Continuing my positional rankings for the decade that was, safeties are up. I felt no need to break this into free and strong because most of these guys have played both at different times in their careers and if you investigate further you see the defensive scheme means a lot more than the free or strong label.
This was a tough position to break down with a lot of good candidates. Some guys who just missed out were Brock Marion, Antoine Bethea, Michael Lewis, Chris Hope, Kerry Rhodes, and the guy in the photo above, Bob Sanders. These guys either didn't have enough time in the league or just missed the cut for other reasons. Sanders' omission is obviously because of time missed.
Feel free to comment and let me know what you like or dislike about the list. Everyone's input is welcome. So without further ado, here is my top 10 from the last decade.
***UPDATE*** As always I listen to the readers and someone pointed out my terrible miss on Mike Brown so he has been added to the list at number eight. I would also like to include Sean Taylor in the honorable mentions, whom unfortunately left this world just as he was entering his prime.
Some people will call for him to be higher, but in my opinion he was one of the more overrated players of the decade; a big hitter who's lack of speed and coverage ability were big holes in that Cowboys defense for much of the decade.
He was, however, a very sound tackler who had a knack for putting a big hit on a guy at just the right time. Williams' big hits got him invites to five Pro Bowls and one first team All-Pro nod.
His stats for the decade were 434 tackles, 19 interceptions, nine forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks and three defensive touchdowns.
I was surprised that a guy who would be in everyone's top two cornerbacks of the 90s had enough time in to make this list, but he did.
In just four years this past decade Rod Woodson helped two teams get to the Super Bowl (winning one with Baltimore), went to three Pro Bowls, and got one first team All-Pro honor—all the while displaying the same leadership, solid tackling, and ball hawking skills that made him a Hall of Famer during his prime.
His stats for the decade are 231 tackles, 17 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns in 58 games played.
In my first version of this list I left Mike Brown off and that was a mistake. Even with all the injury issues in his career Brown has managed to play about 7 full season and most of them were very good years for him.
His stats for the decade include 497 tackles, 20 interceptions, seven sacks, eight fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and seven defensive touchdowns. Brown has been a first team All-Pro once and been o one Pro Bowl.
Maybe he will be remembered for allowing that catch (pictured), maybe he will be remembered for the HGH use, or the fact that his peers repeatedly voted him "dirtiest player in the NFL" in SI polls, at the end of the day, though, Harrison had a solid career with the Chargers and Patriots (as long as he wasn't using banned substances longer than assumed).
His stats for the decade include 578 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. He played in three Super Bowls (winning two) and one Pro Bowl in that span.
During the first half of the decade Wilson went unnoticed by many, playing in former NFL wasteland Arizona, but both he and the team have pulled it together the last five years or so and most of us took notice.
Wilson is a fierce hitter who also has good ball skills, and has always been a leader on that defense.
Wilson has been to three Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl and was once named first team All-Pro. His stats for the decade are 558 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 23 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and four defensive touchdowns.
John Lynch was like a linebacker in the secondary, with just enough coverage skills to be effective in the Cover 2 defense. He was a guy whose leadership was as important to his defenses as his abilities were.
Lynch went to seven Pro Bowls, was a first team All-Pro once, and helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first ever championship. His stats for the decade are 409 tackles, 13 interceptions, 9.5 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles.
Darren Sharper has had at least four interceptions in nine of the last 10 seasons, and had nine in three different seasons. He is also a solid tackler.
Sharper has been to five Pro Bowls and helped the Saints to their first ever championship this past season.
His stats for the decade are 574 tackles, 58 interceptions, 6.5 sacks, and 10 defensive touchdowns.
In my opinion Troy Polamalu is the best safety in the league right now. No one combines the level of ball skills, coverage skills, and tackling ability that he does.
Some call him injury prone, but the truth is before last year Troy had only missed eight games in the previous six seasons. He has been to five Pro Bowls and has twice been a first team All-Pro and Super Bowl Champion.
His stats for the decade are 345 tackles, 20 interceptions, seven forced fumbles and seven sacks.
Ed Reed is the definition of a ball hawk and turnover machine. No one has more interceptions or total turnovers as Reed does since he came into the league in 2002.
He has been to six Pro Bowls, was the 2004 DPOTY, and is a four time first-team All-Pro. He is, however, one of the two guys on this list who has not been to a Super Bowl.
His stats for the decade are 384 tackles, 46 interceptions, nine forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and eight defensive touchdowns.
Dawkins has been the ultimate team leader, as his bone jarring hits and good coverage skills have helped his defenses rank in the top 10 most of the decade. Even at the age of 36 he joined the Broncos last season and helped transform them from one of the worst to one of the best units in the league.
Some would move him down to two or three on this list I imagine, but he is the only one in the top three who has played the entire decade—that's what got him the top spot on my list.
His stats for the decade include 601 tackles, 24 interceptions, 17.5 sacks, 26 forced fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries. Dawkins is a seven time Pro Bowler and four time first-team All-Pro this decade.