Right now the NFL is flush with talent at the safety position. While there have been years past where there were greater stars, the NFL has a depth of really good players at the position. In the post Ed Reed/Troy Polamalu era, the position has rebounded nicely. However, there isn’t a safety in the game today that I’d put on the level of Reed or Polamalu.
All of the safeties in the top tier exhibit incredible instincts and big play ability. They are all also versatile enough to plan man to man against tight ends and pick up responsibilities that other safeties just can’t handle. These are the plays who are always being selected to All-Pro teams or are in consideration for awards like Defensive Player of the Year.
I’m not actually including Chancellor on the list as an official entry because it seems like his NFL career is over. That being said, he hasn’t officially retired, and I feel like he deserves recognition for how good he was.
There are some players here who, you could argue, belong in the first tier, but I still believe there is a big enough gap between Collins and Berry to separate them, for now. All of these guys are phenomenal players who garner attention and All-Pro nods often. Each one of them has established their own brand of greatness in the NFL and on their own teams.
Third tier safeties are always valuable players but never really receive much consideration for season awards and sometimes aren’t even the best player on their own defense. These guys also get passed up often for All-Pro bids. While it’s easy to see some of the second tier players moving into the top tier, it’s harder to envision these guys doing the same.
Quin is basically a perennial Pro Bowl snub at this point and falls just outside the rankings of the most elite safeties in the game. I expected more from Mathieu at this point, especially after his 2015 campaign where he almost won the Defensive Player of the Year award. Maybe moving the Houston will get him back on track. Clinton-Dix is another really good safety who just can’t seem to make the jump to becoming a great safety. He has all the talent and tools he needs to do so.