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Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 20 Safeties

Mike PendletonCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2017

Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 20 Safeties

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    In fantasy football, safeties are the defensive equivalent of a tight end. The best tight ends are the playmakers, and the same goes for the safeties. 

    While they won't get much love in leagues with Individual Defensive Players (IDPs), these are the top players at that position that could be valuable in the long run.  Tackles, fumbles, and interceptions are key for safeties.

    Now take a look inside the top 20*, and you can debate on some names and some sure things.  These are the best options for your fantasy football team.

    *One tie on this list makes the list have 21 players so, it's technically your top 21.

No. 20: Earl Thomas, Seahawks

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    Thomas, a rookie, was taken by Seattle in the first round this year after a magnificent two-year career for the Texas Longhorns. Thomas is undersized but his heart can't be measured.

    In his Longhorn career, Thomas had 134 tackles, 10 interceptions and five forced fumbles making him a top pick in this year's draft. How much he can do for the Seahawks is unknown, but Thomas's potential is known.

    He can do wonders, but for the first year it'll be hard to determine how many. Take Thomas in keeper leagues and if you're in a one-year IDP, he can be a good second safety for your team. 

No. 19: Brandon Meriweather, Patriots

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    One of the few true defensive stars for the New England Patriots, Meriweather can be valuable for many reasons. As a true play maker, he will bring you more points than the ordinary tackle-machine safety.

    Last season, Meriweather had 83 tackles, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Making plays for the Patriots defense is Meriweather's job, and no one else is taking away the opportunity.

    Meriweather's low tackle numbers might have you shy away from him, but his big play making ability makes up for it. Draft Meriweather as either your second safety or a backup and you'll be in great shape.

No. 18: Kenny Phillips, Giants

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    The first injured star of last year to make this list. With Antrel Rolle now rocking Giants blue, Phillips, who is coming off a knee injury, may benefit as the "Robin" in this duo.

    Last season before injury, Phillips had thirteen tackles and two interceptions in only two games. Another key note is that Phillips' two interceptions came against the Cowboys' Tony Romo.

    Each week, Phillips will face some of the best quarterbacks in the league which means more opportunities to make big plays. It also means more chances to get burned. Phillips should be a viable option at safety for backup purposes.

No. 17: Erik Coleman, Falcons

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    Unlike Meriweather, Coleman is a tackling machine. The seventh year safety for the Falcons is a big leader for a young and upcoming defense.

    Last season, Coleman had 116 tackles and two forced fumbles. No interceptions hurt, but he makes up for it by making the big tackles.

    Coleman may have many games of six tackles or more, which means on a game-to-game basis, he might average six to eight points a game. Not bad for a single player on the defensive side.

No. 16: Troy Polamalu, Steelers

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    If for no other reason, I would draft Polamalu for his hair. The hair that also just got insured for $1 million. While Polamalu himself doesn't come with the same insurance policy, he will bounce back just fine from last year's injury.

    Or so fantasy owners and Steeler fans hope. Last year, Polamalu had 20 tackles and three interceptions. Missing twelve weeks of action last season really hurt the Steelers defense.

    If healthy, Polamalu will be an overlooked pick who can produce. Take a chance on him, but just remember his injured knee can always be re-injured. Risk takers will pick him before the regular IDP owner. Polamalu is a regular in IDP leagues and hopes to return to old form.

No. 15: Antrel Rolle, Giants

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    Yes, that is Rolle diving for the end zone, making a play for his new team, the New York Giants. With new scenery and a change of team comes more opportunities for Rolle to make plays.

    Last season, Rolle had 72 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble. With teammate Kenny Phillips (No. 18), Rolle won't have to make all the big plays, but when he has the opportunities, he will.

    Drafting Rolle is only smart for backup or secondary purposes. He's not a big time tackler and not a big time play maker. If given the opportunity, he will produce.

No. 14: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Rams

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    One of the most coveted restricted free agents is back with his team. The Rams locked up O.J. Atogwe to make sure they had their star key defensive player.

    Last season, Atogwe had 74 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions.  With the big play making ability by Atogwe, the Rams and fantasy owners have one of the most underrated safeties in football.

    Drafting Atogwe is smart if you want to stack up other positions, as he will provide big numbers. The tackles may not be there but he will make plays on the ball that will bring fantasy owners reliable numbers.

No. 13: Darren Sharper, Saints

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    No one wants to say it, but Sharper is one of the main reasons the Saints went to the Super Bowl. On every team he has been on, Sharper has made an effective impact.

    Last season, his impact was 71 tackles and nine interceptions. While there were no forced fumbles, Sharper had the ability to read the quarterback and make plays on the ball.

    He is coming off knee surgery and is not guaranteed a starting spot when he comes back. A key veteran knows how to earn his spot back. Draft Sharper with caution, but there is much value in this safety who may not be around for much longer.

No. 12: Dawan Landry, Ravens

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    Landry is one of the most underrated, productive players in the league at the safety position. Playing for a renowned defense in the Baltimore Ravens, Landry has value.

    Last season, Landry had 89 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble. With Ed Reed out for some time, Landry will have to be the playmaker for the Ravens.

    Drafting Landry could be valuable if he produces at the same level he did last year. The fumbles and interceptions don't come often but when they do, they are valuable.

No. 11: Kerry Rhodes, Cardinals

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    A huge jump for this former Jet: Following a trade from the Jets to the Arizona Cardinals, Rhodes steps in to a better system and situation for his style of play.

    Rhodes had an under-performing season on a team that he didn't fit on last year. With 63 tackles last season and three interceptions, Rhodes is looking to improve.

    With teammate Adrian Wilson, who will find himself on this list, Rhodes should benefit from not having to make all the big plays. He will make the big plays and once again become a household name among safeties in the NFL.

No. 10: Brian Dawkins, Broncos

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    Old, but healthy. Washed up?

    Not quite.

    In his first season with the Broncos since leaving the Eagles, Dawkins had a great season for a defense that needed him most.

    With 116 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble, Dawkins cracks the top 10. With Elvis Dumervil out, Dawkins becomes the main force for the Broncos D and will need to make plays.

    Having to make plays is what fantasy owners love to hear. He's already a tackling machine and if Dawkins can have more fumbles and interceptions then last year, he will be a viable, reliable, and deadly option at safety.

No. 9: Dashon Goldson, 49ers

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    For great defensive players, the key is to be coached by a great defensive coach. For Goldson, he has the perfect coach for the job, being coached by the great, former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary.

    Last season, Goldson had 94 tackles, four interceptions, and three forced fumbles. The 49ers defense is a very touted and feared crew, and Goldson is one of the leaders of that crew.

    Drafting Goldson as your number one safety isn't a bad idea, but remember that Patrick Willis is the key defensive star. With two of his players in the top ten, Goldson and Willis, Mike Singletary is letting the NFL and fantasy world know, his guys can play.

No. 8: Adrian Wilson, Cardinals

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    Finally with someone who can make plays, Wilson finds himself near the top of this list. With Kerry Rhodes in town (No. 11), Wilson becomes a very scary option for fantasy owners as his stock has risen.

    Last season, Wilson didn't make many big plays but when he did, he made them count. He had 74 tackles, five interceptions, and one forced fumble. On a team that lost its offensive leader, a lot will rely on the defense.

    With that said, Wilson's time to shine is now. He will have many opportunities to make more plays and more impact plays. Many won't draft Wilson this high, but his upside is what brings him here.

No. 7: Tyvon Branch, Raiders

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    A once injured star is now healthy. Branch had to overcome a lot of aches and pains to find himself this high on this list. But Branch is here, and for good reason.

    A tackling machine is the best way to describe Branch, who had 124 tackles and two forced fumbles for a Raiders defense that is underrated. With more experience under his belt, Branch will easily be one of the best safeties in fantasy football.

    With all that said, Branch is someone that will get taken within the top picks. If you miss out on the others, take Branch as he will provide tackle numbers. The fumbles and interceptions may not come, but Branch makes up for it with his multi-tackle games.

No. 6: Eric Berry, Chiefs

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    I know, I'm crazy. A rookie at six is very high, especially since the other top rookie safety is all the way down at 20. Berry's upside is unheard of, his play making ability is unreal, and his opportunities are endless.

    In his three-year career at Tennessee, Berry had 241 tackles, fourteen interceptions, and two fumbles forced. With not much talent on the defensive side for Kansas City, Berry will see many plays for himself.

    His addition makes this list leave out a few names, a few big names as well. Upside is the name of the game and Berry's upside is unteachable.  Draft Berry high especially in keeper/dynasty leagues.

No. 5: Louis Delmas, Lions

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    Many will shake their heads at this placing, but Delmas wants his actions to be as loud as his words. Proclaiming this offseason that the Lions will have a better season and make the playoffs is a bold statement.

    His play is also another bold statement. Last season, he had 94 tackles and two interceptions for a Lions defense that needed him badly.

    Delmas is another player with huge upside. If he can remain healthy, he can easily play up to this ranking. Many won't draft him at five but he can sure reach this spot.

No. 4: Roman Harper, Saints

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    Why not? While he hasn't been a stat filler in every department, Roman Harper will actually benefit from the time that Darren Sharper may miss. Harper is part of the Saints, the Super Bowl champions so he knows what it takes to win.

    Last season, Harper had 102 tackles and two forced fumbles. While the interceptions didn't come thanks to Sharper, Harper still has plenty of upside to bring him to the top of this list.

    Sharper and Harper sound like some type of cleaning company. Well, these two clean up messy plays with their own big plays. Draft Harper, but just know that when Sharper returns, he may take away some big plays.

No. 3: Yeremiah Bell, Dolphins

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    More than just a reliable source, Bell produces big time at the tackle department. Big time producers are what make NFL players great fantasy football players.

    Last season, Bell had 114 tackles and three interceptions. With a renovated Miami defense, Bell should find himself with less pressure. Less pressure means more opportunities to make plays on his own.

    Bell may not be the most attractive player for some reason, but his play is. Draft Bell if you can't get one of the top players as he will produce. Ugly or beautiful, as long as you perform, you're valuable in fantasy football.

No. 2: Eric Weddle, Chargers

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    Upside, upside, and oh did I mention upside?

    Weddle certainly won't be taken as one of the top safeties, but his upside makes him valuable. A big playmaker for the Chargers defense, if there's one reliable player on the team, it's Weddle.

    Last season, Weddle only had 82 tackles and two interceptions while battling a tough season. He wasn't always at top strength or the top of his game, but Weddle has had a great camp and looks to improve.

    If you want someone who can produce for a full season and for more than one season, Weddle will be your guy. He won't get past the top five for too long, but no matter where he is, if you need a safety and he's available, take him and don't look back.

No. 1: (Tie) Bernard Pollard, Texans

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    Bernard Pollard was a name no one had at the top of their list before last season, especially when he was cut from the Kansas City Chiefs. Following his release, Pollard signed on with the Texans and everyone laughed at Kansas City.

    While playing thirteen games for the Texans, Pollard had 102 tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble. His play was astonishing and unheard of for someone in that short of time.

    Pollard is a definite top pick and a definite keeper if you have him in a keeper league. The Texans have an underrated defense and with an underrated player like Pollard, they will continue to thrive.

No. 1: (Tie) Jairus Byrd, Bills

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    The true number one. There may be some confusion here as some sites have Byrd listed as a corner, but his true position is safety. One of the most eventful playmakers in the league on defense, Byrd is a sure bet to go in the top three picks.

    Last season, while the tackles weren't there—he only had 45—there was a more important key stat that made Byrd the best fantasy player in IDP leagues. That stat was his combined seven interceptions between Weeks 5 and 8. 

    Byrd is now a true safety in most leagues and should be the top pick. He has more than upside. His talents can't be duplicated, and he'll have more than enough opportunities to make plays for the Buffalo Bills and, more importantly, fantasy owners.

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