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    NFL Safety Rankings 2024: How Do Jevon Holland, Jessie Bates, and Antoine Winfield Jr. Stack Up?

    Playmakers litter the top of PFN's NFL safety rankings. Who's the best safety in the league heading into the 2024 season?

    Versatility is the name of the game for NFL safeties in 2024. As teams start to deploy more big nickel and dime personnel packages that bring more safeties onto the field, players at the position have to be able to do a little bit of everything to provide value.

    Who’s the best safety in the league, and who makes up the top 32 at the position? Here are PFN’s NFL safety rankings heading into next season.

    Offense: QB | RB | WR | TE
    Defense: EDGE | DT | LB | CB

    Who Is the Best Safety in the NFL?

    Note: None of the safeties selected in the 2024 NFL Draft made this list, as there isn’t enough data. However, we’ve added a section highlighting some of the more notable rookies at the end.

    1) Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    A Swiss Army knife in the Buccaneers’ secondary, Antoine Winfield Jr. spent most of his time in the slot in 2022 before shifting back to a traditional free safety role in 2023. His willingness and ability to make an impact against the run will always keep slot duties on the table, but Winfield is at his best on the back end.

    The former second-round pick filled up the stat sheet last season, leading the league with six forced fumbles while adding three interceptions and earning first-team All-Pro honors. Winfield’s six sacks led all safeties, while his 20 QB pressures qualified as the second most.

    Tampa Bay used the franchise tag on Winfield this offseason and then the two sides were able to reach an agreement on a four-year, $84.1 million extension. Not only does this make Winfield the NFL’s highest-paid safety, he’s now the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history.

    NFL Safety Rankings | 2-15

    2) Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

    While Kyle Hamilton had some hiccups early in his career, he’s developed into one of the NFL’s most dynamic defenders, more than fulfilling the promise that made him the 14th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.

    Hamilton joined Winfield as a first-team All-Pro and displays the same sort of versatility as the Bucs safety. Hamilton played 465 snaps in the slot, 301 as a free safety, and 236 in the box, contributing in just about every phase of the game.

    The Ravens lost DC Mike Macdonald and key pieces like EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, LB Patrick Queen, and S Geno Stone this offseason. Hamilton’s flexibility could become even more critical as new defensive play-caller Zach Orr adapts.

    3) Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Minkah Fitzpatrick is coming off his least productive season as a pro, but injuries were largely to blame for his down year.

    He missed half of Week 2 and had to go to the hospital after suffering a chest contusion. A hamstring injury cost Fitzpatrick Weeks 8 through 12, while a knee bruise took him out from Weeks 15 through 18.

    Provided Fitzpatrick stays healthy next year, the 27-year-old should return to his elite level of play. He has a nose for the football, but his coverage consistency is that of a truly elite free safety. Fitzpatrick boasts the length, range, and trigger to cover serious ground on the back end, and he isn’t afraid to come forward and hit, either.

    4) Jessie Bates, Atlanta Falcons

    After five excellent years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Jessie Bates joined the Falcons in 2023 and put up the best campaign of his career. Bates registered more ball production than ever before, finishing second among safeties with six interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in a Week 12 win over the New Orleans Saints.

    When he’s able to play in a single-high role, Bates truly flourishes. He gets to sit back and read the quarterback’s intentions while driving on dig routes and defending the post. Atlanta is changing coordinators in 2024, but Bates fits any defensive system.

    5) Xavier McKinney, Green Bay Packers

    No team needed safety help this offseason more than the Packers, who were poised to lose three safeties who played 600+ snaps in 2023. Green Bay struck early in free agency, signing former New York Giants defensive back Xavier McKinney to a four-year deal worth $67 million.

    McKinney should be an immediate upgrade for a rebuilt Packers spine. The Alabama product played the best football of his career, spending time deep, in the box, and manning the slot while playing over 1,000 defensive snaps. McKinney allowed the fifth-lowest passer rating (52.1) among safeties with at least 200 coverage snaps.

    6) Tyrann Mathieu, New Orleans Saints

    Few players in the NFL have been able to meld instincts and process the way Tyrann Mathieu has. His playmaking ability has never taken away from his consistency.

    Mathieu, 33, is no spring chicken, but he’s found a home with the Saints, where his superior decision-making ability has been on display. He allowed the lowest completion rate (54.3%) and third-lowest passer rating (60.6) of his career in 2023. Mathieu is always available; he’s played at least 975 defensive snaps in each of the last seven seasons.

    7) Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

    Although Derwin James is coming off a disappointing season, we’re mostly chalking that up to the Chargers’ overall disaster on defense. James’ flexibility is an asset, but Los Angeles’ previous regime might’ve gotten too tied up in playing him all over the field.

    Jim Harbaugh and new Chargers DC Jesse Minter have spent the offseason suggesting they’d like to simplify James’ role by “unleashing” his athleticism and putting him in the best position to succeed. Letting the 2018 first-round pick spend more time as a traditional safety is probably the first step.

    8) Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins

    Jevon Holland might have given us the most comical play from the 2023 NFL season when he intercepted New York Jets QB Tim Boyle’s end-of-half Hail Mary attempt and returned it for a 99-yard touchdown.

    That was Holland’s first pick-six and fifth interception of his career, but that ball production understates his ability as a center field safety. Set to play in his third scheme in as many seasons under new Dolphins DC Anthony Weaver, Holland needs to stay healthy after missing five full games and parts of others with knee issues in 2023.

    9) Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers

    An absolute missile as a pursuer and tackler, Talanoa Hufanga’s feistiness is emblematic of the 49ers’ defense. He grabbed All-Pro honors in 2022, his first season as a starter, and was playing well before tearing his ACL in November 2023.

    Assuming he returns healthy, Hufanga should be on track for another dominant showing before hitting the open market next spring.

    10) Marcus Williams, Baltimore Ravens

    Marcus Williams is a free safety through and through. His coverage abilities on the back end enable the Ravens to deploy Hamilton in various ways, all the while knowing Williams will be holding down the fort.

    Injuries are a concern for Williams as he enters his age-28 season. He missed seven games with a dislocated wrist in 2022 before a torn pectoral cost him time in 2023. Somehow, Williams decided to forgo surgery for his pectoral injury, returning after a six-game absence and eventually leading all safeties with 10 pass breakups.

    11) Kyle Dugger, New England Patriots

    Kyle Dugger entered the league as a freak height/weight/athleticism combo from Lenoir-Rhyne, and he has rounded into one of the league’s best playmakers in the box. His explosion and stature can be used to carry RBs out of the backfield and defend against TEs streaking up the seam.

    A one-time second-round pick, Dugger has filled up the stat sheet since entering the NFL in 2020, posting nine interceptions (two TDs), 17 pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, and 16 tackles for loss over four seasons with the Pats. New England initially used the transition tag to retain Dugger before signing him to a four-year extension.

    12) Grant Delpit, Cleveland Browns

    Grant Delpit is an alignment-versatile safety who found a perfect role in Jim Schwartz’s Browns defense. He can play on the back end, but Delpit has flourished playing in the box and the slot. A weapon as a blitzer, Delpit’s athleticism and length have made him a coverage menace from the slot.

    13) Camryn Bynum, Minnesota Vikings

    Camryn Bynum was outstanding for the Vikings in 2023. With fellow Minnesota safeties Harrison Smith and Josh Metellus playing closer to the line of scrimmage, Bynum excelled in coverage as a deep safety, picking off two passes and breaking up nine more.

    But Bynum did more than play on the back end; he also spent significant time in the box and the slot. The former California cornerback transitioned to safety at the NFL level and has become an excellent player in his third season.

    14) Justin Simmons, Free Agent

    Justin Simmons is the only unsigned player on our list, and his lingering on the free agent market doesn’t make much sense from an on-field perspective. He’s earned second-team All-Pro nods in four of the last five seasons. Teams may be concerned about his age (30) or asking price, but Simmons will undoubtedly be on a roster by Week 1.

    Simmons hits about as hard as a modern player can without being penalized for it, which makes him a prime box candidate — a role he’s played on over 2,000 career snaps. But he can also turn and burn in the slot, making his versatility a defensive weapon.

    15) Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

    The longest-tenured player in the desert, Budda Baker requested a trade in 2023 before working things out with the Cardinals and posting a solid age-28 campaign. A shoulder injury knocked him out from Weeks 2 through 6.

    Once Baker returned, he thrived as a downhill run defender and used his veteran experience in coverage. He obviously shouldn’t have made the Pro Bowl over Winfield, but Baker is a productive player for Arizona.

    NFL Safety Rankings | 16-32

    16) Geno Stone, Cincinnati Bengals
    17) C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
    18) Tre’von Moehrig, Las Vegas Raiders
    19) Kamren Curl, Los Angeles Rams
    20) Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    21) Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings
    22) Julian Love, Seattle Seahawks
    23) Jalen Thompson, Arizona Cardinals
    24) Malik Hooker, Dallas Cowboys
    25) Jordan Poyer, Miami Dolphins
    26) Kevin Byard, Chicago Bears
    27) Alohi Gilman, Los Angeles Chargers
    28) Xavier Woods, Carolina Panthers
    29) Jaquan Brisker, Chicago Bears
    30) Ifeatu Melifonwu, Detroit Lions
    31) Jabrill Peppers, New England Patriots
    32) Andre Cisco, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Unranked Rookie Safeties

    • Tyler Nubin, New York Giants
      The first safety drafted in 2024, Tyler Nubin didn’t come off the board until pick No. 47. Nubin made first-team All-American for Minnesota in 2023 and should quickly become a starter on a Giants safety depth chart with Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton, and Jalen Mills as his only competition.
    • Javon Bullard, Green Bay Packers
      Not only did the Packers sign McKinney in free agency, but they also selected three more safeties in the draft. Second-rounder Javon Bullard should start from Day 1, but Evan Williams (fourth round) and Kitan Oladapo (fifth round) could have roles, too.
    • Cole Bishop, Buffalo Bills
      The only other safety to get drafted in Round 2, Cole Bishop is an athletic prospect whose testing and measurables placed him in the 98th percentile among safeties. He’ll compete with Mike Edwards to start alongside Taylor Rapp in Buffalo.

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