NFL’s Top 15 Safeties: Ball-Hawks Lead the Bunch
1. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
For proof of Polamalu’s importance, look at the success of Pittsburgh’s defense with Polamalu healthy as compared to when he is out. We love DeMarcus Ware, but Polamalu may be the NFL’s best defensive player.
2. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens
Reed contemplated retirement this offseason, but it would be extremely difficult to walk away from the game when you’re playing at such a high level.
3. Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions
A second-year player with just two interceptions in his rookie season rated at No. 3? Mark it down: Delmas will be the game’s best safety within the next five years.
4. O.J. Atogwe, St. Louis Rams
This is why we wanted Jerry Jones to go after Atogwe so badly–we view him (and his 15 interceptions the last three years) as a humongous potential upgrade for Dallas. It looks unlikely now.
5. Brandon Meriweather, New England Patriots
Meriweather needs to improve in run support (he missed 10 tackles last year), but he hauled in five interceptions and is becoming a centerfield-type player.
6. Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals
Wilson used to be the league’s most underrated safety, but even casual fans now know he is the real deal. He used to be thought of as a pure run-stuffing guy, but his coverage ability is highly underrated.
7. Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints
Proponents of Sharper will scoff at him being this low on our list, but last season was a bit of a fluke for him. He is an aging player (albeit still an above-average one) who will show signs of decline in 2010.
8. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
Byrd led the league in interceptions as a rookie. Picks can sometimes be fluky, but you have to be in the right position a majority of the time to come down with nine of ’em.
9. Bob Sanders, Indianapolis Colts
When not injured, Sanders is a top three safety in the NFL. It is hard to put him behind guys like Jairus Byrd and Darren Sharper, but he is simply worth nothing to his team on the bench.
10. Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers
Collins is actually one of the NFL’s best run support/coverage combination safeties. He missed only three tackles all of last season (8.3%) and allowed only 13 receptions. He was also tied for fifth in the league in interceptions (among all players).
11. Yeremiah Bell, Miami Dolphins
Bell took Bethea’s Pro Bowl spot last year and has led Miami in tackles each of the past two seasons.
12. Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts
Bethea allowed just 13 receptions and one touchdown in all of 2009. He would have been a Pro Bowler if he didn’t go to the Super Bowl.
13. Chris Hope, Tennessee Titans
Michael Griffin makes the headlines in Tennessee (despite being one of the league’s worst safeties), but Bell is the secondary’s leader.
14. Thomas Decoud, Atlanta Falcons
Decoud is one of the league’s better tackling safeties, missing only 4.8% of tackles he attempted last season.
15. Tyvon Branch, Oakland Raiders
Branch had a breakout season in 2009 with 124 tackles. His pick total will increase in 2010 (especially since he had as many as me last year).