at any time and can take it the distance with ease.

He is arguably one of the hardest hitting dudes and consistently produces every year. His speed, aggression and pure athletic talent make Reed one of the best safeties to ever play the game.

2. Troy Polamalu (PIT)

As a Steeler fan, it is hard to put Polamalu behind Reed. Troy is another defensive player who has MVP capabilities. He is always looking for a knock out blow that usually dismantles an entire offense's flow. His leaping ability and quick change in direction allows him to cover a majority of the field.

He is a threat when blitzing and a straight head-hunter on the field. He is always looking to make a big play anyway he can. His awareness, aggression, skill and reliability make Polamalu one of the most valuable players on defense today.

3. Adrian Wilson (ARI)

Other than Reed, Wilson is the most athletic safety in the league. He has the best leaping ability, which makes it tough for quarterbacks to throw deep on. His body size and speed combine for a dangerous threat for any receiver running his way. He does a good job of reading plays and not giving up big passing plays.

He is quick enough to position himself as a pass defender, then run up and stop the run at the line of scrimmage (sometimes the backfield). Wilson is another safety who is a threat in the blitzing game, and has proven he take over as a leader on defense.

4. Bob Sanders (IND)

Sanders is capable of making almost any play on the field. He has MVP quality talent with some of the best knowledge. Sanders is quick enough to come stop the run and can come from almost any direction on field.

He is a heat-seeking missile when plays are made underneath him, which makes him so dangerous. His pass coverage ability is not as strong as hit hitting game though, but the cover two defense allows him to play the zone decently for the most part.

His one-on-one coverage with receivers deep down the field is one way to beat this guy, but he does a good job of keeping everything in front of him where he is able to create a big play for his defense.

5. OJ Atogwe (STL)

OJ is a very underrated defensive back in the league. Maybe it's because he plays on the St. Louis Rams; but whatever the case, Atogwe is a big play maker who can give the needed spark to his team.

Atogwe is a very smart defender who sees the field very clearly. He understands what most receivers are trying to do in passing situations; and if he is able to make a play, he will. He is very reliable in the passing game and has the play making ability that surprises many teams.

I haven't seen much from him in the tackling game, but that could be due to my limited viewing of Rams' games last season. 

6. Laron Landry (WAS)

Landry is probably feared by every offensive player except Brandon Jacobs. Landry has the speed, acceleration and toughness to take out any receiver in his path. He is a threat for turnovers with his ability to force fumbles.

Landry can make interceptions, but his hitting game is overall better than his coverage skills. He rarely gives up big plays and usually makes good decisions on the ball. A reliable safety to have patrol your secondary and a tough mindset make Landry a top talent and play maker in the league.

7. Brian Dawkins (DEN)

I don't believe age is an issue with Brian Dawkins. He is still the same crazy, scary and determined player he was in Philadelphia. Dawkins can get to almost any spot on the football field with the mindset of crushing whoever is in his path.

Dawkins is not afraid of anyone and will take advantage of any clear shot opportunity. His ability to create turnovers has slowly disappeared each season, but he is still a threat to any offense.

Overall, Dawkins is a smart, reliable, proven leader that can help make any defense successful.

8. Michael Griffin (TEN)

This is another underrated safety who has killer instincts and amazing coverage skills. Griffin has developed into a smart and confident player with tons of talent around him to improve his success.

Griffin has come into his own at the safety position and could be a superstar in two or three more years. Griffin will put his head down to separate the ball from the receiver and has the ability to pick a lot of balls off.

He is a threat to individual receivers with his turnover abilities which makes him a serious opponent for other offenses.

9. Kerry Rhodes (NYJ)

Ranking Rhodes at number nine could be considered a low ranking. Rhodes is one of the more complete all around safeties in the game today. He has some of the best football knowledge and skill combined.

He understands what offenses like to do in certain situations and has already proven his reliability as a play maker on a consistent basis. He is always a threat to come up with big plays in crucial situations and can take advantage of any mistakes made by quarterbacks or receivers.

I still believe playing under Ryan will only enhance his game to the next level, which may be scary to think about. Rhodes is an under-the-radar player who is playing at a Pro Bowl status, but I think Ryan will bring out the absolute best in him (which I don't think we've seen yet).

10. Nick Collins (GB)

As much as I don't think Collins deserves a top ten ranking, he is better than the guys listed below him. He had the most interceptions in the league last year and can hit as well as some linebackers.

Collins is faster than what most people think and can surprise you with his ability to create big plays for his defense. His awareness is improving every year, which will make him a serious contender as a top safety.

I don't think Collins is a top safety right now, but his attitude and work ethic towards football makes him a very dangerous player in the future. He will never give up on a play and will take risks to make the big play. I would trust Collins as a reliable safety given a couple of more years of maturity.

Then I would be completely sold on Collins ability to help lead a defense deep into season on a consistent basis.

11. Reggie Nelson (JAC)

Nelson's biggest attribute is his athletic talent. His overall game took a step back last year, but he has the athletic talent and tough attitude to bounce back nicely. Nelson is a threat to make big plays from time to time, but not on a seriously consistent level. His leaping skills are impressive along with his hands and speed.

He seemed out of position on most plays last year and he played at an almost laid back approach. Nelson needs to be more aggressive this year, which he has proven to be in the past.

Overall, he as athletic and tough as they come; but that's where his mind needs to be this year where it wasn't last.

12. Antoine Bethea (IND)

Bethea struggled greatly towards the end of last year. He seemed out of position most of the time and could not tackle to save his life. As an overall safety though, Bethea is one of the smartest in the game with the skills to make everyone around him better.

He usually makes good breaks on the football and has some of the best pursuit skills as a defensive back. Bethea is a reliable player to be around the big play, but struggled to actually make it towards the end of last year.

13. Ken Hamlin (DAL)

Hamlin might be the most under-valued safeties in the league. Hamlin has one of the biggest builds in the secondary and can take off like a jet plane. His ability to come up and make a play on the run makes him a dangerous safety. He can take most receivers today one-on-one (from a tackling stand point) and has the athleticism to make big plays consistently.

Having DeMarcus pressure quarterbacks helps add to the success of his game and usually produces when given the opportunity more times than none. His attitude might surprise many; because whether he shows it or not, Hamlin plays with tons of fire and energy.

His coverage in the deep game is a bigger weakness than quality, but shouldn't take away from how good he really is from an overall stand point.

14. Jarrad Page (KC)

Page is actually a decent football player on the Kansas City defense. Page understands the game inside and out and does a good job of positioning himself on plays. I wish he had better corners or pass rushers around him to bring out his full potential.

His overall game to this point though is very under-looked. Page can cover as well as any safety today and can make a big play when you least expect it. His overall mechanics and fundamentals need work, but his overall game was so much better than it was at the beginning of the year.

Page is an improving player who was over-looked last season. This is a player who doesn't think too much, but goes where he is supposed to be and reacts well.

15. Jermaine Phillips (TB)

To me, Phillips is one of the most feared safeties. His strength is ridiculous along with his peed and desire to crush anything in his path. He runs downhill on almost every play and can create fumbles as well as any other safety.

His coverage skills are not as good as his hitting, but he still produces nicely for the most part. Phillips' speed is often over-looked as a serious threat in his arsenal, but the combination of his power and athletic talent make Phillips a target to avoid for many receivers going over the middle.

16. Donte Whitner (BUF)

Without a doubt Donte Whitner is the most over-rated safety today. Other than pick one or two balls off, what has he really done? His tackling skills are decent at best and his height makes him an easy target to throw over. His leaping ability doesn't make up for his height (like many other safeties or corners).

His coverage skills are overall solid, but he is out of position more times than none. I would put McKelvin and McGee over Whitner from an overall defensive back stand point.

Other than Whitner's speed and big (but usually irrelevant) play from time to time, I haven't seen anything displayed from Whitner that would make me think he is a serious safety to contend with in the league.

17. Antrell Rolle (ARI)

Rolle has the athletic talent to become a superstar in the league. He has some of the best speed and coverage skills in the game. The fact that he is lined up as a safety kind of gives him a head start when covering many receivers. He can make a big play when he is around the football, but needs to do a better job of play recognition.

Rolle's tackling is weak but continues to get better as the season moves on. Playing alongside with Wilson shouldn't hurt Rolle and playing on one of the most athletic defenses should only help elevate his game to a higher standard as he continues to learn the position ( remember he was a corner, so he is still transitioning).

18. Darren Sharper (NO)

Sharper is a reliable veteran who can still make big plays for any defense he is on. Sharper's covering skills are still as precise as they come and his ability to create interceptions hasn't faded either.

Sharper's speed continues to drop each season. Many receivers can out run Sharper if they run the right route. Any short-cut or sit-down routes ran near Sharper is guaranteed to be picked off or unsuccessful.

His ability to read plays is another quality he holds and can lead a young group of defensive groups for the most part. I don't know how consist Sharper can still be, but the defensive line in Minnesota is better than in New Orleans. His success might not be so consistent this year, but he should be overall solid for a majority of the season.

19. Tanard Jackson (TB)

Jackson in another safety on the rise because of his pure athletic talent. Jackson has some of the best toughness and play recgonition at such a young age. Playing next to Phillips gives Tampa two of the most feared safeties in the league.

Jackson makes nice breaks on the ball whether the play is short or deep. He is always looking to use his power to separate the ball from receiver (which I love from the safety position). He can work on his overall ability to cover receivers straight up, but overall he is a young talent with a bright future

20. Jim Leonhard (BAL)

This guy was brought to Baltimore with no intention of starting. Once Landry was hurt, Leonhard filled in for his role. Leonhard is one of the hardest playing safeties in the league. He has under-rated skills in every category. He is fast, quick, explosive and fearless. he has proven his play maker ability last year by picking off many passes that were in his range.

The talent around him bring out the best in Jim Leonhard and he could develop into a top safety in the league given confidence shown by the Baltimore organization.

21. Gibril Wilson (MIA)

Gibril is a proven winner with the ability to make big plays for a defense. Wilson's athletic talent is rare to find and he if the perfect player for a Bill Parcells' ran organization. Wilson's success came from his days in New York, and now that Parcells runs Miami, Wilson can adapt to a more comfortable atmosphere.

He is a hard working player with more talent than awareness. Wilson's weakness might come from the fact that he tries to do too much in certain situations (which can hurt a defense), but you'd much rather see a player do too much than too little.

22. Brandon Merriweather (NE)

Merriweather has all the athletic talent you want in a football player. He is fast, strong, has great leaping ability and a tough attitude. His awareness should be higher than what it actually is right now. I am not concerned about his job this season or next, but to say he has secured his role as a long-term safety for New England is ridiculous.

Merriweather's knowledge of the safety position needs to improve rather than his overall football knowledge.

23. Tyrell Johnson (MIN)

The league is full of young athletic safeties that are superstars of the future, Tyrell is another. His ability to hit and his height make him a threat to many receivers trying to hit deep to intermediate routes.

His focus and determination improves each year along with his confidence. His coverage skills need to be worked on (now that Sharper is gone).

I don't think he can take over the safety position for a team right now, but he has the mentality and physical skill to do so in the future.

24. Deon Grant (SEA)

Grant is a reliable player who can come up with big plays from time to time. He is obviously well passed his prime, but can continue to be a successful piece to any defense.

Grant reads the field better than many safeties; and if he had the speed, could make a play on many balls. He usually breaks well enough on players to wrap them up, but his ability to get in front of receivers fast enough are long behind him.

Still an effective player to have, just not as effective as he has proven to be.

25. Madieu Williams (MIN)

This is a good replacement for Sharper's departure. He is a fundamental player with more athletic ability than knowledge. Williams is a safety who does the little mechanics correctly.

He usually positions himself to make smart decisions, but has a habit for trying to do too much at one time. Although he is a great talent, Williams (from time to time) will try to make a play that he has no business of even trying. That can hurt defenses a lot of time, but he is now on a team that will give him way less responsibilities.

I like Williams filling in Minnesota, but the should keep an eye on him and possibly start preparing to replace him in the near future.

26. Sean Jones (PHI)

Jones has the opportunity to become a breakout player this season. He is now on a great defensive team with a great coordinator who will use him to his potential. As far as what I've seen from him in Cleveland, Jones is a talented safety with the potential to become great. He is strong, physical and can cover pretty decently.

His overall aggression and attitude seemed laid back in Cleveland, but that might change with his new team. Plain and simple, this is a player with tons of potential who was just in a bad situation in Cleveland.

From what he displayed in Cleveland, it is hard to rank him any higher; but don't be surprised if he played like a Pro Bowl talent (because he is more than capable).

27. Eugene Wilson (HOU)

Wilson is a solid safety who can make a big play for your defense every now and then. He is well past his prime when he played in New England, but he might need to become a more dominant player in Houston.

Wilson has the ability to take over and lead a secondary, but as of recent years he hasn't. Injuries are the main concern with Eugene Wilson; but overall he is still a solid and reliable player who can hit and cover very well.

28. Brodney Pool (CLE)

Here is an athletic talent that has yet to prove himself as a reliable player short-term or long. His pure athletic talent, I think is what is keeping this man a starter. He has great speed and size but uses it completely wrong.

His fundamentals and awareness is some of the worse, but all of that is fixable. Pool is a player with tons of potential from a talent stand point, but other than that he has a lot to work on if he wants to continue as a starter in this league.

29. Dawan Landry (BAL)

Although Leonhard won his starting role, Dawan Landry is still one of the most productive safeties out there. His combination of toughness and speed help overlook the challenges he faces with his height. Landry can start for almost any team in the league, let alone a back up for Baltimore.

Landry brings a great attitude and work ethic to the field and his play reflects that. His overall talent and determination make Landry a dangerous player to face, but not as serious as some of the best.

30. Ryan Clark (PIT)

Clark played extremely well toward the end of last season. Honestly, it was the best ball I've seen from him. He played fearless and confident with almost a chip on his shoulder. He is an intelligent safety with limited athletic ability.

Clark has turned into a crazy dog over the years, delivery an unorthodox style to his game. He has tendencies to get beat deep down the field, but can make big plays when needed. An overall reliable defender, but can give up big plays just as much as he can make them.

31. James Butler (NYG)

Another reliable player who does a good job of filling his role. Butler does what is asked of him and has some of the best raw talent. His aggression and confidence is lacking, which can separate him from becoming an under-the-radar player to a top name.

He can hit just as well as many safeties and rarely misses tackles. His coverage skills are par, but the defensive line he has elevates his success to a high level. Butler is a complete player that could be more dangerous if he went all out every play every week.

32. Quintin Mikell (PHI)

Mikell had a decent season last year, but not a spectacular one. His quickness and agility separate himself from most safeties and plays with a lurking attitude. He seems like he knows what he is going to do before he does it and sets up receivers to make mistakes.

His tackling skills improved the more I watched him and has the skills set to become a top defender next season. He needs to prove his consistency this year though, especially now that Dawkins is no longer playing next to him. Mikell will have to step up as the leader, which I think he will given time.

33. Danieal Manning (CHI)

Here is another corner converted safety. Manning has some of the best coverage skills in the game along with speed. As a safety, I'm not sure how this will work. I haven't seen any aggression from Manning's game in the past, but he does have big play capabilities that can hurt offenses if they over-look him.

Manning can pop out of nowhere to make big plays on the football, but he will have to prove he can do it consistently at the safety position rather the corner.

34. Atari Bigby (GB)

You could rank Bigby higher, but he didn't play well at all last season. He was injured from time to time, but Bigby played much better two years ago rather than last season. He can still hit as good as they come and has great acceleration to make a play on the ball. His quickness lacks compared to many receivers, so it is easy to take him out of position and throw over him.

His hustle and determination, along with his once proven skill, still makes Bigby a solid safety. If Bigby has one or two more years like last year though, he won't be the starter in Green Bay much longer.

Overall he has as much athletic talent and potential to become a reliable number one for any team, I just don' think we saw anything remotely close to that last year.

35. Jordan Babineaux (SEA) 

I am being very generous giving Babineaux this high a ranking. He has struggled more times than be successful and hasn't proven anything since signing that big deal a few years back.

36. Erik Coleman (ATL)

Coleman might be the new leader of the Falcon secondary. A reliable player who does what is asked. His level of crunkness surprised me last year.

37. Eric Weddle (SD)

An over-rated safety to say the least. He is fast enough to pursuit quickly but if supported heavily buy the talent around him.

38. Josh Bullocks (NO) 

His impact during games comes and goes. He continues to get older, but can still come through for defenses from time to time.

39. Will Allen (TB) 

He has under-achieved a majority of his career, but has been playing confident and more aware in recent years. Another former corner making the transition to safety.

40. Kenny Phillips (NYG) 

A very athletic kid with a lot of awareness in his arsenal. After looking over the past two lists I created, I think the Giants secondary is the most under-rated.

41. Jason Allen (MIA) 

A reliable veteran whose athletic talent does not match his actually football talent.

42. Paul Oliver (SD) 

He has gotten much bigger than his days in Georgia. His speed and athletic talent are some of the best and now that he has size, he could be taking Hart's starting spot by the end of the season.

43. William Moore (ATL) 

Should surprise many this year. An athletic talent with a positive attitude can make Moore a dangerous player next season. If he can play confident and smart, then Moore will be just fine. A great candidate for defensive rookie of the year.

44. Mike Brown (KC) 

His ability as a main threat for opposing offenses are long gone. The best he can do is fill into a role and play hard football. That could go either way for him at this point.

45. Michael Huff (OAK)

Huff has been a disappoint in his career so far, but not as bad as people say. He is still a physical player with a great attitude and approach to the game. If he could only create more big plays than his job might be a little more secure.


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