Under appreciated at times in NFL history, the safety position is now en vogue. So who are the ten best at the position?
#10 – Devin McCourty – New England Patriots
Things really didn’t get going for Devin McCourty until the New England Patriots switched him to free safety. Since then he has become one of their best playmakers. He tackles, he covers and he forces turnovers. At age 26 his transition to the position should be complete and his performance should only improve.
#9 – T.J. Ward – Denver Broncos
His Pro Bowl nod in 2013 was a testament how good T.J. Ward is. Overcoming early injury struggles in his career, he became a fixture in a sea of swirling sands that is the Cleveland Browns. Now he’s in a more stable home with the Denver Broncos and has Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware in front of him. Career numbers may be headed his way.
#8 – Antoine Bethea – San Francisco 49ers
He’s not always flashy on the highlight reel but Antoine Bethea is just a great NFL player who does his job right. Not missing a game since 2007 at such a demanding position is impressive enough, but to average of 100 tackles per year as a safety is a testament to his toughness and ability to limit big plays.
#7 – Eric Berry – Kansas City Chiefs
Much of the defensive success for the Kansas City Chiefs last year went to their defensive front, but they wouldn’t have been nearly as good if they didn’t have Eric Berry on the back end. A true hybrid type, he can climb into the box to play the run, drop back in coverage, blitz and take interceptions back for touchdowns as he did in 2013.
#6 – Antrel Rolle – New York Giants
Missing just one game since 2006, Antrel Rolle takes consistency to a different level. Teammates can always count on him to be in the right position, to direct the secondary properly, and most importantly to make the play. A two-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion, he is what every defensive coordinator wishes for.
#5 – Kam Chancellor – Seattle Seahawks
One of several amazing secondary additions by the Seattle Seahawks over the past four years, Kam Chancellor is probably the most overlooked. This despite the fact he may have been the one who deserved the MVP honors in the Super Bowl. Runners can’t escape his grasp and his long frame is kryptonite for quarterbacks to throw near.
#4 – Troy Polamalu – Pittsburgh Steelers
Injuries are part of NFL life and Troy Polamalu has experienced his fair share but the Pittsburgh Steelers captain continues to soldier on. An eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, Polamalu defied age in 2013 with 69 tackles, five forced fumbles and two interceptions while not missing a game.
#3 – Jairus Byrd – New Orleans Saints
Teams forever seek the safeties who are savaants when it comes to forcing turnovers. That is why Jairus Byrd was such a hot commodity in NFL free agency. Through five seasons he has 22 interceptions and 11 forces fumbles. Now with the New Orleans Saints, he will have a chance to swell that total by playing with a few more leads, courtesy of Drew Brees.
#2 – Eric Weddle – San Diego Chargers
It doesn’t seem to matter if the San Diego Chargers have no pass rush and no corners. One way or another Eric Weddle is in the right place at the right time. He is one of those guys who not only can do a little of everything, but does them really well. Extremely intelligent, a great leader and a four-time All-Pro.
#1 – Earl Thomas – Seattle Seahawks
Many argue he should’ve been NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and they would’ve had a strong case. Earl Thomas snared five interceptions, made over 100 tackles and was the brains behind arguably the best defense seen in over a decade. If his third-straight Pro Bowl wasn’t enough validation, winning the Super Bowl and shutting down the best offense in history certainly was.